, 2015

Changes to welcome students
Tuesday at Lancaster schools

by Audrey Thomasson

LANCASTER—The roar of the big yellow buses and the chiming of school bells Tuesday, September 2, will signal the start of the 2014-15 school year.

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Superintendent Steven Parker addresses faculty and staff during a back-to-class breakfast at Lancaster Middle School.

It is a big day for every student, whether returning as an iPad-carrying senior preparing to take on the world with the Class of 2015, or as a 3-year-old in a brand new school uniform with no idea of how technology will impact his or her life by graduation in 2030.

“We want this division to be the best in the country,” said new school superintendent Steven Parker. “This is an amazing place. The potential is here.”

Reporting on preliminary results of Standards of Learning (SOL) tests from June, he said, “The schools saw improvement across the board. Change is a process. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s like pushing a boulder uphill. It requires focus.”

The first priority is to change the environment at the schools, starting with respecting each other “to the person” and modeling a good work ethic of integrity. “We’re adults in a school building that kids are looking up to. Our greatest leaders have to be the teachers.”

The superintendent believes in individualized instruction—a plan for every child. “First thing, you have to know every child. That means you have to love them, know things about them.”

He stressed the importance of teaching in a way that engages the student.

“Kids are kids. They want to learn in a positive place that engages and respects them,” he said. “You make it fun...make it an inviting place to be...a great place to work...the rest of it is going to come.”

A key factor is implementation of positive response and positive behavior intervention support. “We’re raising the expectations...We will celebrate the kid that meets expectations every day...and that’s 85%.”

Parker acknowledged the dichotomy of the county having a composite index of 79%, meaning county tax payers can afford to pay 79% of educational costs, while at the same time 75% of Lancaster students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

“Kids are not coming from the 79% composite index,” he noted.

In the few weeks he’s been here, Parker has folded in Social Services and other community groups in order to turn things around at the family level. “Kids out of control is a function of others in the family...we see our jobs as ministry in a different venue.”

“Our focus has to be on learning to accomplish anything at all,” he said.


Preliminary enrollment at Lancaster’s three public schools totals 1,237, according to the guidance counselors.

However, on opening day, enrollment is expected to adjust slightly.

At Lancaster Primary School, 392 children are pre-registered; Lancaster Middle School is planning on 458; and at Lancaster High School, 387 students are expected.

Twenty-two new teachers join the professional staff this year.

For students who are not on the free or reduced meal program, cafeteria breakfast and lunch prices increased by 10 cents. Lunch at the primary school will be $2.20 and the cost at the middle and high school is $2.35. No increase is anticipated in the cost of breakfast which remains $1.20 at all schools.

The uniform policy, implemented last year at the primary and middle schools, remains in effect with no additions or changes in color choices. Parents may contact the child’s school to participate in the uniform exchange program.

The new phone number for all schools is 462-5100. Press “1” for the high school, “2” for the middle school, “3” for the primary school and “5” for the central office.

New bus routes have middle and high school students ride sharing, while primary students will ride separate buses.


Students from the 3-year-old program through third grade will begin studies at 8:20 a.m., with dismissal at 3:05 p.m.

Principal Ernest Palin asks parents to avoid disrupting instructional time and not arrive early to pick up children.

All students from pre-k through third grade have access to iPads this year.

While Palin noted Standards of Learning (SOL) scores are slightly improved for last year’s third-grade students, the youngest tested, closing the achievement gap and bringing all children’s academics up to their grade level is a major focus this year.

“We want each child to make one year of growth academically and be at least on grade level when they move up,” said Palin. He urged parents to have their kids participate in one of the after-school educational programs.

Parents of children ages 3 to 7, whether in public, private or home-based schools, are encouraged to participate in the Curriculum at Home Involving Parents & Students (CHIPS) program. The program teaches parents different techniques to assist learning skills at home.

The sessions are free and begin at 7 p.m. Daycare is provided for toddlers. For dates and registration, contact school officials at 462-5100, ext. 3.

“We have a great selection of new teachers coming on board,” said Palin. “Our teachers and instructional assistants are excited and ready to get going.”


Classes start at 8:15 a.m. for grades four through eight. The school day will end at 3:10 p.m.

The middle school will have some bragging rights this year. According to principal Mike Daddario, preliminary results show SOL scores improved in all four categories.

Overall school scores were up 10% in science, 6% in math, 3% in English and 1% in history.

“This year we will focus on learning,” he said. “We want to make sure they understand what’s being taught. Our goal is to make sure every one of our students reaches their full potential. We will be following and tracking every student’s data and providing remediation for those who aren’t up to par.”

Last year, the focus was on preparing for the SOLs and discipline.

Tutoring in every subject will be available after school.

For sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, there will be a change in class schedules. Social studies and science will be offered for one semester while reading, math and English will continue for the entire year.

“This will result in a more efficient use of time and schedules,” Daddario explained. “Students will take science one semester and social studies the next.”


The opening bell rings for the first class at LHS at 8:10 a.m. with the ending bell sounding at 3:20 p.m.

Because the school missed full state accreditation in 2013, it qualifies for the state’s new e-Learning Backpack Initiative. The program allows schools that fell short on the SOL tests to be eligible to apply for a computer tablet for every incoming freshman for four years running. Since it is a recurring grant, by the time this year’s freshmen become seniors, every Lancaster High School student will be equipped with a tablet.

The tablets eliminate the need for students to tote heavy books home for studying.

“Everyone will have all their text books on that pad,” said assistant superintendent Dan Russell.

Under the terms of the grant, the state pays $400 and the school district $80 toward the purchase of each tablet. LHS received approximately 150 tablets.

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