Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Can Schools Preserve Their History, Even After State Takeover?

A photo of the first ever basketball team for "Manual Training High School" hangs in what is now Emmerich Manual High School's alumni room. The team began play in the 1901-02 season, six years after the school first opened.

The five Indiana schools slated for takeover next year aren’t only notable for their low academic performance in the eyes of state education officials. These schools are also some of the state’s oldest.

Gary’s Roosevelt High School started as a one-room schoolhouse in 1908. In Indianapolis, T.C. Howe opened in 1938. The oldest school on the list, Emmerich Manual High School, opened in 1895.

At Manual in particular, alumni are going to particularly great lengths to ensure the school’s historic artifacts — including more than 60 valuable paintings and other class gifts — stay with the building even after the state takes over.

Politically heavy-hitting Manual alumni, including former state GOP chairman Gordon Durnil, have sent letters to the Indiana Board of Education, stating concerns that the district will remove the artifacts — something the district says it will not do with any physical property at Manual.

Still, the letters prompted state superintendent Tony Bennett to raise the possibility off cutting Indianapolis Public Schools’ state funding if the district obstructs the takeover team.

Durnil says the alumni association can only account for roughly 30 of the pieces of artwork, painted by former Manual art teacher and Hoosier Group artist Otto Stark. The other 30 are in Indianapolis Public Schools storage somewhere.

Durnil told StateImpact the group believes all paintings that have a connection with the school rightfully belong at Manual after the takeover.

“It’s not an argument who the ultimate owner [of the paintings] is, the statute says [the district] can’t take them out of the building while the takeover team is there,” Durnil says.

IPS superintendent Eugene White says some of the paintings in storage might not be returned to Manual because they belonged to Harry Wood High School, which operated in Manual’s former building on Meridian Street until its closure in 1978.

Durnil says “big questions still remain,” however. The group is concerned that IPS is acting inappropriately by removing programs from Manual in the name of offering “competitive” education options. White says he’s acting within the bounds of the takeover law.

Preserving Manual’s History

Alice Glover and Sherry Slemons are both active members of the school’s alumni association — 18,000 living alumni-strong, they boast — charged with curating the large collection of historic artifacts the school has collected over the years.

A converted conference room off the office at Manual High School holds 116 years worth of old yearbooks, newspapers, and even decades-old JROTC uniforms and graduation gowns. Glover and Slemons helped set up the room, organizing clippings, photos, and artifacts by their year.

“It’s nice to help preserve Manual’s history,” Glover says. She first brought up concerns that the district might remove the historic paintings from the building with her fellow alumni.

Glover attended the school during what she remembers as Manual’s golden years. When Glover graduated from Manual in 1961, she says there were more than 2,000 students enrolled at the school. She remembers Manual’s teams winning a state championship in football and making a run to the state finals in basketball during her time.

Her children graduated from Manual in the 1980s, and Glover still lives “less then two minutes on a dead run out the back door” from the school.

This year, state numbers show the school enrolls roughly 1,000 students. Glover says she doesn’t believe Manual is a “problem” school, but hopes the takeover team — led by Charter Schools USA — will be able to bring about positive change next year.

“It would be awful if [the school] wasn’t utilized in the way that it should be. Manual should be a place that people strive to go to, rather than run away from,” Glover says.

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