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Friday, June 21, 2024
The Observer

County council passes resolution in hopes of saving Clay High School

South Bend resident Michael McManus speaks during the St. Joseph County Council meeting on Sept. 12.

The St. Joseph County Council adopted a resolution Tuesday in support of Clay High School and Save Clay, a group dedicated to protecting the school which the South Bend Community School Corporation (SBCSC) voted to close in April.

“Sometimes somebody needs an advocate,” said council member Amy Drake, whose district includes Clay High School. “People that came to me from Save Clay did not feel heard by the South Bend schools.”

In their decision to close the high school, the SBCSC board citied the number of open seats in district-wide high school enrollment: 2,400 and projected to grow.

The resolution, which passed by a vote of 5-4, called on Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner to look into creating a new school corporation to serve unincorporated areas of St. Joseph County such as Clay Township.

“The resolution does not establish another [school] district,” said Peter Agostino, Save Clay’s attorney, during the public discussion part of the council meeting. “It seeks information, it seeks help, it seeks aid from the Secretary of Education in the state of Indiana.”

Save Clay board member Jennifer Fox said she had always been an advocate of public schools but moved her children out of SBCSC to Saint Joseph High School this year because she doesn't trust the district’s administration.

“Please pass this resolution to see if it is feasible to start our own corporation in the county,” Fox said. “South Bend Community School Corporation is only concerned with its city schools. They have closed Green, Hay, Eggleston and now Warren and Clay. It is time to let the county have its own district.”

Before voting no to the resolution, council member Bryan Tanner said the council did not have an elected responsibility or right to dictate how SBCSC was run.

Tanner said it was the duty of SBCSC, the Indiana Department of Education and the legislative arm of the state to answer the question posed by the resolution.

“This is representative of government overreach,” Tanner said.

Michael McManus, a South Bend resident who spoke against the resolution, said he was happy that a large number of community members attended the meeting both in support and opposition to the resolution.

“I’m very glad to see so many of you from my neighborhoods here tonight participating in democracy. It’s good that you stand up for what you believe in,” McManus said. “But I don’t need a study to tell me that for every year for the past several years, the number of public school students in this area has been declining because of vouchers and students fleeing to charter schools and private schools.”

According to the resolution, SBCSC has voted to close, consolidate, repurpose or merge ten schools in St. Joseph County during the past seven years.

In addition to the resolution, Save Clay has explored other means to raise awareness about and achieve its cause.

Agostino will argue on Sept. 26 at the St. Joseph County Courthouse that Clay High School should remain open because of a decades-old consent decree on racial balance in South Bend schools, according to the South Bend Tribune.

Save Clay is also hosting a tailgate at Ivy Inn and Suites this Saturday before Notre Dame takes on Central Michigan.