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City Begins Demolishing 8th and Washington Hotel After Fire

21 Dec

by Ken Davidson

The City of Gary began the process of demolishing and cleaning up at the site of a December 5, 2013 fire at 8th and Washington Streets. Crews from Actin, Inc. of East Chicago were on hand with heavy equipment on Friday. A barricade fence was placed around the demololition area to prevent the public from entering the site. The fire, and now demolition project, sit directly across the street from the newly build 21st Century Charter School.

The Gazette previously reported on abandoned and falling down city and county owned buildings near schools. The buildings in this block were included in that article which can be viewed here. There are still no announced plans to barricade, repair or demolish the other unsafe structures on the block.

8th and washington hotel

Crews work to demolish a fire damaged hotel at 8th and Washington in Gary on Friday.

hotel fire gary indiana

Actin, Inc. of East Chicago begins demolition

Secretary of State Announces Details of Settlement w/ Teachers Union

3 Dec

INDIANAPOLIS (December 3, 2013) — Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced today that her office has finalized a settlement of a federal securities fraud lawsuit for $14 million with the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) and the National Education Association (NEA).  The litigation accused ISTA and NEA of defrauding Hoosier schools out of over $27 million. ISTA and the NEA sold health plans with benefits, which were unregistered securities, to 27 school corporations. ISTA and the NEA then used the money from the health plans for their own benefit to cover funding shortfalls and for risky investments, instead of investing on the schools’ behalf as promised. The $14 million settlement will go to the school corporations to compensate for their lost investments.

“In the next ten days, school corporations will see a recovery four years in the making. Teachers and administrators alike can finally put this lawsuit behind them,” said Secretary Lawson. “They will receive 50 cents on the dollar for the money ISTA and NEA misappropriated. We strongly believe our case supported full repayment by ISTA and NEA, but we knew they were willing to spare no expense on endless litigation. This settlement gets these school corporations a much needed, immediate financial boost.”


ISTA offered teachers and other school employees a medical plan that allowed school corporations to invest their excess claim balances to offset future health care costs. The Secretary of State’s complaint alleges that ISTA did not invest the money as promised, but instead used the money to cover significant shortfalls in their long-term disability plan and to invest for ISTA’s own benefit. ISTA continuously issued phony financial statements to schools misrepresenting investment fund balances.

“ISTA took money from one fund to pay claims and cover deficiencies of another, then issued falsified statements to clients to create the illusion of funds,” alleged Secretary Lawson. “This is a classic example of a Ponzi scheme.

“ISTA and the NEA have repeatedly tried to play the victim and have made multiple attempts to dismiss the case. The truth is they intentionally misled those they claim to support and protect to cover their own shortfalls and to invest in risky securities for their own benefit. They have a moral obligation to repay the full amount.”

This litigation was not fought at the taxpayers’ expense.  All legal fees were paid with fines collected from violators of Indiana’s securities laws.  To maximize the recovery to schools, Secretary Lawson waived the right to levy fines against ISTA and the NEA and to seek repayment of attorneys fees.


Pence Makes Multiple Board Appointments

21 Nov

Gazette Staff

Indianapolis, IN – Governor Mike Pence today named appointees to the Commission on Higher Education, the Horse Racing Commission, the State Ethics Commission, the Indiana Arts Commission, the Commission on Ports, and the Housing and Community Development Authority Board of Directors.

Commission on Higher Education

Caren B. Whitehouse of Vanderburgh County has been named to the Commission on Higher Education. She currently serves as Executive Director of the Vanderburgh County Medical Society. Whitehouse serves on the Pulmonary Fibrosis Board of Directors, the Healthy Evansville Steering Committee and the Vanderburgh County Perinatal Task Force. She is a graduate of the University of Evansville and Oakland City University. She will serve through June 30, 2015, effective immediately.

Horse Racing Commission

President and Chief Executive Officer of Pillow Logistics George E. Pillow Jr. will serve on the Horse Racing Commission. Previously, Pillow, of Marion County, served as Assistant Executive Administrator for the Department of Health and Human Services. Pillow was a 1984 recipient of the Sagamore of the Wabash and has been inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame as well as the Indiana State University Hall of Fame. A graduate of Indiana State University, he will serve through September 1, 2015, effective immediately.

State Ethics Commission

Bob Jamison, retired from the New Albany Office of the FBI, Daryl Yost, Director of the Certified Technology Park of the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center, and James Clevenger, Partner at Wyland, Humphrey, Wagner & Cleveland have been reappointed to the State Ethics Commission. Clevenger will continue to serve in his role as Chairman, and the appointees will serve four-year terms through October 31, 2017, effective immediately.

Indiana Arts Commission

Allen C. Platt III, of Floyd County, will serve on the Indiana Arts Commission through June 30, 2017, effective immediately. Currently Counsel at Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, LLP, Platt is the 2004 recipient of the Arts Council of Southern Indiana’s Heartbeat Award. He is a graduate of Indiana University and Valparaiso University School of Law.

Jonathan Ford, of Vigo County, and Linda S. Levell, of Knox County, have been reappointed to the board and will serve through June 30, 2017.

Commission on Ports

Ramon Arredondo has been named to the Commission on Ports. Arredondo, of Lake County, retired in 2005 as Assistant to the Chairman at NiSource and has extensive experience working in both local and federal government positions. He earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Central Florida. Arredondo will serve through June 30, 2017, effective immediately.

Housing and Community Development Authority Board of Directors

Patricia Gamble-Moore, of Herron’s Fiduciary Committee, Thomas McGowan, President and Chief Operating Officer of Kite Realty Group Trust, and Lula Porter, Executive Director of the Evansville African American Museum have been reappointed to the Housing and Community Development Authority Board of Directors, effective immediately.

Pence Offers Assistance to Resolve Board of Education Issues

16 Nov

Gazette Staff

Governor Mike Pence sent the following letter to members of the State Board of Education attempting to resolve the conflict among the members. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a member of the Board, recently sued other members of the Board alleging violations of Indiana’s Open Door Law. The lawsuit was later dismissed.

Dear Superintendent Ritz and Members of the State Board of Education:

Let me begin by thanking all of you for your commitment to serving the children of our state through your service on the State Board of Education. Hoosiers are fortunate to have such a talented and dedicated group working on their behalf.

I commend you for the progress you’ve made this year. Most recently I am grateful for your work in committing to a timetable for completion of the 2012-2013 A-F grades, in reaching consensus on the next steps to revise our A-F model, and in passing emergency rules to enable Choice Scholarship schools to serve students who qualify for special education.

Despite this strong progress, I am aware that the Board has had difficulties in working together, and I am writing to offer my Administration’s assistance in finding a solution.

As you are aware, Indiana is a member of the nonprofit National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). Founded in 1958, NASBE works to strengthen state leadership in educational policymaking, promote excellence in the education of all students, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, and assure continued citizen support for public education. The organization has a national perspective on the work of state boards of education, has expertise in best practices and has provided consulting regarding governance of state boards across the nation.

I am writing to inform you that I have reached out to NASBE, and they have agreed to facilitate a discussion within the Indiana State Board of Education to clarify its roles and responsibilities and reach a common understanding regarding the governance procedures. Our Administration is prepared to provide any and all resources and assistance needed to coordinate this process, and I hope the Board will consider this sincere offer to engage NASBE in resolving these present difficulties.

I know you share my belief that it is of the utmost importance to Indiana’s schoolchildren that the differences that have emerged between the Superintendent and the other members of the Board be resolved in a civil and respectful way to restore a spirit of cooperation and trust. The Board has an opportunity to do so in engaging NASBE, which has extensive national experience with state boards of education, governance matters and education issues.

Hoosiers are indebted to each of you for your work on the State Board of Education. On behalf of every student, parent, teacher, and administrator in Indiana, I offer my heartfelt appreciation for the hours that you give to this effort. I am confident that, with this assistance, you will be able to resolve your differences quickly and build on the progress that Indiana has made in educational achievement.

Because of your work test scores are up, graduation rates are up, and the future of education and our young people has never been brighter.

I look forward to your reply regarding this proposal to engage the National Association of State Boards of Education to assist the Indiana State Board of Education in moving forward for the good of all Hoosiers and stand ready to offer any and all assistance in making this happen in a timely manner.


Michael R. Pence
Governor of Indiana

the northwest indiana gazette

Indiana Shows Dramatic Improvement in Education Scores

8 Nov

PR News Service

INDIANAPOLIS, Nov. 7, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Two years after enacting the
nation’s most comprehensive set of education reforms, Indiana has jumped to near the
head of the class in improvement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress
(NAEP), commonly referred to as the Nation’s Report Card.

According to data released today by the U.S. Department of Education, Indiana
students’ scale scores increased for fourth- and eighth-grade reading and
mathematics more than all other states, save for Tennessee. Indiana also ranked
third in terms of growth from 46th in 2011, if including Washington, D.C., which is
first this year. Indiana ranked 13th for overall scores, up from 23rd in 2011.

“This is fantastic news for Indiana’s children and shows school choice is having an
impact,” said Robert C. Enlow, president and CEO of the Indiana-based Friedman
Foundation for Educational Choice. “The dramatic increase in scores is not only a
testament to the hard work of teachers, it is evidence that the comprehensive reform
package passed in 2011 has stimulated significant improvements that aid children in
public schools.”

When including Washington, D.C. in the rankings, fourth-grade students in Indiana
ranked fourth in growth in both reading and mathematics, with scores increasing from
221 and 244 to 225 and 249, respectively. Moreover, eighth-grade Hoosiers were
eighth in growth in reading and 19th in growth in mathematics, with scores
increasing from 285 and 265 to 288 and 267, respectively. In terms of raw scores,
the rankings for 2013 are 14th, 4th, 25th, and 18th, respectively.

“It is clear that increased transparency, accountability, and choice have made a
difference for Indiana’s children,” added Enlow. “Policymakers should be proud of
what they accomplished for Hoosier children.”

Education Board Member Responds to Ritz Lawsuit

24 Oct

Gazette Staff



Dr. Brad Oliver, a member of the Indiana Board of Education who was recently named in the lawsuit by Glenda Ritz, issued the following statement:


Dear Fellow Indiana Educators,


For over 20 years, I have enjoyed serving children and working alongside some incredibly talented educators in our State. I trust those who have worked with me over the years, or for whom I had the privilege of teaching as a University professor, will attest to my commitment for being a principled leader — a leader who is highly relational and passionate about finding win-win solutions, especially when facing complex challenges.


When I first learned that Governor Pence had appointed me to the State Board of Education, I was both honored and encouraged by the opportunity to exhibit even greater influence on our State’s system of education. I have always enjoyed strong bipartisan friendships, particularly among educators, and brought to the role of State Board member a desire to work very closely with Superintendent Ritz. I believe that Superintendent Ritz was sincere when she ran for office about her vision to imagine possibilities and make them happen.


But instead of celebrating our achievements as a State and imagining new possibilities, some have allowed emotions and political strategy to trump objectivity and productivity. As with any change in leadership, there is always an opportunity for new direction. But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about building support for the change being sought after. If Superintendent Ritz is serious about working to find a way forward, then she needs to build relationships that honor bipartisan cooperation (something not typically achieved through litigation). For the current situation to improve, there must be a recognition of the statutory obligations of the State Board and a desire to leverage the collective strengths of each Board member to achieve her vision.


Over my 20+ years in education (many of those as a leader), I have always taken pride in helping people find win-win solutions to some very complex problems. I have always respected opposing points of view and I have viewed diversity of thought as a strength, not a threat. The last few days have been incredibly difficult to watch for everyone who is passionate about our profession. I remain committed to do all I can as a State Board member to help us find a way forward, but we will not succeed in resolving this current impasse unless leadership rises above positional levels of authority. Let’s not squander the educational improvements taking place in our State. We have much to celebrate! Let’s honor the resilience of our system of education by working collaboratively to keep what is working and fix what is not. And most importantly, let’s honor and respect each other so we can model for the very children we serve how to be a democratic learning community.


Dr. Brad E. Oliver

SBOE Member, 6th Congressional District

Muncie, Indiana