The City of Gary has joined a national partnership designed to examine school improvement strategies. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson says the Lake County city will host a community conversation about developing a K-12 educational support network. The collaboration involves the National League of Cities, the U.S. Department of Education and more than a dozen other cities. March 11, 2014

News Release

GARY, Ind. – (March 10, 2014) Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson announced today that Gary will partner with the National League of Cities (NLC) and the U.S. Department of Education to hold a “community conversation” to discuss strategies to advance learning, enhance student engagement and improve schools. Unveiled today at NLC's Congressional City Conference in Washington, a “memorandum of understanding” (MOU) was signed between NLC and the Dept. of Education that outlines three goals for cities to focus on: early childhood education, afterschool and postsecondary attainment.

Shortly after the announcement, Freeman-Wilson shared these comments.

“This is a great opportunity for the city of Gary to discuss an issue that is of universal concern to local residents and paramount to the future viability of our community. We understand that many of young people are concerned with basic issues such as food, clothing and shelter. This fact makes it difficult to focus on the demands of school and we have to provide extra support to the children and educators to insure the achievement of our students. We will invite all parties who hold the best interests of our children to join in this conversation.”

The City of Gary will host a community conversation about creating a network of support for the K-12 educational system in the city of Gary. This will include afterschool programs, mentoring programs, summer programs and all other efforts contemplated to enhance a student's ability to do well in school. This work will be an extension of the discussion initiated by the Educational Committee of the New Day Task Force prior to Freeman-Wilson taking office. The Committee is chaired by Urban League President and CEO Dr. Vanessa Allen and NIPSCO Corporate Citizenship & Employee Involvement Officer Eddie Melton. Both organizations will be partners in facilitating the Community Conversation.

“We are proud to partner with the Department of Education in this extremely important effort to provide better educational opportunities to children nationwide,” said NLC President Chris Coleman, Mayor of Saint Paul, Minn.

“This 'memo of understanding' expands a local-federal partnership that is focused on supporting local efforts to improve schools and close the achievement gap. Through our ‘community conversations' with local leaders, families and community organizations, we can formulate actionable strategies that improve educational opportunities for all.”

“We know strong schools are at the heart of strong communities,” added U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “That's why we're excited about this new effort with the National League of Cities to help local leaders form partnerships with families and educators, which will better ensure that every child has the opportunity to access a high-quality education, and, ultimately, that every American has the chance to pursue their dreams.”

Community conversations will initially occur in 14 cities to bring together local leaders, educators, families and community leaders to discuss strategies for providing children with the foundational skills needed to enter school ready to learn, access to high-quality afterschool learning experiences and achieving postsecondary attainment. The conversations will also focus on closing achievement gaps (including for young men of color) and increasing student outcomes, including non-academic outcomes, with specific focus on social-emotional skills.

Community Conversation Participating Cities & Mayors

Avondale, Ariz. – Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers

Berkeley, Calif. – Mayor Tom Bates

Dayton, Ohio – Mayor Nan Whaley

Gary, Ind. – Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson

Hattiesburg, Miss. – Mayor Johnny Dupree

Kansas City, Mo. – Mayor Sly James

Louisville, Ky. – Mayor Greg Fischer

Madison, Wis. – Mayor Paul Soglin

Memphis, Tenn. – Mayor A C Wharton

Phoenix, Ariz. – Mayor Greg Stanton

Pittsburgh, Pa. – Mayor William Peduto

Saint Paul, Minn. – Mayor Chris Coleman

Salt Lake City, Utah – Mayor Ralph Becker

Savannah, Ga. – Mayor Edna Branch Jackson

The MOU announcement was made at NLC’s annual Congressional City Conference held at the Marriott Wardman Park March 8-12. More than 2,000 local elected officials and leaders

convened for the conference to focus on the federal policy issues that are important to local governments.

The National League of Cities (NLC) is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.

Source: City of Gary

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