Six years ago, you welcomed me and my family to Lawton-Fort Sill. I jumped from a district of fewer than 400 to a district of nearly 16,000, and everyone (including me) questioned the wisdom of such a leap of faith, but our magical LPS staff kept me afloat. I cannot adequately convey the depth of their devotion to the children of this community. To describe it as sacrificial is not hyperbole, especially considering the state of the district at that time.
Annual staff salary scale increases and site budgets had been eliminated for three years. Many staff members were using windows 98 computers at the time, and most textbooks were a decade old. The district had run out of money on the 2004 bond projects, so many students still studied under leaking roofs and the rattle of window units purchased in 1983. The average bus was 20 years old, so describing our staff’s devotion as sacrificial is not an exaggeration. Then YOU came to the rescue!
Lawton-Fort Sill took a leap of faith in LPS by renewing the 2004 bond in the spring of 2014, trusting us to complete leftover bond projects, to buy computers and learning materials, and to replace our bus fleet. In 2015, you trusted us again with a CIP to buy new playground equipment for the elementaries, to increase security; and to start replacing windows, fencing, and district vehicles like the police car that used its emergency brake to stop. And of course, you approved the historic Student Investment Project in 2017 for safe rooms, a new Ike Middle School, program equipment, instructional technology, and new furniture, among many other things. Altogether, you voted to support Lawton Public Schools with $142 million in three, short years. You have served our children sacrificially as well.
To-date, our bus fleet has been renewed. Ike Middle school is halfway finished. Six safe rooms are ready for kids, and we break ground on a seventh. All elementaries have new playground equipment. All grades and sites have new textbooks (many digital). Schools are ordering things like new band uniforms, musical instruments, and library books. We have completed the roofs and HVAC projects from 2004 and are ready to catch up on many other building needs that have arisen in the last 15 years. Thousands of laptops have been ordered for students, and we recently approved the first round of district-wide new furniture. LHS, EHS, and MHS look great with new windows. Security in our schools has also been upgraded, and we even replaced that old police car.
This summer, all HS tracks will be resurfaced, and new fencing should finally start at the secondary schools. A committee has been working on auditorium upgrades, starting with sound first, and orders continue for equipment for our classrooms, libraries, and programs. It would be impossible to list everything. We have not caught up with everything, but we are on our way, thanks to YOU. Your impact is much larger than just the things, however.
Your support has helped the district become financially stable. In 2013, the district ended with a 1% carryover, which meant staff and programs were hanging by threads if any statewide financial disruption occurred. We are now above 10% in carryover, which means we can weather just about any financial dip without impacting the district. Because we spend less general fund money on things like roof, HVAC, and bus repairs, we were able to restore staff step increases and site budgets for the last 6 years and additional staff raises not mandated by the state.
Only YOU can be credited for this progress and success. If you had not trusted LPS, none of it could have happened, so I am not exaggerating when I say that Lawton voters are literally responsible for transforming LPS. Structures like the Bond Oversight and Site Bond Committees have ensured that we have kept our promises and past promises. By supporting children’s education, you are impacting their children, grandchildren, and generations to come. You have turned around a district and community.
As you know, I will be embarking on a new adventure in Duncan soon as their new superintendent. The district is in good hands with our staff and Board of Education – and they are all in your loving arms. I will miss you but look forward to what LPS accomplishes in the years to come. Thank you for six phenomenal years and the opportunity to watch everyone accomplish so much, and thank you for joining us in so many leaps of faith.