Lakeshore News Tonight

This article underwritten by: Renetta DuBose

Gary School Teachers Prepare for New Academic Year

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Parents will be held more accountable as school starts for hundreds of Gary students.  School begins for Gary Community School Corporation on Wednesday, Aug. 21. 

The annual Back-to-School Convocation kicked off with a spiritual movement and a set of goals at West Side Leadership Academy.  Gary Teachers Union Local 4 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 told the delegation of Gary staff that he excelled with the help of his teachers.

“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.

Those languages are Spanish, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Italian and Korean.   Williams shared a special message in each language.

“Me being the salutatorian at graduation date, after the final transcript, I’m now the Valedictorian,” said Williams. 

“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,” said Cheryl Pruitt, Gary Community School Corp. 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.  Commander Kerry Rice, who works in the police department’s Community Services Division announced the truancy initiative will gain more traction this school year, citing parents for their child’s inability to attend school.  He said after ten unexcused absences, school social workers will put together a referral package for police. Those packages will include attendance records, report cards and documented missing dates. 

“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 Cmdr. Rice said is similar to a traffic violation citation, will be hand delivered by police along with a letter from the Project Rebuild Gary City Court Truancy Program, which helps students graduate by holding the parents responsible.  A second citation allows police to issue a fine or file failure to educate charges against the parent.  Rice said parents will also be cited for not updating their home address with the child’s school.

“This ordinance is scheduled to go before the 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 dollar deficit last year.

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