Photo caption: Thom Jackson (fourth from right) joins Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt (far right), Gary School Board members, and Roosevelt students at the Indiana State Board of Education meeting yesterday in Indianapolis.
The State Board of Education gave its approval Wednesday to a partnership between the Gary Community School Corp. and EdisonLearning Inc. to operate the Roosevelt College and Career Academy.
The plan goes into effect in July. The resolution, with performance goals for five years, approved Wednesday stated Roosevelt's designation as a state turnaround academy would remain.
Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt and EdisonLearning CEO Thom Jackson told the state board they are moving forward with a transitional model to improve achievement and the career potential for students.
Roosevelt's entanglement with the state began in 2011 when six straight years of F grades triggered the state to label it as a turnaround target. The state hired EdisonLearning to run the school for five years and it's being paid with Gary's share of tuition support money for Roosevelt, about $3 million to $4 million annually.
"The climate, safety and the graduation rate has improved," Pruitt said.
The school's test scores have improved, and its graduation rate improved from 41 percent in 2012 to 57 percent last year. Today, 85 percent of graduates are enrolled in two- or four-year college or vocational programs, compared to 60 percent in 2012. Attendance has increased from 71 percent to 92 percent.
Under the agreement, EdisonLearning will continue running the school, but both parties would oversee academics and performance goals.
Together, they plan to transform Roosevelt into an innovation network school under the state law that established state turnaround guidelines.
On Wednesday, March 1, Gary Indiana Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson hosted her annual Prayer Breakfast benefitting the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). More than 300 businesses – including EdisonLearning – civic, and community leaders support the UNCF event. Proceeds assist in providing scholarships for Northwest Indiana students.
This year, students from Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy attended – shown above with Mayor Freeman-Wilson - Shawana Martin, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Tion Traywick, and Shawn Hampton
UNCF is known as the nation’s largest minority organization supporting higher education, student development and other programs for students attending historically black colleges and universities. The UNCF Northwest Indiana Leadership Council established in 2007 has raised more than $400,000 and has awarded more than 60 Scholarships to students in Northwest Indiana.
The UNCF administers more than 400 programs including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment and curriculum and faculty development. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 900 colleges and universities.
GARY — If you stop by Jamie Wolverton’s introduction to engineering class at Roosevelt College and Career Academy, you might find students on the floor building a roller coaster, or at their desk calculating the materials, labor cost, profit and overhead for a bridge project.
The high school seniors are getting a taste of what it would take to be an engineer. The class gives high school seniors an opportunity to explore careers in engineering, and they earn a couple of credits because it’s a dual credit class through Ivy Tech Community College.
So far, students have built a bridge, a roller coaster and a speed ball machine.
As the teens move around the classroom separating into groups, Wolverton is talking above the chatter telling students to look at the items they will need for their projects. She also gives them a three-day deadline to finish them. The students use kits to put the projects together.
“You will be able to determine your labor costs by looking at the number of employees you will need, how much you will pay them per hour and how long it will take them to complete the project,” she tells students.
“Say, the worker makes $20 per hour and you need him to work eight hours a day, for a week. Figure out that cost, figure in your overhead cost for things like computers, a receptionist, office space, paper and pens. Figure the profit you want for your company, then decide how much you will bid for the project,” Wolverton said.
Wolverton said she wants students to learn the engineering design process, and each step it takes to complete a project.
“AutoCad has been installed on their computers, and they’ll be doing an online course to understand the process,” Wolverton said.
Senior Tarrence Montgomery, who works two part-time jobs, said his goal is to major in automotive engineering. He hasn’t made a decision on where he’s going to college but he believes the skills he’s learning in this introductory course will help him.
Senior Maliyah Norfleet said her goal is to become an engineer, and this class is giving her a feel for what it would be like to get into engineering. “I’m enjoying learning how to do the calculations to bid a job. Reading the blueprints is a little more challenging. It’s always good to have a plan B,” she said.
Despite so many positives at the school, Gary Roosevelt, which is operated by a private company, continues to struggle and face academic challenges. Roosevelt Principal Donna Henry said administrators work hard to empower its students.
“We’re in our fifth year of operation, and the parents are now familiar with us. They know we have the students’ best interest at heart,” she said.
In a report Henry made to the Indiana Department of Education last month, she said Roosevelt’s enrollment declined and is now at 606 students. It lost students to Gary New Tech, a high school operated by the Gary Community School Corp., and local charter schools.
However, Henry said the number fluctuates due to enrollments and transfers.
Although ISTEP-Plus test results have not yet been released publicly, Henry pointed out that students are showing growth.
Henry said Roosevelt has dramatically reduced its suspension and expulsion rate. In September 2015, a month after school started there were 83 suspensions. That’s compared to September 2016 when the number of suspensions was at 55.
Administrators said they’ve been able to create a healthy and safe school environment for teachers and students. She said the student attendance rate is currently above 90 percent.
Roosevelt also offers an alternative school and a credit recovery program. The alternative school is used in lieu of expulsion. Henry said if a student has an infraction that would cause them to be expelled, they are offered an opportunity to attend the alternative school, which is held during the school day.
“Those students come in an hour earlier and (are dismissed) an hour earlier,” Henry said. “The focus is to get them to correct their behavior. We’ve had some successes with students who have earned their way back into the traditional program.”
This week, 3 students and 2 staff members from Kingsthorpe College – an EdisonLearning UK partnership school – are visiting Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy in Gary, Indiana; and Bridgescape Learning Academies in Chicago.
The tour offers a unique and exceptional opportunity for both UK and American students to experience and learn about the different countries’ culture, education system, and politics; as well as allowing them to share their own cultural and educational backgrounds and experiences.
It is the result of EdisonLearning’s International Pilot Program Committee, which seeks to establish links between the educators and students in partnership schools in the U.S. and U.K. Kingsthorpe College is involved in the Collaborative Academies Trust, for which EdisonLearning UK is the prime sponsor.
Lailah Wesby of Gary is a champion track star at a young age, earning gold and bronze medals at the recent AAU 14-Under Youth National Indoor Championship in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Her biggest supporter is her older brother, Brandon Wesby, who is a successful track coach, and a staff member at Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy.
For both Lailah and Brandon, this competition held at the Bowen Fieldhouse on the campus of Eastern Michigan University brought mixed emotions, for it was at this facility that their late mother, Lisa Wesby, last saw her daughter compete.
"Eastern Michigan is my favorite place to run. It's the last place my mom saw me run so I try to do really good there," said Lailah. A strong supporter of Lailah's academics and athletics, their mother "never missed a beat," said Brandon, the girls track coach at East Chicago Central.
This week, Lailah Wesby received a special visit from three female Olympians on Monday's episode of "Steve Harvey" -- https://youtu.be/TSdiMzrBS-M. Harvey introduced her to Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin, who each won a medal in the 100-meter hurdles at the Rio Olympics. The women made history by giving the United States its first sweep in that event.
In addition, Harvey surprised Branden with a $5,000 gift on behalf of Green Dot, the issuer of prepaid debit cards, to help with Lailah’s training and travel expenses.