It's no secret that Lexington-Fayette County is a community with high expectations. When you drive down Main Street, the Commerce Lexington Building reminds you that you’re in a “top rated city.” We want to be sure everyone knows that Lexington is the 8th best large city to live in, the 8th best city for working parents and the 3rd best city to retire in!
If you don’t believe rankings are important in this community, remind yourself that the name of this magazine is Tops in Lex. Just ask Coach Cal about expectations!
I’d like you to stop for a moment and ask yourself, “Do we expect that same level of excellence from the Fayette County Public Schools?”
On the first day of school in August, I had an opportunity to eat lunch with some students at Lafayette High School. One of the young men I talked with is a junior on the Lafayette football team. I asked him how many games they would play this season and without hesitation, he responded, “15.”
Football fans know that NFL teams play 16 games and college teams play 12, so you’re thinking there’s no way high school teams play 15. You’re right – the only high school football teams that play 15 games a season are the two who play for the state championship. That’s the bar Coach Shaw has set for his team at Lafayette High School this year.
Those high expectations are in our classrooms, too.
Last year in America, less than 1/10th of 1 percent of students who took the ACT scored a perfect 36. At our August meeting of the Fayette County Board of Education, we honored the 9 FCPS students who scored a perfect score last year. That’s four times the national rate!
Our district accounts for a little less than 6 percent of the students in the state, but we have nearly 25 percent of the state’s National Merit Semi-Finalists. The graduating class of 2015 garnered more than $83 million in scholarships last spring.
In August, more than 40,830 Fayette County Public Schools students returned to school. Our enrollment this year is up more than 500 students over last year and we’re growing every day.
Our school district is ready to serve them at high levels. I’ve ridden our school buses, eaten in our cafeterias, and been in our classrooms, and I can tell you that FCPS has talented employees at every level of our organization. I’ve walked our campuses and I assure you that our facilities and technology are state of the art.
But transforming the Fayette County Public Schools into a world class system of great schools is going to take continued support from our families and community partners.
At one of the schools I visited on the first day of school, the staff had greeted a kindergarten student whose family had not registered him. He walked in alone, without any identification or information about who he was or how to reach his family.
Contrast that with the five-year-old I met at another school who proudly told me that he knew he was ready for kindergarten because he had already “graduated” preschool.
Our schools can’t provide the early learning experiences to ensure that every child comes to school ready to learn, but this community can.
Our cafeterias can’t serve enough breakfasts and lunches to fill the tummies of our children who go home to empty cupboards, but together, this community can.
Our school libraries can’t put enough books into the hands of our children, or create a community of readers that encourages them to read instead of watch television or play video games, but together, this community can.
Our teachers and principals can’t close the gaps alone, but together this community can, and together we will.