STANFORD — Three top Lincoln County schools officials invited members of the Fiscal Court to get on the bus Tuesday during a goodwill visit.
Lincoln County High School Principal Tim Godbey told magistrates straight away that he wasn’t there to ask for money. Instead, Godbey said school officials are looking for support in promoting positive changes happening within the school system after years of mostly discouraging news.
The hardest part to getting a stalled school bus back on the road is the initial push to get it moving in the right direction, Godbey said. After a lot of grunting and straining, “we’ve finally got the wheels turning” and the bus is now gathering momentum, he said.
Godbey recalled the first student he talked to on his first day on the job four years ago was a freshman who had been at the high school for three years. When Godbey asked the boy why he was so far behind, the student said he lacked motivation. The same problem plagued the high school as a whole, he said.
“There was no motivation,” he said.
Low test scores and graduation rates forced the state to intervene and provide guidance to the district last year, and Godbey’s job was on the line. Things have since turned around, he said.
Four years ago, only 25 percent of Lincoln graduates were deemed college and career ready. Now, that number has pushed up to 50 percent. Students’ ACT scores used to rank in the bottom 10 percent of the state. Now, the scores are among the top 100 school systems and on their way to the goal of top 25, Godbey said.
“It feels like climbing Mount Everest with a baloney sandwich and a tobacco stick,” Godbey said of the effort, but progress is being made.
Stacy Story, academics coach at the high school, told magistrates the new pride in the school can be seen even among the students. She said she recently overheard a group of boys in the hallway taking about things they had just discussed in class rather than their weekend plans.
Superintendent Karen Hatter said improvements are being made across the district, not just at the high school. The central office has been reorganized, and new administrators are in place at some elementary schools. The new mantra is “Every student, every classroom, every day: college, career and citizenship ready,” she said.
“We appreciate you helping us get the message out there that we’re really working,” Hatter told magistrates.
Judge-Executive Jimbo Adams said he recalls when the poor performance of the schools made it difficult to recruit new businesses. “Prospective employers always ask what your workforce is like. In the past, we haven’t be able to be too proud of that. Now, we can be,” he said.
Magistrate Bill Dyehouse said he, too, can feel an improved attitude within the schools.
“You all are on the right track already,” he told the visitors. “I can feel a sense of pride building back up in our schools.”