Students, parents and supporters of the Roosevelt College and Career Academy rallied Tuesday against the possible closing of the historic school.
Parent Gladys Davis credited the school for inspiring her son, Kevin, to go to college. She said he received a musical scholarship and plays the flute at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.
“Whoever thought he’d go to college playing the flute and leading his section because of Roosevelt?” she said. “When I hear you’re trying to close Roosevelt, stop right there.”
She said her other son, Keith, a Roosevelt student, is now considering college, as well.
“There are so many working parents, if you close doors to Roosevelt it’s like we’re being defeated,” she said. “You’re not continuing to build the pillars, you’re breaking them down… stop right there.”
To shore up finances, the Gary Community School Corp.’s emergency manager, Peggy Hinckley, is considering closing Roosevelt and relocating students into another Gary school. That possibility triggered Tuesday’s forum.
Hinckley said last week the district must maintain the school that has expenses of about $600,000 annually. “Now, we pay all the maintenance and receive none of the revenue,” she said. The students should be in a better, more modern building, she said.
About $4.1 million in state money goes to Roosevelt’s private education manager, EdisonLearning Inc. It just inked a five-year contract to run the school last year.
Hinckley included Roosevelt’s relocation in a deficit reduction plan submitted to the state Distressed Unit Appeal Board.
While Roosevelt’s academic struggles prompted the state to take it over in 2011, staff members point to the school’s rise from an F to a D grade this year.
Principal Donna Henry said students were reading three years behind their grade level in 2012 when EdisonLearning began its first year under a state contract.
“It’s constantly repeated that Roosevelt is a failing school… we moved that grade to a D. The staff should be proud. Put that myth to rest. Our students are not failures,” she said.
Roosevelt alumnus MaryAnn Canty-Reedus said the state has labeled Roosevelt a failing school. “We still have to go on what the state is saying and realize Hinckley and her group wants to close Roosevelt.
“We have to work hard… this school is not going to go, but Gary schools are not fixing it up.”
Mary Cossey, another alumnus, said her Class of 1984 would lead fundraising or assist in tutoring to keep the school open.
Several students voiced support.
Senior Robert Barnes said he’s been at Roosevelt since eighth grade. “This is my heart and soul. As many times as I’ve messed up, they’ve been there, one step away… this is home and all I have left to be honest with you. This school helped me be a man.”
Thom Jackson, president and chief executive officer of EdisonLearning, said he opposes relocating the students.
“We want what’s right for the kids and at the end of the day, that’s here,” he said. “It has to be more than a matter of convenience,” he said of the relocation. Jackson said there needs to be a well-thought out plan.
He said EdisonLearning has put $1.5 million into school renovations. “There’s an assumption and narrative that EdisonLearning made all this money, so why can’t they put it back in.” Jackson said the company has been losing money consistently.
Jackson, who said he grew up in public housing, said education made the difference for him. “Go to the schools everybody gave up on and we could solve a lot of ills in this country. Roosevelt is an opportunity to create a model of success.”