The following editorial by LCS Superintendent Matt Wandrie appeared in Sunday’s Lapeer County Press:
Public school districts across the state sit at the epicenter of communities. Many people derive their very identity based on the success of the local school system, in the classroom and extracurricular activities.
This past weekend’s high school football championships are an annual reminder for me of that truth, as I watch teams compete and see the support and enthusiasm so many have for their local schools.
It’s also a great reminder of what can happen when a group of people come together, work together and strive together for a common cause.
As school districts across the state scramble to craft responses to some of the proposed changes coming out of Lansing, I think it behooves all of us to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Even as legislative proposals affecting school funding, merit pay, charter and virtual schools, expansion of state oversight and other very serious issues, are being discussed in Lansing and across the state, many districts are pressing forward with a “students first” agenda that is already adapting policies to reflect changing realities.
I’m proud to be the superintendent of one of these districts.
Whether you agree or disagree with the size, scope or manner of the proposed changes, our mission as educators has not changed. All of us who have staked our lives to the health and well-being of public education, in spite of our many disagreements, do agree on the basic and foundational principle that improving student achievement is paramount.
Every student is important; failure is not an option.
Choice and accountability in public education are here to stay. It’s our job as educators to find ways to harness the opportunities they provide and to transform them into positive action for students. While many dismiss all the proposed changes on their face, it might be wiser to take a more discerning approach.
Competition by itself, as Lansing proposes, is not a solution to what ails public education; it can, however, help to create an environment laden with incentives for more positive outcomes.
In spite of persistent funding issues, increased competition, new evaluative tools and a host of other changes that have been made or are coming in the years ahead, when the dust settles, public schools will still be the primary delivery model for the majority of students in this state. Our responsibility to teach every child will continue to be our imperative, and failure will be no less tolerable.
In the meantime, our work at the local and state level should be focused on enhancing and improving the public school system as it exists today. Our system needs to be tuned, not torn down.
Our work will continue to focus on how we can improve programs for our students. While we are very concerned about the pace of change coming out of Lansing, we can all agree the majority of our time needs to be centered on what we can do to make the K-12 experience better for the 6,000 students in our district.
I challenge you to educate yourself on all of the proposed changes suggested by our state and local governments. Political activism rests at the heart of our republic, and issues in all arenas, not just those affecting education, need to be scrutinized and studied.
One thing we do in Lapeer, through our communications efforts, is to try to remind our community about the great many things happening in our schools, showcasing students, staff and programming; and while what we provide is of tremendous value, it is always healthy for an organization in any industry to continually strive for improvement.
The world is changing; the workforce is changing. The two-lane roads to success of the past are now 12-lane highways scattered in every direction. We know where greater student achievement leads, but we must be willing to embrace new ways of getting there.
Lapeer Community Schools’ 4-year Strategic Plan is centered on the principle of increased choice for families. Our new Year-round elementary school, The Lapeer Virtual Learning Center, future expansion of dual-enrollment opportunities and exploration of trade-based methods of education are just a few of the ways in which LCS is being proactive in its approach to new realities. For our willingness to adapt, I’m confident we will emerge as the best and most viable option for our families.
We don’t advocate for these improvements in direct relation to legislative changes, but rather what’s best for our kids. There is, after all, no higher calling.