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JBSA News
NEWS | Aug. 9, 2007

Concern for educational, emotional needs of students gets Lackland ISD high marks

By Tony Perez 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office

August is generally marked by hot temperatures and back-to-school shopping, but this year members of the Lackland Independent School District might be a little bit happier to go back to school.

For the second year in a row, Lackland Elementary at Lackland AFB, Texas, gained the distinction of being an "Exemplary" school largely due to its performance in the state-mandated Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test. In order to earn an Exemplary rating, at least 90 percent of the students must pass each portion of the test.

The achievement was awarded by the Texas Education Agency. Stacey High School narrowly missed the same recognition by falling 1 percentage point short in the mathematics section of the test, but was awarded the status of being "Recognized." It was the second year in a row for Stacey High School to be rated as Recognized.

"We had been Exemplary for five or six years under the old testing system," said Lackland Elementary School Principal Kay Norton. "But when the new testing system was implemented with a science component, like many other schools, Lackland Elementary had a drop in those scores."

Mrs. Norton has been principal of Lackland Elementary for the last 12 years.

As a school district catering solely to on-base military families, Lackland ISD faces the unique challenge of teaching an extremely diverse group of students, making the academic achievements of the school district more impressive.

"Other Texas schools have turnover, but what's unusual is that we receive children from places like Germany, Guam and Hawaii, and these children might fall under a completely different set of education standards and expectations and we have to get them," said Mrs. Norton. "We have to help them any way we can. Our motto is, 'by any means necessary.'"

With deployment and reassignments, there is also no set time that a child will attend Lackland Elementary.

"It's a revolving door around here," Mrs. Norton said. "We have the largest Temporary Lodging Facility in the Air Force. Some children might be here for only a week or two."

Lackland Elementary has programs in place to help with a child's adjustment to a new environment. Tutors are available after school for tutoring, as well as inclusion teachers who come into the class room to provide extra support immediately.

"One of the things that we really try to do is emphasize that there is a lot more to life than this doggone state test," said Dr. David Splitek, superintendent of Lackland ISD. "We try to make sure our children are exposed to the arts, and we have one heck of a drama program. We have after-school clubs, and a full array of extracurricular activities. At the same time, if you are around this place during testing, you can tell that's what we are focused on."

Pre-kindergarten through second-grade counselor and district test coordinator Penny Abbott, along with third through sixth-grade counselor Nancy Meyer, provide the Happy Hearts group and the Hearts of Hearts group to provide children with any emotional assistance they might need due to moving or having a parent deployed.

"We focus on having a great relationship with the children," Mrs. Abbott said. "We understand that every child has a unique situation and story and the teachers are very aware of trying to meet the needs of the individual."

Mrs. Norton stressed that the level of success that Lackland Elementary has achieved is a testimony to having a well-rounded curriculum.

"It isn't just about working a child academically; we must make sure that their emotional needs are met too," Mrs. Norton said. "Part of our success is looking at the whole child. It's great to be exemplary. We love being exemplary, but we're just as proud of our art program and the fact that we have a dynamite chess program."

The community support that Lackland ISD receives also has attributed to the success of the program.

"In any military home you've got a parent who is studying for a test, who is trying to make rank or that is trying to get a college degree," Mrs. Norton said. "Kids see that mom and dad have books in their hands and that they are interested."

According to Mrs. Norton, the parent attendance in parent-teacher conferences is almost 100 percent.

"The participation speaks volumes about our community. Military bosses let parents off from work early to attend school meetings," Mrs. Norton said. "And where else do you have Brig. Gen. Darrell Jones on the floor with the kindergarten class on the first day of school? He met and had lunch with the new teachers last year and that just shows the support from this community."

While the parents and general community at Lackland give great support, support is also given by the staff and faculty of Lackland ISD back to the parents. About 50 percent of the staff has a military background, either through personal experience or family members.

"When we say that we understand what a child or a parent is going through, they immediately know that they are talking to someone who really does understand, because we have been there," said Nancy Meyer, who was formerly a member of the Navy. "We will take each child as far as we can from the day they come in, whether it's for two days, two months or two years."

Lackland ISD not only has a strong support network of dedicated faculty, staff and parents, but they have also enjoyed strong financial support.

"We have a good budget, the board is very supportive," Mrs. Norton said. "But I've always told our teachers if there was something that they had to have, I would be selling hot dogs outside of the commissary."

Lackland Elementary's overall goal is to keep pace with the changes in technology for the roughly 600 students who will be attending in the fall.

"We want our kids to have the best school experience they can have here at Lackland," Dr. Splitek said. "We know that if we do a good job here then the parents can do a good job because they'll know that their children are being taken care of."