Gary Community Schools will continue to be managed by MGT Consulting Group after the state board charged with overseeing the Gary school district votes May 26 to extend its management contract with MGT. You’ll remember that the legislature assumed control of the Gary Community Schools district five years ago in response to the school district’s ongoing financial woes (including more than $100 million in long-term debt in 2017), which have improved under MGT-leadership, but Gary parents and community members are clamoring for an end to the arrangement – including on May 24, during technical corrections day in Indianapolis, when some community members came to the State House to protest the arrangement.
We told you in our last issue that the Distressed Unit Appeal Board (DUAB) voted unanimously to negotiate up to a two-year contract with Florida-based MGT, meaning the arrangement could come to an end in two years with the help of legislative action. (MGT slashed the debt with budget cuts, a $72.1 million 2020 referendum, and an influx in federal funds.) But for the next two years, DUAB members, which, at the moment, are akin to school board members for the district, signal the district will have a renewed focus on academic performance now that GCS’ finances are less dire. At the May 26 meeting, Rep. Vernon Smith (D) of Gary was “aggressively critical of MGT’s approach to engagement with the Gary community and families,” Indiana Public Media reports. “People aren’t … gonna always remember what you do,” Smith says. “They’re not gonna always remember what you say. But they do remember how you make them feel …. And I’m saying, MGT makes people feel inferior,” the non-voting DUAB member adds. A caveat: Rep. Smith was “encouraged” by MGT’s presentation of its plans for the school system.
Sen. Liz Brown (R) of Fort Wayne, also a nonvoting DUAB member, argues, “We need to remember, though, there is no rainy day fund now.” “There are no cash reserves,” she explains. “We finally got to a point – under the amazing management of MGT – where they are not spending more money than they are taking in …. But we had a long way to go, financially.”