The change also meant that more students were behind academically when they started school, says Anthony Lux
, who retired this past June after 19 years as Merrillville's superintendent.
"This was a trend we were seeing in surrounding schools, as more poor families were leaving Gary to have better educational opportunities in other towns," he
After a racially charged fight between white and African-American students during his first year as superintendent in 1994, Lux says, administrators brought parents, students, and community members together to talk about how to improve the school's environment.
With more economically disadvantaged students entering Merrillville schools, staff members had to adjust to teaching students at a wide range of academic achievement levels, especially in high school, Lux
says these programs have helped more students graduate on time and increased their chances of success after high school.
"All of our teacher volunteers in the Freshmen Academy just have unconditional love for kids and an undying determination that academic success is our only option," says Mark Sperling, the former Merrillville assistant superintendent who succeeded Lux.
The changing demographics have been an asset, Lux