By L&T Publisher Earl WAtt
Last week, USD No. 480 announced some good news to the community in a couple of different ways.
Let’s start with the positive outcome from the “prom incident.” The School Board adopted changes to the policy that prevented a 22-year-old brother from walking his sister to the front door of the school for her prom. He didn’t want to enter the building or attend prom, just walk her to the door.
As the policy was interpreted, that was not allowed since he was over the age limit.
A new policy will give the principal and the superintendent wiggle room to prevent such a situation in the future, and should a similar situation arise, policy will not lead to another denial of a fair request.
That was a positive outcome after a week-long situation that involved national media, social media, local media, and both sides were more than interested in reaching a better solution.
Controversies are unavoidable. But having the ability to sit down together and reach a resolution is becoming a rare happening in the political landscape today where two sides are determined to make every issue a winner-take-all. That didn’t happen here. There were no real villains, despite the attempt by some to make it so. And in the end, cooler heads prevailed with a common-sense solution, a lesson that our friends in Washington could stand to learn.
The second bit of news that was positive for USD No. 480 involved the ranking of Liberal High School as No. 7 in Kansas and in the top 10 percent nationwide.
“US News and World Report” used a variety of criteria to make the determination, and in many ways, Liberal could have used a high immigrant student population as a reason not to succeed as well as other schools.
But the study found just the opposite, that students at LHS, when compared to similar demographic groups across the state and nation, exceeded the national averages.
Why is that so important?
Because it is an indicator that our district is facing a tough challenge and succeeding.
The students at LHS are better off from having attended than they were before they came, and they are better off here than they might be elsewhere.
Our students are learning, and they are able to exhibit their education when tested.
That is a big, big deal in itself, but the study didn’t simply stop there.
Additional criteria was forced on the least advantaged kids to make sure they were receiving a quality education. When compared to others with similar economic backgrounds, again the LHS students exceeded expectations.
This is an important aspect of the evaluation. It shows that no matter where a student comes from when entering LHS, they have an opportunity to learn and leave with marketable skills.
In other words, it’s not how you started your education that is important, but how you finished. Education is called the great equalizer, but that is only true if schools can demonstrate the ability to educate kids in every economic strata. According to “US News and World Report,” that opportunity exists at LHS.
Once a school has proven itself with the first two benchmarks, the hurdles get more difficult. Schools have to demonstrate that their students are ready to perform college-level work via a college readiness index.
With the large number of advanced placement classes that allows LHS students to take college classes at the same time thanks to a partnership with Seward County Community College/Area Technical School, LHS again demonstrated a strong ability to have students college ready.
But just offering these courses was not enough. Students had to outscore the median to earn recognition. Again, LHS did just that.
So many times, we choose to focus on the challenges, and we see a high number of immigrant students and believe it would be easier to throw in the towel.
Or, we can step up to the challenge, find solutions and teach these kids anyway. We can implement plans and strategies that overcome the language barrier (like dual language programs), and we can develop additional student support like the AVID porogam.
This is what LHS and USD No. 480 has chosen to do, and the national recognition is proof positive that those who attend our system are receiving a quality education.
The district should be proud of this accomplishment, but more importantly, the community should take pride in knowing that it has a district striving to be one of the best in the country, and they are reaching that goal.
Liberal can be a tough town because expectations are so high for just about everything, but that is much better than apathy. We expect the best, and at LHS, that is exactly what our students are getting.