Lutie superintendent's desk: Oct. 26, 2016
I was raised with a Stephens Crackshot .22. It was a drop-lever single-shot that belonged to my grandfather, and it came with a well-worn, small cotton drawstring bag that held the bullets. Two was all you needed, I often heard him say. He carried it stuffed in his bib overalls pocket. I learned to shoot with this and found out early you only get one shot. Education is a lot like that, as well as life.
I began my career in 1990 at Lutie, after 10 years in the construction business, when Lutie first became a high school. I stayed five years. I found it is easier to build something—they give you blueprints—than it is to maintain. Construction work taught me that. Lutie was a family then with some good teachers who went on to do great things for students.
I returned in 2011, naïve to the fact that it had changed. Most of what was outside these walls—the rumors were exaggerated. We were never going to close the doors, but morale and finances were not so good. A lot of factors played into that, but today we are closer to the 1990 Lutie, maybe better. That is a celebration in itself.
When you surround yourself with people who aspire for something greater than they have, good things will happen. That has been our goal at Lutie. I take little credit in the transformation. The accolades go to the teachers, office personnel, our nurse, aides, bus drivers, cooks, custodians, every parent, every guardian, every volunteer and benefactor who believes in the Lutie Family. The common thread that runs through this group is caring. You can’t mandate that. They bring it with them.
Because of this support, we get to offer our students, beginning in their junior year, free college classes with the chance of graduating from high school with 30 college credits. Our students have a personal computer ratio of 1:1 in grades 3-12. Every child eats a free breakfast and lunch. Our Secret Grannies simply are the best. We have expanded our classrooms to include the Sea Lab at Dauphin Island, a three-week trip to China for high school students, Space Camp in Huntsville Alabama, for middle school students, and raised garden beds, complete with an outdoor classroom/pergola that has electricity to charge those iPads for the elementary students.
I have been around a few gifted programs in my career. Those children get to take the wow classes. I have remarked more than once that if I was ever in charge, all students should be able to take those classes. It has been my experience that not only all children can learn but all children have a gift. We have to help them discover it. At Lutie R-VI this year, we implemented a gifted program for all K-8 students that includes robotics, software coding, solar energy and rocketry.
But with all the opportunities that are taking place at Lutie, I was proudest when I saw these children of all ages form a line during the Matthew J. England memorial dedication to shake the hands and say thank you to the combat veterans who participated. They will do the same at our annual Veterans Day brunch.
Not one student took a knee.
My grandpa was right about getting one shot to make it right, but sometimes you just might get a second. I am grateful for that.