SOUTH BEND — A group of local parents, a community activist and a local lawmaker are breathing at least a temporary sigh of relief after meeting with Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction Wednesday. The group got some new answers on a potential state takeover at three South Bend High Schools. The group was organized by South Bend parent and founder of Citizens Concerned to Save Our Youth Leslie Wesley. Also on the trip were: -Anthony Douglas, co-chair of a Washington High School parents group -Gladys Muhammad, Community Activist and Director of South Bend's Charles Martin Community Center -Cindy Steinhauer, Washington High School parent -Rep. David Niezgodski (D), South Bend The group met Wednesday morning with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett in Indianapolis, bringing with them a list of questions and concerns over the proposed state takeover of Washington, Riley and Bendix High Schools. British based consulting group Cambridge Education LLC was hired by Indiana's Department of Education to assess each of the schools last fall. In a copy of those reports obtained by The South Bend Tribune, Washington and Riley High Schools and Bendix Alternative School are listed along with 20 other Indiana schools with an overall rating of "poor." All of those schools were placed on academic probation by IDOE after failing to improve ISTEP+ scores for the past four years. 57 percent of Riley students, 43 percent of Washington students, and just 14 percent of Bendix students passed both the math and English sections of the ISTEP test, according to the most recent data available from the IDOE. The test is administered to 10th graders each spring. Bennett made it clear, Wednesday, the group agreed, that those scores must improve to avoid a state takeover of the schools in 2011. But, he also made it clear, they said, that he's willing to be as flexible as needed to make that happen. Seeking Out Truth "I just really wanted to find out the truth. I wanted to find out what was really going on," said Wesley, describing her reason for requesting the meeting with Bennett. "We had some mixed signals and things that needed clarification, and we wanted to find the truth." After an hour behind closed doors, the group says that's exactly what they got. "We heard it with clarification," said Wesley. "Straight from the horses mouth," added Niezgodski. "A great deal of our questions were answered. I think we had a very firm resolve upon leaving that meeting that a great deal of what we could enact here could be done on a local basis." That's a diversion from earlier reports on a "checklist" of 28 items generated from the Cambridge report. Of them, 20 are listed as "must do" items, including the replacement of school principals in the three buildings. Over the last two weeks, many parents have voiced their support for principals George McCullough of Washington, Ed Bradford of Riley and Carol Dennis of Bendix. Group members took those voices directly to Bennett on Wednesday. "I told him, Mr. McCullough is the reason my son is at Washington. Removing him would create..." Steinhauer trailed off. "Well, I can't even imagine the chaos that would ensue." "He took that to heart. He was very frank and very forward," Niezgodski said. "I believe his very words were: if George McCullough is the right person to make this happen and the right guy to get this job done, then I am a George McCullough person. If all these principals are the right people to get the job done, that's who he's in favor of." WSBT's calls to Bennett were not returned Wednesday. But, he told The South Bend Tribune that administrators must still make a "compelling argument" to keep the principals in their positions. "I want to see a comprehensive plan," Bennett told The Tribune following Wednesday’s meeting. "I want to see everything. It’s not just about those principals." Still, Bennett didn't argue with the group's assertion that the state won't immediately force the removal of the principals either. Administrative Answers "He was in total support of the ideas that the principals have to address needs in their schools," said Douglas. "But, we misunderstood what was going on. He made it known that's not his decision. [Replacing principals] is actually up to our local school community to make that decision." That's because Washington, Riley and Bendix haven't qualified for Federal funding under what's known as a Title I 1003 (g) School Improvement Grant. If a school receives that grant to pay for school reforms, then the school corporation would be required to complete the "must do" tasks. But South Bend Superintendent James Kapsa told the South Bend Tribune the only school that might qualify for the grant is Bendix. That's left the school corporation with increased flexibility, Muhammad said, in the search for solutions. "There was some unclarity about who does what and who makes the decisions. Does the state make them or does our school corporation, board and superintendent on what seemed like mandates etched in stone? We learned that, because we do not receive that funding, there is flexibility there for our corporation to get it together ourselves," she said. "But, make no mistake--if we don't get it together, the state will get it together for us. He was very clear about that," Muhammad continued. Swift Action Still, Bennett told the Tribune that each school should be able to provide a good reason why it's not completing any item on the Cambridge list. In either case, the group said Bennett doesn't want to wait to find out. "He wants a plan, and a plan with measurable outcomes. And he wants that plan in 30 days," Muhammad said. But, even more important than a quick plan, the group said, is a comprehensive one. "[Bennett] made it clear that it can't be a plan that's set forth by the corporation. It has to be a combination of the corporation, the community leaders, the parents, the school itself--all of those things," Steinhauer. If that doesn't happen, Bennett made it clear the state will proceed with takeover plans. "He's doing his job. And if it comes down to coming in and running the schools, that's what would take place," Niezgodski said. "If you're out of compliance, they have to come down on you," said Wesley. "I understand that. But, I got a good sense from the state that they're not looking to come in and take over our schools. They're looking to come in and make our schools better." The group indicated Bennett wants to come to South Bend to work with the community to find solutions. A "town hall" style meeting has been tentatively set for April 8th, though a time and location hasn't been decided yet. South Bend Tribune Staff Writer Joseph Dits contributed to this report.