DALLAS -- The Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board is set to pick an emergency manager for Gary Community School Corp.
The four-member panel and its legislative advisers are scheduled to meet Monday at the Statehouse to choose among seven firms that interviewed for the post earlier this month.
The DUAB discussed during a meeting Tuesday the criteria members will use in selecting the EM, which will be charged with righting the fiscal ship of a district with more than $100 million in debt and $25 million of red ink in its operating budget.
The district is designated as a distressed political subdivision which specifies the powers and duties of a Gary district EM over finances and academics. The EM will hold broad powers over spending, contracts, hiring, and budgets under first of its kind legislation passed by the legislature in April and signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb that put the Gary Community School Corp. and Muncie Community Schools under state oversight.
The DUAB in June selected Administrator Assistance as the EM for Muncie. The consulting firm is made up of retired Indiana school superintendents, business managers and teachers.
Board members said that the new Gary EM's first order of business will be to reduce the district's spending and streamline its course offerings. The EM is expected to work closely with students, faculty, staff and the community at large, to have experience in Indiana school finance, and to do a the job for a reasonable price.
“The candidate must have good financial background especially with municipal finance and Indiana school finance and at least having an understanding of what we do here,” said Courtney Schaafsma, a member of the DUAB board and Commissioner for the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.
State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Merrillville, also emphasized that the new EM should first focus on tackling the district’s debt and later work more closely with the local community to tackle the district’s academic turnaround. This year, the district received the state's only F-rating.
"I have a lot of parents that are engaged in this process," he said. "They're watching it, and they want to make sure that their voice is heard."
State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, said with several good candidates in the running, he hoped that the DUAB take cost into consideration when selecting the new EM.
“We have had good presentations and more than one capable of performing task, but the cost varied,” he said. “I hope we pick most qualified but also with the more affordable cost.”
The applicants include Jack Martin with Martin, Arrington, Desai and Meyers, of Bingham Farms, Mich., who has served as the state-appointed financial consultant for the past 20 months; MGT Consulting Group; Gatekeeper Accounting Services LLC of Gary; the Robert Bobb Group; the Chicago-based Bronner Group; the Comer Capital Group; and Crowe Horwath LLP.
Each firm made its case for selection during a DUAB session earlier this month.