On Feb. 17, I had the privilege of meeting with more than 200 of our local business and community leaders, elected officials, parents, principals and a few special students to deliver the annual Leander ISD State of the District address. This was also an opportunity for me to share what I have learned after being on the job for my first 100 days.
I have been asked many times what has surprised me most about LISD, which I can easily answer: the students and the community. After meeting with students, riding the bus and eating with them, I have seen how they are exceptionally hard-working, respectful, compassionate and creative. Across all grade levels, schools in the north to the south, academics to extracurriculars, they are second to none. And I know this is in large part thanks to the educators who love, support and challenge them every day.
I was excited to find that our community is actively invested in doing their part to help our students and schools succeed, regularly calling to ask, “What else can I do to help?” It is encouraging to see programs like Literacy Partners and organizations like the Leander ISD Educational Excellence Foundation (LEEF) growing and providing more services to more students.
Leander ISD currently has 41 schools, including our newest, Glenn High School, and will add another, Monta Jane Akin Elementary School, next school year. We have 38,226 students, which grows by an average 1,000 students every year. LISD also adds roughly 130 new jobs each year, making us one of the largest job-creators in our community. For the 2016-17 school year, we employ 4,938 people, 51 percent of whom are teachers.
Academically, we continue to outperform the state in the STAAR/EOC, reading rates and graduation rates, and we are making gains on closing the achievement gap between all students and economically disadvantaged students. The class of 2016 scored an average 1610 on the SAT and 23.3 on the ACT (versus national averages of 1481 and 20.8, respectively). These are all excellent indicators that LISD students are exiting our system on time, prepared to compete in whatever endeavor they pursue.
For the second-straight year, we have been place on the Advanced Placement (AP) District Honor Roll for increasing participation and achievement in rigorous course work. Between AP and dual credit, the class of 2016 accrued approximately $9 million in tuition savings, many of them entering college with enough credits to be considered sophomores. This year, we also have an incredible 146 students who have been recognized as National Merit Scholars or National Hispanic Recognition Program honorees, based on their PSAT scores, many of whom will now be recruited for scholarship awards.
Additionally, 83 percent of our secondary students this year are involved in extracurricular activities like athletics, fine arts, robotics, debate, theatre arts, etc. Study after study shows the link between student involvement and student success, and we were fortunate to hear from two students who shared personal experiences on this subject. Nihar Janga, 6th-grader at Canyon Ridge Middle School and 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee co-champion, and Hayden Pfaff, senior at Vista Ridge High School and current DECA State President, spoke to our guests about how their extracurricular involvement has pushed them to excel, has created “life-changing” opportunities and has brought their teachers and peers together to cheer them on.
We are so blessed to have students like Nihar and Hayden and so many others, to have the best of the best in teachers and staff, to have an invested community, all contributing to a school system that prepares students for a lifetime of opportunity and success. It is an exciting time to a part of Leander ISD, where we are growing — we anticipate needing to build 10 new schools in the next 10 years — and together we can chart a course that will enable us to continue building bright futures for generations of children to come. This is your district.
To watch a video of the full State of the District address, or to download the presentation, please click on the banner on the LISD homepage. Thank you all for leading our students to a bright future.