- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2016

GARY, Ind. (AP) - The Gary School Board has laid off its information technology and public relations directors and 11 other employees as it grapples with a $75 million budget deficit.

The board this week dismissed eight secretaries, two other IT department workers and an assistant in the business department of the Gary Community Schools.

The board made no comment as it approved the layoffs, including those of IT director Lloyd Keith and PR director Charmella Greer, when it met Tuesday. However, state-appointed financial adviser Jack Martin had targeted jobs last month as the likely place to trim, the Post-Tribune reported (http://trib.in/1Td76MY ).

“There are huge challenges with the payroll,” Martin said April 25 during a committee meeting. “We’re going to have to shed some people fast.”

The latest layoffs follow the board’s vote Feb. 27 to not renew the contracts of five administrators.

Martin, the former emergency manager for the Detroit Public Schools, has said school closings are possible after finding last year that the district’s 15 schools were, on average, about half-occupied and that the students in its three high schools could fit into a single school. School officials already have closed more than half of the district’s buildings since 2000, but Martin said at the time that many parents were sending their children to charter schools rather than having them bused across town.

The district also is examining ways to trim transportation costs. Its three-year, $5 million contract with the Illinois Central Bus Co. expires next month, and the district is seeking quotes from other vendors. Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said the district also is exploring running its own transportation system for 3,800 students daily.

Bus attendants Karen Johnson and Tamika Smith told the school board they’re concerned their jobs are going to be outsourced.

“Do not abandon us,” said Johnson, a 15-year veteran. “We love the Gary schools. We’re there in storms and rain. We jump on buses all over the city to make sure the kids get home.”

Smith said she’s on the road in a bus at 5:45 a.m. each day.

“We deal with parents in pajamas and rollers,” she said.

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Information from: Post-Tribune, http://posttrib.chicagotribune.com/

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