Thanks to the support of Gary residents, the Gary Community School Corporation, which is comprised of 4,500 students, won a community-based school referendum yesterday. The backing from community stakeholders means more opportunities and support for students and the first raise for Gary teachers in more than a decade. It also re-enforces the sentiment that Gary public schools are a wise investment.
“I’m so thankful to Gary voters for supporting more opportunities for our students and overdue raises for our teachers,” said Dr. Paige McNulty, the GCSC Manager. “Passing this referendum puts us on the fastest track to ending State control of our schools, and I couldn’t be happier for the entire community. Today is a great day for Gary, and tomorrow will be even brighter for our students in the Gary schools. I am particularly pleased that our referendum received the steadfast support of our faith-based community and the support of the members of the Gary Common Council.”
According to results posted by Lake County at 1:52 AM on Wednesday, 13,828 votes, or 60.28 percent, were cast in support of the referendum.
The referendum’s passage means students will receive more of the opportunities available to students in neighboring communities, such as the return of sports in the middle school, STEM certification for three schools in the District and additional funding for extracurricular activities. There will also be investment in students’ social-emotional needs, ensuring every child has access to a counselor and therapist if needed.
With the referendum passed, GCSC will fulfill its commitment to creating a Referendum Spending Oversight Committee. Committee members will be Gary residents, and the committee will report to the public on how referendum revenue is collected and spent. The committee will include representatives from the local business community, the faith-based community, elected officials, and labor groups, as well as students and parents and caregivers. The committee will be created in advance of the first referendum funds being received in June 2021.
The referendum’s passage is just the latest sign of progress for GCSC. Last week, GCSC began overhauling the track at West Side Leadership Academy, improvements that will allow the school to once again host track meets and will also afford Gary residents who seek a secure environment for walking and exercise.
Last month, GCSC announced that in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Average Daily Membership increased for the first time in more than 10 years. Additionally, GCSC shared The Path Forward, the District’s bold two-year plan for continuing to improve academics, engagement, fiscal matters, and operations in the district. GCSC also adopted local preference policies for hiring and purchasing.
To start this school year, GCSC distributed a Chromebook with internet access to every student K-12. In addition, from August 2017 to December 2019, the school district’s deficit has fallen from $22 million to $6 million, and the school district’s debt has fallen from $104 million to $79 million.