Lexington has been recognized as the 10th-smartest community in America. Yet, over half of the students in our public schools live in poverty, making them among the most vulnerable in the country.
We have perplexing and serious problems that must be addressed, but we know that we have the collective intellect, capacity and will to solve any issue our community faces ... just point us to it and we will resolve it.
Case in point: In recent weeks, Fayette County educators and a host of community supporters have had good reason to celebrate our latest student achievement successes.
Our excitement over the news about positive state test results goes hand in hand with this community's commitment to the Big Bold Goal — that 10,000 more families in the Bluegrass will be self-sufficient by 2020.
As a part of this goal for the community, we are working to address long-term barriers to success by ensuring that all schools in our region are rated "proficient" or "distinguished" and that 90 percent of our students graduate from high school ready for college or career by 2020. Accomplishing this goal will result in Lexington becoming an even better place to live, work and raise a family.
We often hear that "it takes a village" for a community to be successful. Indeed, Lexington's "village" deserves our thanks. Educators, families, students of all ages, the faith-based community, businesses and corporate partners, community-based organizations, and countless volunteers all share in these 2014-15 Fayette County celebration points:
■ William Wells Brown, which was ranked at the very bottom of the state's elementary schools in 2013-14, increased its overall score by 19.2 points, moved up 26 spots, and was recognized for "high progress." That is encouraging news.
■ Bryan Station High's scores improved again and it is no longer classified as a "priority school."
■ Overall, Fayette's district rating improved from "needs improvement" to "proficient."
■ Of the district's 52 schools, 28 earned ratings of proficient or distinguished, including Veterans Park which ranked as the eighth-highest elementary school in the state.
■ Five schools were honored as "schools of distinction" for having scores above the 95th percentile: Athens-Chilesburg, Glendover, Rosa Parks, Sandersville and Wellington. And the list goes on.
Understandably, William Wells Brown received the most local attention over the past year because of its low statewide ranking. Today, Principal Jay Jones offers the perspective on where things now stand at his school. In a note to Roy Woods, United Way's vice president for community education initiatives, Jones wrote: "'We're still not where we want to be, but we're glad we're not where we used to be. Our goal now is continuous growth and working our way to proficiency. A combination of efforts impacted our growth this year. We focused on evidence-based practices that would help our students succeed.
"There's no silver bullet that will turn a school around, but we did what the research says you should do. Consistency is the key, and we worked hard at creating systems that are understood and practiced by everyone. We know we have a long way to go, but we are in a much better place. We must have faith that our students can and will succeed. Our kids deserve it."
Everyone in this community should be proud of their role in helping our schools realize their potential. To be sure, new Fayette Superintendent Manny Caulk and his team face challenges, which are certain to be shared with the community when he unveils his action plan for the future in February.
Test results are only one set of indicators about the overall health and effectiveness of our public schools. Everyday, great things are happening for kids as dedicated adults invest time and talents into the lives of the children and families they serve.
Please join us as we strive to achieve the Big Bold Goal and as we continue to support our public schools. Rolling up our sleeves, together we can; together we will. It matters.