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Rosie Washington

Rosie Washington

GARY — Gary school board President Rosie Washington has resigned her position on the board effective Dec. 31, leaving one year on her term.

"I do not do well just sitting somewhere and looking like I'm doing something and I'm not," she said Wednesday. "When I campaigned for this position, I promised the people of the 6th District certain things.

"I don't see any of us being effective. Everything is being dictated to us by the state. I just don't operate well under those circumstances. I'm not deserting the children of Gary. I feel like there are other ways I can help the children, but sitting on the school board is not one of them." 

Washington's resignation follows that of Gary schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt, who said last week she would resign effective Feb. 2.

Gary School Board members have repeatedly expressed concern about their lack of power during meetings.

The Gary Community School Corp. and Muncie schools are the first two school districts to be taken over by the state due to amassing debt. Gary has more than $100 million in debt and is failing academically. Both school districts are under the authority of the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board.

Senate Enrolled Act 567 required DUAB to appoint an emergency manager. DUAB appointed longtime educator Peggy Hinckley, a Gary native who now lives in Schererville, as the emergency manager, along with MGT Consulting.

The law gives Hinckley near-total authority to implement academic and financial changes, negotiate contracts and run the Gary school district, subject only to review by a local advisory board and DUAB oversight.

Pruitt, along with the elected trustees of the Gary Community School Corp., have no official say in decisions made by the emergency manager. The law also limited the number of school board meetings to one monthly.

The process to replace Washington requires 6th District candidates to submit an application and the current board members would vote on a replacement.

DUAB Executive Director Courtney Schaafsma couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Most other Gary school board members said they have no plans to resign.

Third-district representative Nellie Moore, who was elected in November 2006, said she is not considering resigning.

"My commitment is to fulfill my term of office," she said. "My desire is to turn this district around and do what is necessary for our children. My term ends Dec. 31, 2018, and if the Lord is willing, I plan to complete that assignment."

Moore, like Washington, is a retired Gary school teacher, having retired in July 2005.

"I am still hopeful the state will recognize the fact that public school districts in Indiana need additional support regarding the method in which schools are funded. The only remedy we presently have is going out for a referendum, and I don't think that should be the only remedy.

"We need to look at how public schools can function with the state's support of vouchers and charters. If you're going to have choice, you need to find a way to fund choice other than destroying public schools," Moore said.

School board members Robert Buggs and Norman Bailey said they have no intention of retiring. School board members Carlos Tolliver, James Piggee and Darling Pleasant could not be reached for comment.


Education reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.