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Gary parents, community members urge state education board to return school district to local control

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screenshot from Indiana State Board of Education YouTube video
Parent LaVetta Sparks-Wade urges the Indiana State Board of Education to help put the Gary Community School Corporation back under local control during its Apr. 13 meeting.

Gary residents are calling on the Indiana State Board of Education to help put the Gary Community School Corporation back under local control.

"In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, we deserve our freedom! If you all believe it say, 'freedom!' Please help us get rid of these people!" Robert Coleman told board members Wednesday. He was part of a group of parents and other community members made the trip to Indianapolis for the board meeting.

They acknowledged that the state-appointed MGT Consulting Group has lowered the Gary Community School Corporation's debt since the state's 2017 takeover. But they argued it's been at the expense of students' education, with declining test scores and graduation rates. And they said school facilities have suffered, reiterating concerns about the bathrooms at West Side Leadership Academy, as well as the cafeteria offerings.

West Side parent and former Gary City Council member LaVetta Sparks-Wade complained that residents have no power and no voice. "Not only am I disappointed, but I'm appalled, frustrated and angry for the disparate treatment that we as parents, students and community members have received through the state-sanctioned takeover of the largest African American populated school corporation in the state of Indiana," Sparks-Wade said.

Now, the group is asking state officials to adopt their proposed "FREEDOM" agenda. It calls for the state to forgive the school district's debt, restore local control, engage the community, employ a superintendent, designate funds to turn the former Roosevelt High School into a museum, operate the funds to make them work for Gary children, and use coronavirus response money to build a fieldhouse and made the buildings safe from the spread of COVID-19.