Attention to Academics is the Key to Student Success

From the desk of the County Executive, David A. Morgan

by David Morgan, Lawrence County Executive

The third of four articles

The past two weeks I’ve written about the way our school system dealt with the challenges of COVID and county-wide facility improvements designed to address overcrowding, energy efficiency, air quality, comfort, and safety.

Today I want to offer more praise reports from Lawrence County schools, primarily in the area of academics. Our schools offer many activities and programs that we often focus on, but academic success is the bottom line for our children.

Recognition from the Tennessee Department of Education in February 2022 underscored our system’s dedication to academic achievement. The Lawrence County School System (LCSS) was among those named “Best for All” Districts, honoring systems that spent a majority of federal COVID relief and stimulus funding on improving student achievement.

Preparing students for the future means incorporating more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education at every school. Partners in this process are helping make it happen: TVA, Lawrenceburg Utility Systems and Loretto Telecom.

One initiative is a mobile “Exploration Station,” a bus outfitted with STEM activities that travels from school to school. Another is a system-wide STEM Lego Robotics League, challenging students to use coding to program robots to perform tasks. A few local students are advancing to the national level in these competitions. STEM skills were also emphasized in a drone competition with participants from every school. There are many other examples.

With the addition of “Arts” to STEM, Ethridge Elementary was named a STEAM School in 2022. This recognition came after the school completed an application process that described how these subjects would be emphasized in classrooms school-wide.

Both Lawrenceburg Public and South Lawrence Elementary schools are designated Reward Schools by the Tennessee Department of Education, recognizing their students’ high level of performance in annual testing. David Crockett Elementary has received the RTI2B recognition several years in a row, a distinction given for successful behavioral intervention strategies and techniques.

Every student in Lawrence County Schools has a Chromebook to use, giving them access to online programs and texts. Computer literacy is key to students’ future, so simply using Chromebooks helps prepare them. Chromebook use is made better by faster, stronger internet service at every school.

LCSS established the K-12 Pioneer Virtual Academy while schools were closed due to COVID, but it remains in place to make a difference for students outside our school system. “LCSS wanted to provide local and regional homeschool parents a program free of charge that provides a quality educational homeschool experience,” said Director of Schools Michael Adkins. An application process is required.

The Lawrence County School Board approved high school Family Life curriculum that is an adaptation of the evidence-based Michigan model, focusing on abstinence.

A 2023 Summer School Camp will be the third annual program of its kind, offered to help students who need a little boost in academic subjects.

The LCSS Career Technical Education program gets a lot of well-deserved attention. Students earned a whopping 924 Industry Certifications in 2021-22, including certifications in OSHA, Microsoft Office, and Health Sciences. During the same year 699 students completed dual enrollment classes, which allows them to earn high school credit and credit toward Columbia State or TCAT programs. This head start encourages students to enroll in postsecondary programs after graduation, which they now do at a rate of 62.2 percent.

Welding and Agriculture were added to the CTE program at Summertown High School, and Cosmetology was added at Loretto. Students from these programs and others represented Lawrence County very well at recent SkillsUSA state competitions, and gold medal winners are advancing to national competitions. We also have students participating at the national level in Virtual Enterprise Business Plan, and Microsoft Office Specialist competitions.

SkillsUSA also promotes skills like leadership that help people in every line of work. Lawrence County students have been elected national SkillsUSA officers for several years, including this one.

The system’s CTE department focused on developing “soft” skills like teamwork, attendance, and punctuality with its Work Ethic Distinction program. By keeping a portfolio of related work, students qualify for the Work Ethic Distinction award, and 102 received it in 2021-22.

None of these things matter if students don’t get to school. Daily bus miles of 4,125 and a lack of drivers prompted LCSS to establish the Tier 2 Student Transportation program to prevent bus route cancellations. This allows bus drivers who want to run an extra afternoon route to be compensated at higher hourly rates.

Another key to student performance is our food service program, supervised by Kindlyn Simpson. She and many hardworking cafeteria employees provide 8,500 student meals a day, an incredible 42,500 a week.

The school system’s Family Resource Center works year-round to address students’ non-academic needs. An annual holiday food drive helps stock shelves that fill boxes for families in need, and monetary donations of $16,262 were collected in 2021-22.

All these efforts help our bottom line: Lawrence County students now graduate high school at a rate of 97.3 percent, which is the highest rate ever for us, and one of the best in the state.

Skip to content