Planning for the Future of Lapeer: County Press Editorial

The following editorial from LCS Superintendent Matt Wandrie appeared in the October 14, 2018 edition of the Lapeer County Press:

In the week since The County Press reported on the District’s recent strategic planning focus panels, we’ve received a great deal of input from nearly every part of our community. We’ve received compliments and criticisms, suggestions and questions by the inboxful. Considering everything we’ve taken in, I think it’s clear that there is one thing that needs to be made abundantly clear about the discussions that have taken place so far: we are on the first step of a long journey.

The focus panels, involving more than 100 community members, are only the first of many engagement opportunities yet to come.

Rest assured, the strategic plan that will ultimately shape the future of the District will look different than what was presented to the Board of Education, focus panels and shared with the broader community in the pages of The County Press.

It could be different tomorrow, in fact.

The entire point of this process is to arrive at a plan reflects the future educational needs of the community in a financially responsible way. What exists today represents nothing more than our current thinking — to get to where we need to go, we must have a starting point. To do this, requires open and honest dialogue, constructive criticism and forward thinking.

I, along with many others, will share our vision for the future with the community in the coming months. We will share with anyone who will listen not only what the future could look like, but also the pride we share in what we’ve become. Throughout this process there will be differences of opinion, large and small. That said, we must all agree on a basic set of facts, the inconvenient truths that inform virtually every decision that we make during this process:

• The school-age population in our district continues to decline.

• Fewer students equates to less revenue; a decline of 150 students in one year equates to more than $1.1 million in lost revenue.

• Based on the birth rate in Lapeer County and our projections, the District’s enrollment will level out in the next 10 years at around 4,000 students. In 1980, we had nearly 9,000.

• As years pass and enrollment continues to decline, our current structure becomes less efficient and our aging facilities require more funding to maintain.

There’s another set of facts that you will hear more about as well, and these should be points of pride for everyone in our community:

• We now offer more academic opportunities for students than ever before due, in large measure, to the implementation of our last five-year strategic plan.

• Our student achievement trends continue to improve, and in many areas they are improving dramatically; the top two highest-performing elementary schools in the county now reside in our district.

• We have students graduating from our high school and entering college as sophomores because of our dual enrollment program that brings college professors into our classrooms during the school day.

• We now have the Lapeer Homeschool Partnership, Lapeer Virtual, Lapeer Early College and so much more. We have students becoming certified as CNC operators, without having to leave the District, through our partnership with Baker College.

• We have developed many programs, like the ones mentioned above, that offer our students incredible opportunities right here in Lapeer, and also help to offset some of the revenue lost to declining enrollment.

I defy you to find a school district in this state that has done more with less than Lapeer Community Schools. Our high school is home to one of the most challenging academic programs in the region; we are proud to have one of the largest and most consistently successful robotics programs in the state; we have a Center for Innovation with one of the most diverse arrays of opportunities for students that you will find anywhere. The old building no longer passes the eyeball test, but what’s inside is different — it’s dynamic.

We hold the fundamental belief that our students deserve the best that we can offer them. We cannot, and we will not, let factors outside of our control diminish opportunities for our students. The future of Lapeer resides inside the four walls of our classrooms, and it is our responsibility to ensure we are adequately investing in them.

We have a track record of listening to our stakeholders and we will remain committed to legitimate community engagement throughout this entire process. This plan will not succeed without broad-based support from our community.

For more information, visit the District website at www.LapeerSchools.org and click on the 2020 Vision/LCS Strategic Planning graphic.

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