Plans call for every school to earn at least a B and graduation rates to reach 90%

If Lake County’s traditional public schools are going to successfully compete with private schools, charter schools, and other options now available to students, the district will have to do things differently.

That was the message from Superintendent Diane Kornegay as she introduced some bold initiatives for the district during a School Board workshop on Monday. She identified the following goals, designed to improve student performance, and the board discussed ways to freeing up money to pay for them:

  • Every district-operated school in Lake County will earn at least a grade of B.
  • District graduation rates will reach or exceed 90%.
  • Pre-K and early learning initiatives will be aggressively accelerated.
  • We will eliminate third-grade retention for any student we serve in district schools continuously from kindergarten through Grade 3.
  • We will provide acceleration options beginning in middle school that will give every student the opportunity to acquire marketable industry certifications and readiness for post-secondary education.
  • We will leverage partnerships to give every student the opportunity to graduate with at least one year of transferrable college credit.
  • We will establish collegiate academies that will give students the option to complete programs that will confer both an associate’s degree and a high school diploma upon graduation.

Detailed strategies for reaching these goals have not yet been finalized, but they will likely include replicating successful educational models that incorporate innovative school structures and instructional practices.

The introduction of the superintendent’s initiatives were part of a larger presentation given by James Hamilton, Ph.D., a consultant who works with school districts across the state and offers training for new superintendents. He shared a long-term fiscal history of the Lake County Schools, highlighting a reduction in revenue growth over the years paired with a new environment of increased parental choice.

For the district to thrive, he said, it has to become a stronger competitor – and that will cost money.

“The only way you are going to have that money is to create it by spending what you have differently,” he said.

Because there are many job vacancies each year, Dr. Hamilton said, some positions can be cut by reassigning employees and repurposing the revenue.

Lawmakers have proposed spending $200 million next year to entice charter schools to set up near failing traditional schools. Those charters would become “schools of hope” offering more instructional time along with more art, music and PE, and other programs to support student success.

“We have to support and fund the same kinds of things if we are going to compete,” Ms. Kornegay told the board. “We just have to be better than the other choices.”

Dr. Hamilton agreed. “When you’re the best, you win,” he said.

Ms. Kornegay expects to present a more detailed plan for moving forward with her initiatives before the end of July.