Lanett City Schools Superintendent talks new year goals, state test scores

Published 8:30 am Thursday, January 4, 2024

Lanett City Schools have a lot to look forward to as the new year gets underway including two renovation projects for Lanett High School. 

The high school auditorium will be receiving a comprehensive renovation, and the field design and turf project at the Morgan-Washburn Stadium will begin this year as well. Both projects are in their early stages of planning. However, Lanett Superintendent Jennifer Boyd said she hopes to see the football stadium completed before the fall football season.

“Once we have completed the turf project, our stadium is definitely going to be top-notch,” Boyd said.

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The football stadium project will make a turf field at the stadium to improve the field’s safety and aesthetics, according to Boyd. 

Reflecting on 2023, Boyd mentioned the facility improvements that the school system has made. Lanett High School has had new HVAC systems installed, new doors and windows installed and new roofing installed. 

The Lanett High and Lanett Junior High gyms also received renovations over the last two years. Renovations were also made to the football stadium concession stand and the restrooms were updated. 

“We’ve been able to do some things that were, in my opinion, long overdue,” Boyd said. “But I’m really excited about it.”

This year, the high school also introduced a fourth career tech pathway: health science class. The program was chosen based on local job market trends and job opportunities available. 

As the program continues to grow, Boyd said she hopes to see students receive their credentials in health science and enter the workforce after graduating. 

The JROTC program has also grown in 2023 with many projects and programs introduced by the Lanett High School Senior JROTC Instructor Lt. Col. Christopher McKinney. Three JROTC students received scholarships of $140,000 each from the National ROTC scholarship program. Cadets Ariel Hall, Ameria Ziegler and Jaelin Truitt planned to attend Tuskegee University.

In the new year, Boyd said they plan to continue using the portable metal detectors for which the school system received a grant in 2023. In the new year, Boyd said they may expand the uses of the security checkpoints beyond athletic events.

“Safety is a top priority,” Boyd said. 

As the school year continues, Boyd said the school district will continue to work with math and English coaches and interventionists to improve student achievement. In December 2023, the Alabama Department of Education released the state assessment scores. Boyd said though LCS has seen growth, she is looking for ways to improve its numbers.

The systemwide grade increased from 69 to 73 for 2022-2023. However, Lanett Junior High saw a dip in the schoolwide score from 63 to 51. 

“We know that that is not the ultimate goal,” Boyd said. “But it is great to see growth, and we want to celebrate successes.”

Boyd said LCS is working to address areas that need improvement with reading and math coaches in W.O. Lance Elementary School. She said the school system also contracted an educational consulting firm to provide interventionists at the secondary level. 

In addition to coaches, Boyd said ongoing training for teachers is a priority at LCS. Systemwide, teachers will have opportunities to continue their training to help engage students and improve outcomes. Many teachers have been LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) trained and trained in AMSTI (Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative). 

“We’re always learning things change,” Boyd said. “And so we want to make certain that our staff is adequately trained.”

Boyd also pointed out that LCS is a proportionally small school system, and one dropout can make a large impact on percentages like the graduation rate and chronic absenteeism. 

LCS also had low scores for English Language proficiency (36), chronic absenteeism (19) and graduation rate (79). Many of the programs Boyd said will help the whole child overcome barriers that contribute to those numbers.

In 2023, the school system hired a mental health specialist to identify at-risk students and intervene. LCS also has School Resource Officers at each campus and school-based counseling to try to address barriers that may contribute to those rates. 

“These are things that will lead to increased student achievement, because if you’re not addressing the whole child, then you’re missing a huge piece of what’s necessary for students,” Boyd said. 

Chronic absenteeism refers to any excused or unexcused absences of students. Boyd said the school system needs to partner with the community and the parents to lower that rate.

“Research indicates that attendance has a major bearing on student academic success. And so when students are not here, they’re not learning,” Boyd said. “When students are not here, we cannot prepare them to be their best.”

LCS has also had a recent influx of English Language Learners in the school system, according to Boyd. She said the school are putting support systems in place to help teachers and ensure that ELL students receive the same opportunity to learn as all other students. 

“We are really excited about ensuring that our staff members are trained so that they can engage students in meaningful learning experiences,” Boyd said.