The Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board has named MGT Consulting, of Tallahassee, Florida, as emergency manager of the struggling Gary Community School Corporation in northwest Indiana.
The Gary school system has long struggled with money management, loss of students to charter and other district schools, and even its ability to pay teachers on time. A state law passed earlier this year required the DUAB to appoint a manager for Gary schools.
The firm will be tasked with helping the district manage a $110 million debt and assist the district moving forward. Gary Native Peggy Hinkley, of Scherville, will lead MGT Consulting with that task. She will have near-total control to introduce academic and financial changes, renegotiate teacher contracts and run Gary’s schools.
The NWI Times reports she will be subject only to informal review by a local advisory board and DUAB.
The elected trustees of the Gary Community School Corp. and the district’s superintendent will have no official say in decisions made by the emergency manager.
DUAB members said they were impressed by Hinckley’s experience in Indiana education and school finance, as well as her plans to get “boots on the ground” immediately to begin transforming Gary schools before classes begin Aug. 17.
“Dr. Hinckley obviously has a proven track record of success. Her reputation is outstanding in the community,” said Kent Hatcher of the Indiana Department of Education.
State superintendent Jennifer McCormick publicly applauded the appointment. In a statement, the Indiana schools chief said she was “encouraged” by the selection.
“Additional support and guidance targeting Gary Community Schools will offer critical assistance and resources for many impacted students,” McCormick said. “I believe a purposeful focus on the areas of finance and academics will positively impact the future of Gary schools.”
As the Chicago Tribune reports, Hinckley brings substantial experience in Indiana school finance.
Hinckley not only has roots in the region, but is familiar with Indiana school finance and academics. She was named Indiana Superintendent of the Year in 1995 and served as interim superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools in 2013.
Hinckley, 65, attended Monday’s state Distressed Unit Appeal Board meeting in Indianapolis and plans to be in Gary Tuesday morning to meet with Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt and other school officials.
Members of the DUAB said they were impressed with Hinckley’s background as an Indiana superintendent and her efforts in turning around the Warren Township school district where she served as superintendent for 11 years until 2012.
Last year, we visited Gary Community Schools to see how the financial and academic struggles of the district were affecting learning — and how district officials were optimistic the schools would survive.