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Lancaster ISD strives to improve education system, public image

MIKE McGEE | 5/22/2015, 9:35 a.m.
The headlines read: Lancaster ISD: ex-CFO sentenced and Lancaster ISD plagued by low performance, along with Salary cuts or layoffs, ...
Superintendent Mike McFarland talks to Lancaster ISD high school students regarding the Stroll to the Poll in April. Lancaster ISD Facebook

The Dallas Examiner

The headlines read: Lancaster ISD: ex-CFO sentenced and Lancaster ISD plagued by low performance, along with Salary cuts or layoffs, according to a graphic provided by the Lancaster Independent School District during an LISD Lunch & Learn Media Day held May 11. The featured newspaper headlines literally spelled out past turmoil associated with the school system.

Those days are long gone, current administrators assured a sparse crowd gathered in the high school library for the event. As if to prove their point, one of the graphic’s headlines was especially pertinent: Board votes 4-3 to hire superintendent.

“The goal for today, again, is for us to learn, and for us to share some information with you all ...,” Superintendent Mike McFarland – the administrator to whom the headline referred to – expressed to the gathered listeners. He also voiced that the media day was a way for the district to review how it can better disseminate information to news outlets.

“We recognize that we could be doing a lot of really outstanding things but if nobody’s reading about it, nobody’s hearing about it, they don’t really know what’s happening – then the perception is that it’s not happening,” he said.

What has been happening involves a newly passed bond package and an expansion of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum intended to prepare the estimated 7,100 LISD students for future jobs – and dispel the sting of those past headlines, the superintendent offered.

The luncheon offered glimpses into the successes of the Lancaster ISD under McFarland’s tenure; the day represented the start of his sixth year as head of the district. He spoke of the challenges the district faces as well, a district that supports 11 campuses.

“Really, the uniqueness of our district is that we do have a population that has historically struggled the most but our kids are performing at high levels, so we’re excited about that,” stated McFarland as he informed attendees that the district has an 80 percent African American student body and 84 percent of the total children in the district come from an economically challenged background.

One district success administrators touched upon was that 100 percent of the district’s schools met or exceeded the standards set by the Texas Education Agency.

“Over 95 percent of our students are graduating with diplomas and a letter of acceptance to a college, university or [the] military,” the superintendent affirmed. “We have documentation of that.”

Creslond Fanin, the director of College and Career Readiness Division, revealed the specific numbers for this school year. Currently, more than 100 high school seniors out of the 373 enrolled in the district have received those acceptance letters. She also anticipated that scholarship monies will surpass last year’s amount of $5.2 million by the time of the upcoming June 8 Lancaster ISD graduation date. Fanin also confirmed that enrollment in the Advancement Via Individual Determination college preparation program continues to gain momentum.

“These are middle of the road students that we work with,” she stated. “This program is open to our sixth through 11th grade.”