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GARY | Before several city residents and educators, Indiana's top education leader announced the state would take over failing Roosevelt Career and Technical Academy.

"No one wants to be in this position, but now it's time for us to look forward," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said Thursday. "We are finally able to change the conditions in this school. The students deserve nothing less." 

The state is recommending EdisonLearning serve as the turnaround operator, and Bennett lauded Edison's "strong record of success."

Of the six other Indiana schools still on probation, four will be taken over and two will receive management assistance from outside groups. All six are in Indianapolis.

The State Board of Eduction is expected to vote on the recommendations Monday.

This is the first time the state has ever taken over a troubled school. All the details of the takeovers have not been released, and contracts between the state and the turnaround firms still are being negotiated.

Bennett said he will recommend to the state board that the first year be a transition year, one of observation for EdisonLearning. The organization, which is owned by a private equity firm, will take over Gary Roosevelt during the 2012-13 school year with a four-year contract. That means the school -- and its funding -- will be separated from Gary Community School Corp.

Bennett made clear that Gary will continue to operate Roosevelt this year. State Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, said numerous community groups already are working to help turn the school around, and he expects considerable progress this year.

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Smith asked if Bennett would change course if the school improves this year, and he criticized the state for not issuing its recommendations before the start of the school year.

Bennett said he would move ahead with seeking state board approval for EdisonLearning's contract. He said the timeline will allow the firm to review data and observe teachers, students and community involvement.

To a question regarding concerns over cultural competency, Bennett said state officials reviewed EdisonLearning and believe the company will have employees "who look like" the students they will be working with at Gary Roosevelt.

Bennett said the easy decision would have been to do nothing or just close the high school.

"My interest is a new beginning for this school," he said.

Bennett often referred to many of the statements that proud Roosevelt graduates such as state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, made about the school and its strong community tradition during a public hearing July 11.

Though the school district was hoping to retain control of Roosevelt, Superintendent Myrtle Campbell said officials intend to work with the new management company. 

"I hope it will be a collaboration. I know of some corporations where Edison is working. It will be critical that they work with us. I am concerned about the first year. If the school makes gains, will Edison get credit for it, or will we get the credit?" Campbell asked.

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Southlake County 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.