Behind those of us on the platform, students and staff of Eisenhower Middle School stood reverently, pledging their allegiance to the American flag suspended between two Lawton Fire Department ladder trucks. As we turned back around to face the crowd for the singing of the National Anthem, the weight of the moment rested on me, and perhaps, on all of us. To our left, proud Eisenhower high school. To our right, the deteriorating but equally proud EMS. Between them both, hundreds of students, faculty, and community members, standing silently with their hands to their hearts. Over the course of eight days, Lawton Public Schools celebrated eight groundbreakings, culminating in the event on Tuesday, and I could barely suppress the lump in my throat. Yet, it was not the highlight of my year.
Barely half a year ago, Lawton voters entrusted us with an historic bond election, and our Board of Education set a high bar to get EMS and the safe rooms shovel-ready as soon as possible. Progress has been astounding, but their quick turnaround is only part of the story. In addition to this, the district SIP committees have progressed on the furniture and technology portions of the grant. And last week, the Board of Education reviewed the program equipment allocations for electives such as athletics, band, orchestra, and ag-ed. These amounts will be reported to principals this week, so they can plan over the summer. Hard to grasp that so many things came together so quickly, but then again, I am never surprised when LPS staff and Board of Education do amazing things.
While those projects are just starting, we cannot forget about the other improvements simultaneously occurring across the district. Everyone has seen the difference new windows made in Eisenhower High School. Now, Lawton High and McArthur High are getting new windows as well, which means all three of our high school campuses will soon look brand-new. New HVAC installation is also ongoing in four schools, replacing clanging window units at MacArthur Middle School, Lincoln, Adams, and Woodland Hills. The roofing projects for Carriage Hills, Edison, TMS, and Lawton High are wrapping up as well. On top of all this, MacArthur High School’s long overdue cafeteria renovation will begin as soon as school is out, complete with a new patio area. Nevertheless, none of these amazing milestones were the highlight of my year.
Two years ago, we made a commitment to restore educational materials to our classrooms after a decade without buying textbooks for our teachers and students. LPS staff has somehow managed to adopt new textbooks and resources for math, language arts, science, and social studies. That’s three subjects in one year! I never anticipated it would happen so quickly, proving again that our staff and Board of Education can move mountains for the children of this community. As amazing as this is, however, it is still not the highlight of my year.
The highlight of my year was after the groundbreaking Tuesday afternoon, walking alone across the Eisenhower practice field – hot, sweaty, and a little tired. I had not been paying attention to Ms. Dunn’s girls’ P.E. class taking a break in the shade of the practice gym. One-by-one, each young lady approached to say “thank you” and shake my hand. I wish I could somehow capture the moment for each of you; it brought meaning to everything we have accomplished together. The impact of your generous support of Lawton Public Schools cannot be measured. This community has made a difference in each of those girls’ lives, as well as their children’s and grandchildren’s, for when we bless a child, we bless generations to come. God bless you, Lawton-Fort Sill, for those blessings, and have a great summer.