Closing achievement gap a goal for schools

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By Jesef Williams

Student achievement and growth will continue to be top concerns for local school officials in the new year.

Lancaster County School District Superintendent Dr. Gene Moore lauds local administrators, teachers and students for their hard work on standardized tests such as the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test, or PACT. But as state and federal test standards are raised each year, the district must not become complacent, he said.

The local Closing the Achievement Gap initiative - which seeks to help all students achieve at a high level - should help raise test scores, he said.

Moore is also excited about a federal grant the district received in 2007 that will expand the 4-year-old kindergarten program throughout the district.

"A pre-k program is the best way to close the gap," he said.

Moore looks forward to working more with Lancaster County Council on ways to generate money to handle growth, especially in the Buford and Indian Land areas.

In 2007, the school district asked council to consider adopting a fee for developers to pay for each new home built, which would be paid to the district to pay for growth. The district presented County Council members with a figure of $6,411. The school board expects to hear back from council early this year.

"Dealing with growth, being prepared for growth - that's something that will remain an issue," Moore said.

The district will continue to assess its alternative school system. A group is now studying ways the district can offer a better alternative program and will present a proposal to the school board this spring.

"We need something to help students from an alternative perspective," Moore said.

Securing funds

School board chairwoman Charlene McGriff said securing funding for capital needs will be a challenge, especially since the district is receiving less money from the state.

The district has land for new elementary schools in the Buford and Indian Land areas but doesn't have the money that will be needed when the district decides to build.

District officials have said those two areas will need a new school within the next five years.

"I think the state will have to step up to the plate," McGriff said.

Looking back at 2007, McGriff said some of the bright spots were the completion and opening of the new Indian Land High School, increasing teacher pay and maintaining scores on the PACT.

McGriff looks forward to working another year on the school board, which will feature the same members in the same leadership positions.

In November, these board members were re-elected to serve in the following capacities:

- McGriff, as chairwoman

- Bobby Parker, as vice chairman

- Margaret Gamble, as secretary

Contact Jesef Williams at 283-1152 or jwilliams@thelancasternews.com