The Gary Community School Corporation (GCSC) announced recently that the number of students attending its schools increased again, building on the gains in Fall 2020 and coming after more than 10 years of declines. As measured by the Average Daily Membership count submitted to the State of Indiana, GCSC served an additional 65 students at the time of the February count as compared to the September count, bringing the total to 4,445.
Enrollment is increasing in Gary schools at a time when other school districts from coast to coast are experiencing declines. California’s public schools are serving 155,000 fewer students, and New York City public schools are serving 43,000 fewer students. Closer to home, Chicago Public Schools enrollment fell by nearly 15,000 students.
“With strong support from the community, close collaboration with teachers, and millions of dollars invested in improvements, the Gary schools are on the rise. Parents can tell, and they’re voting with their feet,” said Dr. Paige McNulty, the manager of GCSC. “We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re proud of the academic, athletic, and artistic opportunities we offer students and families, and we’re hopeful that even more families will choose to enroll their students in our district.”
Dating back to the oldest available public records in 2008, Gary’s average daily membership count has declined on a year-over-year basis. The decline began to level off when MGT Consulting, appointed by the State of Indiana, began managing GCSC. The firm has produced consistent improvements in the Gary schools, including increased support offered to students and families during the pandemic.
As context, for the 10 years prior to MGT management, GCSC lost 699 students per year, on average. For the three years prior to MGT management, GCSC lost 616 students per year, on average.
Now, after three years of MGT management, the GCSC ADM has increased — twice.
“We are seeing strong interest in our schools, not only from Gary families but from area charter schools and neighboring school districts who want to give their students access to our excellent Career and Technical Education facilities,” McNulty said. “We are committed to building on the progress underway and making the case to every family in Gary why our schools are the best fit for their children.”
For clarification, ADM (or Membership Enrollment) is not the same as Pupil Enrollment, which is what is listed on the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) website. Membership Enrollment is the count of students used by the State of Indiana for calculating tuition support revenue for school districts. Enrollment includes pre-kindergarten and is used for federal reporting, including the Every Student Succeeds Act.
These enrollment gains come on the heels of other signs of progress. In February, Gary schools reopened as parents and community members voiced increasing confidence that GCSC was on the right track.
In November, voters approved an operating referendum for the schools with more than 60 percent of the vote, leading to more funding for student support as well as the first raise for teachers in more than 10 years.
In October, GCSC began overhauling the track at West Side Leadership Academy, one of many facilities improvements that are part of the $25 million School Improvement Fund. That month, GCSC also announced that its Average Daily Membership increased for the first time in more than 10 years.
In addition, GCSC has adopted local preference policies for hiring and purchasing and distributed a Chromebook with internet access to every student K-12.
Meanwhile, the school district’s deficit has fallen from $22 million in August 2017 to $6 million in December 2019, and the school district’s debt has fallen from $104 million to $79 million.