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Peggy Hinckley

Gary schools emergency manager Peggy Hinckley meets with the public last month at Trinity UCC Church, 1276 W. 20th Ave., Gary.

The dire straits of Gary's beleaguered public school system call for desperate measures for the sake of the city's schoolchildren.

One of the most crucial steps already occurred in a state-mandated administrative takeover by private firm Gary Schools Recovery LLC.

Earlier this week, firm Emergency Manager Peggy Hinckley laid out some of the plans for attempting to right the sinking ship of Gary schools while speaking to the State Board of Finance.

Hinckley must have the latitude to do all that is necessary, and residents and other school and government leaders must realize that no amount of sentimentality should prevent necessary action.

This sentiment is particularly relevant when weighing Hinckley's statement that one of the city's high schools is likely to be shuttered at the end of this academic year as part of a cost-cutting move.

Critics, no doubt, will lament that the move would leave but one city high school.

That argument would be incomplete and disingenuous.

It's true Hinckley is talking about closing down one of the two high schools still under the auspices of the Gary Community School Corp. — either West Side Leadership Academy or Wirt-Emerson Visual and Performing Arts — and consolidating students in the facility that would remain.

But there still will be more than one high school in Gary under this plan.

Roosevelt College and Career Academy, a Gary high school taken over in an separate move by the state in 2011, continues to operate. At some future point, the plan is for its eventual return to the auspices of Gary public schools.

Four charter schools — 21st Century Charter School, Thea Bowman Leadership Academy, Steel City Academy and Lighthouse College Prep Academy — also will continue to offer alternatives to the traditional city high schools. These institutions are supported by public tax dollars while offering parents and students a choice.

When speaking to state officials earlier this week, Hinckley noted the high school closure and consolidation plan "will not necessarily bring out a roaring crowd of approval."

But she also made a very salient point.

"High schools are the most expensive facilities to operate, and we must move to one," she said.

At some point, the school system must evolve to a financial position in which it isn't necessary to borrow millions of state dollars in order to meet basic needs, including paying its teachers and keeping the lights on.

The district owes $8.4 million in back taxes, penalties and interest to the IRS.

The Gary school district is the first to be taken over by the state after its elected trustees repeatedly failed to adopt balanced budgets and ran up $100 million in debt.

Hinckley and her firm now must be allowed to do their jobs. Sentimentality over saving some school buildings must be pushed aside.


Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Assistant Local News Editor Crista Zivanovic and Regional News Editor Sharon Ross.