Superintendent of Lawrence Schools Ready for the New School Year
Writer / Matt Keating
Dr. Shawn Smith, Superintendent of Lawrence Schools, is ready to start the new school year. This is what he had to say in a recent interview:
What are you most excited about for the 2016-17 school year?
I am very excited about the high caliber of both staff and students in the MSD of Lawrence Township that will be with us for the 2016-2017 school year. Our students constantly amaze us, and we have gone to great lengths to ensure that we have the best and brightest teachers ready to meet them on the first day of school.
I look forward to speaking with all of them at my annual back to school meetings in each building. I would also point to our progress as we move forward with our Blue Ribbon Facilities Plan. You may have noticed a great deal of dust and dirt around some of our schools, and this centers around the facilities’ improvements taking place across the district.
Currently, renovations are taking place at Mary Castle Elementary and McKenzie Center for Innovation and Technology. Stadium renovations will begin later this summer at both Lawrence Central and Lawrence North. As we move in to 2016-2017, look for work to begin at Skiles Test Elementary, Indian Creek Elementary, and Harrison Hill Elementary.
What challenges are you looking forward to taking on?
A great challenge we face is adjusting to new ISTEP assessment taken last spring once we receive our results. We must ensure we prepare our students for success with all standards assessed. We have to take our results and make our weaknesses strengths, taking those focus areas and applying appropriate strategies and interventions in the classroom to ensure the success of all students. We see this less as a challenge, and more of an opportunity to continue to grow and improve. We will also have our eye on the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) legislation as it moves down the pipeline.
How have Lawrence Schools continued to improve?
Lawrence Township has continued to grow during my time as Superintendent of Schools. I am proud to share that, according to the Indiana Department of Education, we are the fastest growing school district in the state of Indiana. Additionally, our graduation rate has continued to rise, moving from from 87 percent two years ago to above 90 percent.
How could they get better?
Organizations must also seek to better themselves. We must continually seek new and innovative ways to instruct our students and to engage families. It is important that the MSD of Lawrence Township continue to tell our own story and promote our excellence. Pride in our schools is essential for success. With over 90 percent of our students graduating, the entire community benefits from successful schools and a more educated student population.
Reading is such a pleasure. What kinds of great reading programs are in place for the 2016-17 school year?
The core of any successful literacy initiative is to have students reading. We have an in-depth summer reading presently in place that aims to lay the foundation for the 2016-2017 school year. During the instructional year, students have opportunities to read and write daily in authentic ways. This work is supported with curricular resources from both National Geographic and Pearson. Additionally, we use supplementary programs (LexiaCore 5 & Reading Plus), allowing students to have opportunities to build proficiencies for their individual needs.
(Lawrence Schools has an extensive partnership with Indianapolis Public Libraries so all students have library cards. At Crestview Elementary, 78 percent of students received their library card through the program.)
What do you like to do when you have some rare free time? What activities do you enjoy?
At my age, when I have some free time, I rest! I love down time to rest and relax, but I also am the father of three children. They range in age from a junior in college to an eighth grade student. It is important to me, and to them, that I support their activities and initiatives. I am also an avid sports fan, particularly football. I will go on record and share that I am a master fantasy football player and really enjoy participating in that annually. And yes, I love my Bears and Wildcats!