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Incoming SBCSC superintendent hosts info meeting on Empowerment Zone

NOW: Incoming SBCSC superintendent hosts info meeting on Empowerment Zone

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — On Wednesday, neighbors of Navarre Middle School and staff from the South Bend Community School Corporation learned more about the South Bend Empowerment Zone.

Incoming SBCSC Dr. Todd Cummings is hosting five information meetings about the zone that’s set to turn around the middle school and four of its feeder schools starting on August 13. Dr. Cummings will be at Western Avenue’s La Rosita on Thursday, May 9 at 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 

The plan for the empowerment zone is designed to provide full autonomy to the five schools within the zone, which resident Kathy Anastos said is a concern of hers. She used transportation as an example of the autonomy. 

“Six months into the school year, if they don’t like the busing they can change that,” she said. “What is that going to do for parents and students.”

The school corporation said the zone can contract for services including busing. However, an official said the corporation does not anticipate any changes in transportation services. 

Anastos said she and others at the meeting on May 8 at Navarre Middle School were trying to make sure what to expect from the zone schools. The zone schools will have control over budgets, staffing, curriculum, schedule, and culture. 

Anastos said the success of the zone’s autonomy will show through trial and error. Dr. Cummings said the autonomy will close the achievement gaps within the zone schools.

“I want our zone schools to look just like our other schools,” he said. “Adams, who’s on the US News report top 150, LaSalle and Kennedy.”

For the 2017-2018 school year, Adams, LaSalle and Kennedy received above average state accountability grades. The four of the zone schools - Harrison, Wilson, Warren, and Coquillard - received below average or failing state grades last school year. 

During the meeting, people asked Dr. Cummings why did it take so long to intervene at Navarre Middle School. The middle school received six consecutive failing state accountability grades, which prompted state intervention. 

Dr. Cummings said he took responsibility for two of the six failing years. He said among other reasons that focus and leadership might have been reasons for the failure. 

However, Anastos said much of the focus on Navarre should be on its feeder schools. Dr. Cummings said he agreed. 

“If we don’t get the feeder schools, then we won’t be able to fix Navarre and the zone,” he said. 

On Wednesday night, there were not many parents for zone schools present at the meeting. The corporation said parents were sent information about the transformation zone and the meetings Dr. Cummings has hosted. 

The final meeting will be on Thursday, May 23 at Clay International Academy from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. 

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