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School board in northwest Indiana opposes being disbanded

June 14, 2018

GARY, Ind. (AP) — A school board member in northwest Indiana is criticizing the state’s decision to strip the board of most of its powers.

The Gary School Board held its final meeting Tuesday, the Post-Tribune reported . The board will become an unpaid advisory unit next month and meet four times annually. Its first meeting will be Sept. 12.

The district’s emergency manager, Peggy Hinckley, isn’t required to meet with the advisory board. She’s instead required to hold monthly public meetings to keep residents informed about school business.

The Gary Community School Corp. acquired distressed status after failing to pay an accumulated debt of more than $100 million and a monthly deficit of more than $18 million. The state stepped in with a bailout, offered loans and installed an emergency manager, who was charged with ensuring the district’s staff size and building usage aligned with enrollment.

State lawmakers passed laws in 2017 and 2018 that left Gary without a school board.

Board member Robert Buggs said Gary isn’t the only district that’s financially distressed. He alleges they’re being targeted because the area is largely black.

“If we were in any other neighborhood, we wouldn’t be having the same dialogue,” Buggs said.

Board member Darling Pleasant said the changes were necessary.

“No one wants to be the bad guy,” Pleasant said. “But we cannot continue at the pace we are going.”

Hinckley’s changes include withdrawing the district’s contract with custodians in Service Employees International Union Local 73. She’s also decided to no longer recognize the secretaries union and has required that they reapply for their jobs. Hinckley said state law only requires school districts to bargain with teacher labor groups.

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Information from: Post-Tribune, http://posttrib.chicagotribune.com/

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