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Gary Public Schools Campaigning To Get Kids Back

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A billboard in Gary, Indiana promoting Gary public schools.  (Credit: CBS)

A billboard in Gary, Indiana promoting Gary public schools. (Credit: CBS)

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GARY, Ind. (CBS) — There’s a battle brewing over public education in Gary, Indiana.

Where more than seven-thousand children in recent years have left the public school and five hundred more are expect to leave this year.

So where are they going? Charter schools. In an unprecedented move, the school district is launching a campaign to get communities thinking that public is the way to go.

CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports on the unconventional method.

Since 2003 seven charter schools have opened in Gary.

During the same time eleven public schools have been closed.

With this new campaign administrators are hoping they don’t lose another school or another child.

Foot soldiers for the Gary Public School campaign, go door to door. They’re parents talking to other parents trying to convince them to choose the city’s public schools instead of charter.

“They need to know that the schools really work and it really makes a difference in our kids.” Alisha Cason, public school parent.

It’s critical the district deliver this message. Nearly 500 students have been choosing charter over public schools every year. That adds up to a loss of more than four million dollars in state aid. The campaign to stop the mass exodus is headed by the Superintendent.

“When you look at our elementary schools we’re out performing charters.” Said Myrtle Campbell, Superintendent of Gary Community School Corporation.

That’s the main message of the campaign. It’s on billboards and it’ll soon be included in public service announcements.

The superintendent points to state test scores which show the top performing K-6 school was a public school, McCullough with 79.5% of the students passing. Compare that to the Charter’s top performing school, Gary lighthouse, which had only 48.4% passing.

“We let our reputation speak for itself. I think we give the best they need.”

Fontleroy argues that charter schools like Thea Bowman have a waiting list, and parents like Lashonta Thompson won’t be swayed.

“I love the leadership here.” Said Thompson.

But other parents are listening.

“Here you have people from the district saying we’ve made some changes, come try us, come try us.” Said Angela Bailey, Gary parent. “That means a lot.”

Administrators plan to air the PSA’s on the state run radio station and local cable programs.

They’ve also partnered with community groups and churches to help get the message out.

The campaign will continue through the summer.

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