The Meridian Star invited some community leaders to write about their top three priorities for 2019. Today's column is from John-Mark Cain, Ph.D., superintendent of the Lauderdale County School District.

The Lauderdale County School District is a great public school district rich in tradition of academic and athletic success. Our students have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, professional athletes, business owners, educators, farmers, public servants, soldiers and a vast array of other professional careers. Success is defined in many different ways and we as public educators now promote the success of our graduates with three main goals; enlist, enroll, or employ. With today’s challenges, we must best serve and encourage individuals based on his or her passions and interest and not a one size fits all model of the past. In order for us to ensure every student has an opportunity to reach his or her full potential regardless of race, wealth, disability, or circumstance, we must address the needs of each student. Our commitment to “Excellence” must be present in everything we do because our “Kids Deserve It!”

The last few months have witnessed us strive for doing what is best for our students by providing opportunities for them in several areas such as the ACT and ACT WorkKeys; each playing a vital role in our students’ future. Beginning in ninth grade the LCSD has begun to prepare students for the ACT in hopes to promote better scores and financial scholarships. Our partnership with Meridian Community College has led to providing the ACT WorkKeys Test to all our seniors free of charge. The assessments measure foundational skills required for success in the workplace, and the skills that can affect job performance. We see this and the expansion of career-technical education (vocational) opportunities as a contributing factor to developing our workforce and inviting economic development to our area. We must prepare our students for the careers of tomorrow because our “Kids Deserve It.”

Many school districts around the state are struggling with higher energy costs, dated facilities constructed before the need for security, and aging infrastructure including plumbing, wiring, roofs, HVAC systems; our district is not immune to such burdens. The challenge facing school leaders is maintaining facilities with tightening budgets while simultaneously providing the resources teachers need to continuously raise student achievement. With technology advances in energy efficient management services and devices, districts must find ways to utilize these programs to cut costs, maintain the learning environment, and plan for the future, while being great stewards of the public’s tax dollars because our “Kids Deserve It!”

As with any successful organization planning is essential. The LCSD will begin its strategic planning process in February. This process will enlist the input of local stakeholders and various community leaders to help create goals and a roadmap for success for the district. This is long and tedious process but the rewards are a unified vision for our district’s and community’s future. I have no doubt the parents and grandparents of the more than 6,200 students in the LCSD will be willing to help us create the best possible future for their families, for their community schools, and for Lauderdale County because our “Kids Deserve It!”

(The LCSD is conducting a book study this year with “Kids Deserve It!” written by Adam Welcome.)

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