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Gary schools in distress

Peggy Hinckley, the state-appointed emergency manager for the Gary Community School Corp., speaks last year to the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board.

Dan Carden, The Times

The Gary Community School Corp. Board of Trustees is responsible, in large part, for the financial and educational ruins that are the Steel City's public school system.

Though many factors have led to the state of emergency in which the district has long found itself, neglect and other shortcomings by its leadership can't be ignored.

It's why we support a bill pending in the Indiana General Assembly that would further diminish the Gary school board's role, which already has been placed second to a state-appointed emergency manager.

In practice, this diminished role already has begun. House Bill 1315, authored by Indiana House Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, would alter state law to reflect the school board's role as merely an advisory board, rather than the district's governing body.

The bill also would strip salaries of board members and limit the board to no more than four public meetings a year. Eliminating pay for a board not fulfilling any measurable goals or duties is appropriate.

Since late summer, the real leader of Gary schools has been Emergency Manager Peggy Hinckley.

She's the Gary native appointed by the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board to take on the monumental task of turning around an utterly failing school district.

A staggering $100 million debt burden, a plethora of shuttered and abandoned buildings that have become magnets for gang activity and some of the worst possible crimes and an educational system failing some of the state's neediest and most vulnerable children led to this decision.

The problems have been generational, and any ongoing catastrophe must be met with stark and drastic change if it’s to be corrected.

The jury is still out on whether this is even possible in a school district as troubled as Gary’s.

But it's clear the Gary school board would never be a meaningful part of the solution. Now it's appropriate for state lawmakers to essentially write the board out of the equation — and out of the way of an emergency manager who needs as clear a path as possible for success.


Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Local News Editor Marc Chase, Lake County Editor Crista Zivanovic, Porter/LaPorte County Editor Doug Ross and Deputy Local Editor Erin Orr.