Dear Lancaster Parents, Family, and Friends...
In the coming months, we have a unique opportunity to solve a problem that has vexed parents and school personnel for decades: fluctuating enrollment and school district boundaries. In an effort to be proactive and come to grips with a solution or solutions that are both viable and cost effective, the board engaged a team of outside experts. With fresh eyes and the benefit of detached objectivity, this team was able to look at not only the data but also brick and mortar realities and provide us with a suggested roadmap for taking future action.
In the fall of 2017, the Lancaster Central School District commissioned The SES Study Team, LLC. That study is now complete, and a presentation of the findings of the SES Study Team Program Implementation Study will be held in a public session at Lancaster High School on Tuesday, May 29 at 6:30pm. SES Principles, Dr. Paul Seversky and Mr. Douglas Exley, will present their preliminary findings to the community at this session.
The study, which asked the question, "Are there options that might provide more cost effective ways or patterns to organize how the PreK-12 program is implemented/delivered over the next three years?" has already produced a work session report, a demographic study, and a pupil capacity analysis, chronicled in documents posted on the district's website at www.lancasterschools.org/ses_study. At its initial session with the board of education, SES solicited the board's main goals for how the study would take shape. The number one goal was "communication and transparency of information with all stakeholders."
As part of long-range planning for the school district, over the next several months the board of education will be reviewing several possible options to organize how the district delivers its instructional program to students. Concerns such as a pattern of increasing enrollment at the elementary level; state aid to public schools as well as diligent decisions that promote fiscal responsibility; protecting and maintaining the community's assets (schools and other buildings) through thoughtful capital campaign planning; and increasing learning opportunities and expectations for all students will be deliberated with care.
I encourage you to review the information on the district's website, mentioned above, in preparation for attendance on May 29. Findings reported at this meeting will identify possible scenarios that the district and community may want to consider as we undergo a long-range plan for the future of the district.
One of the intended follow-ups to the public presentation is a community focus group session on Saturday, June 16 from 8:30am to 2:30pm at William Street School. In order to ensure a viable-sized cross section of stakeholder groups throughout the schools and greater community, an application process for participation will be implemented. Representatives of the community will be sought from the following sectors: parents from all grade levels, including Pre-K; 'empty nesters' and retirees; business, municipal, and clergy leaders; faculty and administration from all schools, spanning all grade levels as well as the district office; support staff; young and unmarried residents; and others.
As always, we encourage you to check our district and school web pages and social media accounts for updates regarding the SES study and the Community Focus Group application process, as well as progress updates at www.lancasterschools.org/ses_study. As new information is released, we will notify you via our website and our Facebook and Twitter accounts, where you will find the additional materials. In the spirit of the board's goal of transparency in communicating this important process, I invite you to become engaged. Inform yourselves in person or via our website, know the facts, and understand the details.
We consider our building PTOs, HSA, and Principal Forum Group, in addition to our District PTO Council, as invaluable channels of communication among the school district administration, the school principals, faculty, and parents. Even if you are not able to be a part of the focus group, please attend your building's parent meetings to stay abreast of this and all other matters pertaining to your child's education.
Toward the end of June, SES will be publishing a report of the work of the Community Focus Group. This document, as well as others, will be used to inform the board of education as they move forward with planning.
The time has come for us to ask ourselves, "If we have the means and wherewithal to resolve these longstanding issues, are we ready and willing to overcome challenges and seek opportunities to provide solutions that are better for instruction, and better for our students?"
Working together, we can make this great school district even better for the future of our community's children. Thank you for your support in this process as well as your continued affirmation of our efforts through last week's positive budget vote.
Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.