August 19, 2013 — Black and red are ink colors associated with schools–and budgets. This year, Gary Public Schools Corporation Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt says the district will operate its budget in the black, after operating at a $23-million deficit last year.
Superintendent Pruitt shared other new standards of her administration as the second-year superintendent addressed a mandatory assembly of staff and faculty today.
School begins for Gary Community School Corporation on Wednesday, and before the classroom doors open teachers received instruction on a few changes that will take place, such as how parents will be held more accountable as school starts for hundreds of Gary students.
This year’s annual back-to-school convocation in Gary kicked off today with a spiritual moment and a set of goals. Gary Teachers Union Local Four President Joe Zimmerman told teachers the politics of state government is affecting children, “Because of the misdirection that we have experienced on behalf of some politicians we have an A-through-F accountability system which has led to an increased number of paper-and-pencil tests our students must take. Students in Gary do not need another paper-and-pencil test.”
Not every student is defeated by an overarching challenge. Christopher Williams, the 2013 West Side Leadership Academy salutatorian, was diagnosed with autism as a child and placed in special education classes.
Williams says, “Some of the obstacles I overcame were that three times I was resuscitated as an infant, and there was a time I didn’t walk or talk. Now, I speak five languages (Spanish, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Italian and Korean). Me being the salutatorian at graduation date, after the final transcript, I’m now the valedictorian.”
Gary Public Schools Corporation Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt says, “Last year we were out of compliance in about ten different areas since about 2006-2007. We have come into compliance with about five of those areas, but we have a lot more work to do. Those areas include making sure that students just like Christopher are included in the general population.”
Superintendent Pruitt informed teachers that Indiana University Northwest will help transition special education students into regular education classes by providing professional development. “In most other areas that’s what they are doing. In addition, the State is very supportive of us as they will be sending about ten other staff members.
Other changes will align the schools more with the Police Department and Gary City Court. Community Services Division Commander Kerry Rice announced the truancy initiative will gain more traction this school year, citing parents for their child’s inability to attend school. He says after 10 unexcused absences school social workers will put together a referral package, which includes attendance records, report cards and documented missing dates and send it to his office.
Officer Rice elaborated, “In order for me to process my paperwork to issue the city ordinance citation or file charges, I need at least one additional identifier either the parent’s birthday or social security number.”
The citation, which Commander Rice SAYS IS similar to a traffic violation citation, will be hand delivered by police along with a letter from Project Rebuild, a new program that helps students graduate by holding parents responsible. Rice advises that one addition cites parents for not updating their home address with the child’s school, “This ordinance is scheduled to go before the (Gary) City Council. They actually have to vote on it. I foresee no problems of it being passed, but we actually have to get this ordinance amended in order for us to charge a parent with that.”
Superintendent Pruitt also announced the district will operate in the black following its $23-million deficit last year.