GARY — Gary schools emergency manager Peggy Hinckley will meet with the Miller Citizens Corp. on Monday during its regular meeting to share her vision for the Gary Community School Corp.
Hinckley, who was appointed the emergency manager for the Gary Community School Corp. by the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board in August, leads a team of financial and academic experts from the Gary Schools Recovery LLC, with parent company MGT Consulting Group.
The group was hired to balance the school district's budget, reduce its more than $100 million debt and make improvements that attract more students.
As required by Senate Enrolled Act 567, Hinckley has near-total authority to implement academic and financial changes, renegotiate contracts and run Gary's schools as she sees fit, subject only to informal review by a local advisory board and DUAB oversight.
Hinckley, who will meet with DUAB on Friday in Indianapolis, said she intends to ask it for a loan, and she will make initial recommendations regarding school closings.
Hinckley said Friday she could not disclose the schools that are likely to close, or the amount of the loan, until after she meets with DUAB,
MCC president George Rogge said his organization is concerned about what happens to Wirt/Emerson Visual and Performing Arts high school in the Miller neighborhood. The MCC was established in 1971 to support that community and attract new residents.
There has been talk in the community that Wirt/Emerson would close as opposed to the West Side Leadership Academy because of the poor condition of the Wirt/Emerson building.
"The subject is dear to our hearts," Rogge said Friday.
"We have a plan to propose to Dr. Hinckley. We believe that Wirt/Emerson should remain open as a middle school. Of the 526 students there now, 300 of them are middle-school level. We believe that should house sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students. We think it would be a perfect middle school."
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Rogge said after touring West Side Leadership Academy, he believes it is a great building for high school students. Rogge also believes the district should close Gary Roosevelt College and Career Academy, which has been operated by a private company for six years.
"It's an insane situation, and the school has failed academically for six consecutive years under private operation," he said.
For the 2017-18 school year, Wirt/Emerson has an enrollment of 526 students in grades five through 12 while West Side has an enrollment of 755 students in grades seven through 12.
In a report Hinckley presented to the community Jan. 17, there are 480,000 square feet at West Side and 180,000 square feet at Wirt/Emerson. The average monthly cost to operate West Side is $55,448 while the cost to operate Wirt/Emerson is $28,664.
The average monthly water bill at West Side is $4,735 compared to the water bill at Wirt/Emerson, $5,252. The average monthly NIPSCO gas bill at West Side is $8,745 while the average monthly bill at Wirt/Emerson is $4,922.
The average monthly NIPSCO electric bill at West Side is $31,791 while the average monthly NIPSCO electric bill at Wirt/Emerson is $7,600.
According to the report, the average monthly Gary Sanitary District bill at West Side is $10,175 while the average monthly bill at Wirt/Emerson is $10,889.
The report said administrative costs will be reduced through the consolidation of the two high schools. The report said that Wirt/Emerson has one principal and two assistants, which costs the district $324,091 per year, while West Side has one principal and three assistants which costs the district $411,647 per year.
It said some personnel costs related to custodians, teachers and other non-certified staff will be reduced with consolidation of buildings.