By Susan K. Bohn
Superintendent, Lockhart Independent School District
It has been a little over a year since my family and I moved here and became Lockhart Lions. During this time, I have learned so much from the students, staff, and community.
I have learned Lions never give up. When things get tough, Lions pull together to push through the challenge.
I have learned Lions dream big. Whether it’s Lion staff innovating creative experiences for students or Lion students pushing themselves in the classroom or competitions, Lions chase their dreams.
I have learned Lions lead. The depth of talent throughout the district has yielded new leaders who have stepped up to new and growing responsibilities. The enthusiasm they bring is timely and transforming as we move into the next phase of growth.
RIght now, LISD has over 5,600 students. In the last year, the district experienced a 6 percent jump in growth. While we expected to see our student numbers rise, it was surprising to see how quickly they rose, given what the district’s professional demographer had projected.
The higher cost of living in surrounding urban areas has most likely contributed to the movement into our community, but it’s the community itself that attracts families to resettle here. With the increased visibility Lockhart has experienced in the last year–being dubbed the “Live Music Suburb of the World” and experiencing an influx of new businesses and a revitalization of the historic district–people are taking notice.
The Board of Trustees and district leadership team members are closely monitoring the growth and developing a master plan to make the most efficient use of our current facilities to prepare for new students and to identify possibilities in a future bond. As for current bond projects, LISD successfully completed and opened the Alma Brewer Strawn Elementary School, and work continues to expand the capacity and facilities at Lockhart High School. We are now in the second year of the 2014 bond implementation. We are on track with both the schedule and budget for this two-year project.
Right now, as of this semester, the district’s curriculum for all students is vertically aligned. This means there is a set progression of content that builds over grade levels, ensuring students are mastering the concepts in deep and meaningful ways. In addition, teachers are delivering instruction with increased rigor–setting higher expectations for all students so they can develop to their fullest potential.
Right now, 94 percent of our high school students are enrolled in one or more Career and Technology courses to prepare for entry into the workforce. These are courses that provide important work and life skills, but they also integrate core academic instruction into CTE courses, showing how academic core courses have real-world application. We know when students achieve CTE certifications, they have increased attendance, increased graduation rates, higher GPAs, and increased enrollment in postsecondary studies. Gap, Inc., and Holt Caterpillar are just a couple of examples of the growing list of partners working with the district to boost student achievement and grow postsecondary opportunities.
Right now, 19 percent of LISD students are English Language Learners. In reviewing data about ELL student performance, what has become clear is the district needs to do a better job of providing the coordinated supports and services they need to be successful. The Board of Trustees approved the hiring of a bilingual/ESL coordinator this year in response to this need. Moving forward, the district will provide effective and intentional support to teachers to increase ELL student performance. We are also preparing for targeted recruitment for bilingual/ESL teachers to help us serve this population within LISD.
Right now, LISD remains in solid financial standing to serve its students. We have a strong bond rating of “AA” by Fitch; recognition by the Government Finance Officers Association for Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the 11th consecutive year; the highest rating on the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) for the 14th consecutive year; and the honor of the district receiving an “unqualified opinion” on its financial statements for the 20th consecutive year, the highest rating a financial statement can be rated from our auditors. Finally, our district currently has a healthy $14.7 million general fund balance.
We will continue to work alongside the Board to understand priorities in our district, allocate resources with their guidance to support those priorities, and leverage existing resources and community partnerships.
Right now, there is a lot of work to be done, but we are Lockhart Lions. We never give up. We dream big. We lead. Thank you for your continued support.