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Chicago artist Emory P. Seidel's bronze bust featuring William A. Wirt is one of 78 items up for auction through the Gary Community School Corp. 

Emotion and history shouldn't stand in the way of what Gary public schools must do to right a ship sinking in $100 million of debt.

It's why state-appointed Emergency Manager Peggy Hinckley is right to place a historic bronze bust and 77 other art pieces from Wirt-Emerson High School on the auction block.

Critics of the sale have argued the Gary Community School Corp. risks selling off its "history" for a fraction of the debt in which the beleaguered school city is drowning.

But a school district that has struggled to pay its basic bills and has been failing students, parents and the Region with substandard education results must exhaust any disposable assets if it's ever to regain viability.

That mark of viability may not be possible with a school district as far gone and utterly decimated as Gary's.

However, a starving person shouldn't hold onto the frills of a gold watch or diamond earrings. Such items should be sold to the highest bidder to fund required sustenance.

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Emerson High School alum and historian Kendall Svengalis lamented the Wirt-Emerson art collection sale when speaking this week to Times reporter Lauren Cross.

Svengalis said this auction could lead to "something more ominous" — perhaps the sale of more than 100 other oil paintings and other items belonging to Gary schools but in storage at a Chicago arts conservatory.

Contrary to Svengalis' warnings, the school district should look into selling those additional art pieces without delay, as well.

What's far more ominous than parting with dust-collecting art pieces is Gary public schools' status as the only Indiana district to be taken over by the state because of severe debt problems. 

For years, Gary residents have been dealing with the ominous realities of an abysmal graduation rate, abandoned and crime-ridden school buildings and substandard educational performance.

The school district can ill-afford to pay its bills, let alone allow sentimentality over artwork, much of which is sitting in storage outside of the city and benefiting no one, to trump common financial sense.

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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.