Hammond School Board President: Consolidations and Cuts Necessary to Surivive

School Board President Deborah White says schools will likely need to be closed and decision as to which schools to close will be made by secretive committee “we have created a committee its called a strategic facilities planning committee that will help us determine the priorities in each school and how we are going to evaluate those schools and part of that evaluation is should that building be saved as an educational facility or is it such repair that we cannot fix it and we should consolidate some schools so thats gonna be a very tough decision and that is going to come out of that strategic planning committee” Hammond School Board President Deborah White at candidate forum held on October 18, 2018

October 21, 2018-At a forum hosted by Hammond Teacher Federation President Pat O’Rourke earlier this week, incumbent Hammond School Board members gathered in a location of their choice with an ardent supporter as the questioner.  Despite the freindly forum, incumbents could not avoid the crucial questions facing the district after 20 years of failed leadership by School Board President Deborah White.  White first talked about transparency and tough decisions but, when questioned, explained that the Board had secretly set up a committee that very few know about to evaluate a facilities assessment that they refused to provide before the referendum to ultimately tell you which schools they will close.  If all of that sounds confusing, the simple answer is that they are going to close schools but they are not going to tell you which schools they will close until after the election.  White explains the procedure for deciding which schools they will close:

“I think the district’s most crucial capital needs were part of our facilities study that we completed when we were going through the referendum to build a new high school  . . we have created a committee its called a strategic facilities planning committee that will help us determine the priorities in each school and how we are going to evaluate those schools and part of that evaluation is should that building be saved as an educational facility or is it such repair that we cannot fix it and we should consolidate some schools so thats gonna be a very tough decision and that is going to come out of that strategic planning committee . . . the next few years are going to be very tough in making those tough decisions to see what happens because we cannot just close a building and it goes away we have to, the state law says, we have to put it up for a charter school to come in and buy it thats, thats part of the state law, or if the building is in such a state of disrepair we can say it is not fixable so we have some tough decisions.”

No one ever asked, and it has not been explained, how individuals were selected to be put on the secret committee which will advise the Board on school closures. There is no schedule of meetings and no other information available. No one knows who is on the committee. It is not known if the committee recommendations will be published and it is pretty obvious that the public will have no input.

School Board members used tax dollars to obtain a facilities assessment performed by Schmidt and Associates, the architect for the new high school, but they did not release that assessment until long after the referendum vote. According to the assessment, schools have been neglected for so long that they now need $350M in repairs. Even new schools such as Hess, Edison and Harding have been neglected under the leadership of Board President White and now need millions of dollars in repairs. You can see a portion of the assessment at The School City of Hammond Blog-https://schassessment.blogspot.com/”

Candidates Cindy Murphy and George Janiec were also present at the forum. Neither offered a single solution for moving the district forward but each warned of “cuts and consolidations” that needed to be made. School Board members previously floated the idea of a “two high school solution” which would close Gavit and Clark but, of course, you won’t hear those words uttered again until the day after the election.

16 Comments

  1. Why doesn’t anyone look into how Ms. Debbie White had her own daughter appointed as special education director the year before last because she wanted to get it done before the election…. the woman is corrupt

  2. Is this newspaper a conspiracy newspaper that is set on spewing out false information that ultimately hurts our Hammond students? It is not a secret committee if you are aware that it exists – Ken Davidson – are you upset you didn’t get an invite to the committee? Do you feel that, given your behavior and consistent smears and lies is worthy of a spot at the table? You have some valid arguments – but that is all muted by the way you attack and belittle.
    And can you please stop misleading the public about the facilities assessment? It was CLEARLY stated at the public works meeting and in the blog (slide 73) that just over $37 million is “The sum of the projected costs for the most critical items identified in ALL of the facilities analyzed.” and that included Hammond High School which isn’t even relevant anymore. The $350 million that you love throwing around is to make every single facility at 100%/basically brand new which is not realistic for even the richest of school districts.
    Stop doing such a dis-service to the School City of Hammond staff and more importantly – the students. These lies/purposeful misleading hurts everyone and completely discredits you.

    • The language used in the assessment in reference to the $350M number is “suitable for educational purposes” not brand new.

      • Perhaps if you would have stayed for the entire Public Works Session instead of storming out with your camera near the very beginning of the session you would have had a better understanding as the rest of who stayed do.

        • Cindy, your attempts to make this about me instead of the actions of an elected Board really do not help the discussion. I don’t recall “storming” out of a work session but I do recall that I had an urgent family issue that I had to deal with during one of the meetings. So, are we going to make this personal or focus on the issues?

          • This is not Cindy Murphy. Yet another incorrect statement on your part – just like so many of the articles and statements you make. I was in the audience at the Public Works Session and I call it like I see it.

    • PS as for sitting on the committee, the thought never crossed my mind. I do not know why anyone would want to sit on that committee and make the “tough decisions” which the Board should be making with input from the public. But hey, I guess I will start asking the elected officials on the committee if they are ready for the political cost of making those “tough decisions” for the Board. I realize Frank MrVan will get another 4 years on Nov. 6, but several of the members will be in their election cycles as the committee is making decisions.

  3. U are talking of the possibility of closing Gavit which is one of ur best schools on Hammond and not one of ur least performing schools like Morton why, I know Gavit needs a lot of work but why not consolidate Gavit and Morton into one which would better

  4. The Current Board needs to make a statement before the election. I voted for the referendum so we didnt have to consolidate. If this is true I will voting for anyone not on the Current board.

  5. Hum!!! funny if they decided to close some of the school, what will happen, they will have over crowded of student , not only that ,what are they going to put the rest of the teacher. Teacher hope u speak up. If it happen I guess i will put my kid in home school or a private school

  6. When we were asked to vote for the referendum we were told that it would keep the schools open and our kids would keep going to school in the neighborhood where they live. Now you’re telling us you’re closing schools. Was all the information we were given during the referendum vote just BS for the citizens to vote yes?? If you’re closing schools, where does the money that was allotted for that school go?? The rumor is that they will close Clark, and our kids will have to go to the new school in south/central Hammond. This means my children will have to travel over 7 miles to get to school!! How is that far to the students or the parents?? One of the great things about Clark is small town school feel. Each students get an opportunity. I really hope parents and teachers are taken into account when making these decisions. There are a lot of other schools near us that our children could attend and closing the wrong schools will cause the Hammond school system to lose a great deal of students.

  7. This is honestly completely unacceptable on the boards part. The citizens of Hammond were lied to just so the referendum would pass. If Clark closes my children WILL NOT ATTEND any Hammond School. The only thing that holds a lot of us here is College Bound but that would not be enough to keep us here anymore if I have to drive my kids across town to get to school each day. Kids coming from Robertsdale to central Hammond would have to go 7.3 miles and cross about 3 sets of train tracks. That doesnt seem like it would encourage kids to go to school. The schools will be too big and our kids will all get lost in the shuffle. Why do the students, teachers, and parents have to suffer because the board mismanaged? Also why aren’t we hearing more before election? Why does it take a small post in an online newspaper to alert parents of this information? This is very upsetting, really makes me consider moving before my kids make the jump from MS to HS.

  8. I see the plan being put forth by the candidates looking to replace the current board shows the New Hammond High being bigger. I can only assume your plan is to close Clark or Gavit and combine them with the new Hammond high.If this isn’t the case then why are you proposing a larger Hammond High? Will you be at the debate on Thursday as well?

  9. REferendum vote was a farce to begin with.I cannot believe that votes cast digitally through wireless transfer was safe, legitimate or in any way verified accountable. With all of the online businesses that experienced breaches in sensitive date,(think Google gmail, FAFSA,Blue Cross/Anthem,Verizon, Equifax, Sonic, Whole Foods, Hyatt, Forever 21, Uber, Eby,several prominent universities, you get the picture? I am not convinced that the public actually voted for this referendum. NOBODY i talked to voted yes. This vote had neighbors who are usually hostile to each other, gathered int he streets to promote a NO vote. There are 5 adults in my house who don’t usually vote and we we all voted no. At the poll, we were mocked as we walked up to the building. THe man standing near the pro referendum signs openly laughed and loudly proclaimed, “they think their going to defeat this referendum.” When I cast my vote, I got no confirmation, no concrete or electronic evidence that I had even voted. The woman at the registration had to tell me my vote was cast. How would she know? The push of one button can change the outcome of thousands or more of input, (see above examples.) I think the system is indelibly corrupt. Where is the outrage to the process and the current situation? We, the fleeced taxpayers, expect our elected officials to be honest and capable, working toward the best interest of the public,protect and conserve public assets, so that we can continue to raise families, work, attend to businesses, illnesses, and life’s demands. THe outrage should be palpable. How can we, the public, creatively, collectively, circumvent, or redesign this system to be for US!!! The vote is not working!!!

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