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.