Blog Author: Michelle Carroll Smith, Lytle ISD Superintendent
As superintendent of Lytle ISD I have had the opportunity to serve in the district in which I grew up and graduated. School worked for me, so I guess I never wanted to leave. My grandmother, dad, son and daughter all graduated from Lytle ISD. While my family was focused on agriculture, education was important too as my grandfather served on the Lytle ISD school board for 22 years despite having only a 7th grade education. My dad also served on the board for nine years.
As part of a small rural school, my friends and I had many opportunities to participate in a variety of activities. The traditional school model worked well as I made good grades and participated in many UIL events and sports. I left Lytle in 1981 to attend the University of Texas. However, not everyone was so lucky. My brother didn’t have the same experience in school. His elementary years were troubled with difficulty in reading. Unfortunately, the school system provided a one size fits all model with few interventions. A young boy raised outdoors working with his hands was expected to remain indoors, sit quietly and finish irrelevant, boring tasks year after year. Traditional schooling gave him traditional grades which only reinforced a dislike for school.
Fast forward to his high school years and “no pass, no play” became the rallying cry to fix education. Sadly, it only made things worse for students like my brother who relied on extra-curricular to get through the day. In the middle of my brother’s sophomore year he sat in Biology class studying a map of Texas. His teacher asked what he was interested in and my brother explained he was going to run away to the panhandle and get a job on a big ranch. He was planning to drop out of high school but knew his family would not approve. Fortunately, the teacher called my dad and informed him of the plan. My dad (who was on the school board at the time) took my brother to the high school office and withdrew him from school. Thanks to my mom and dad’s love and support he got his GED and continued to work on the farm.
My brother did not fail school — the school system failed my brother. My personal “why” is to ensure no other child has to experience a system that fails them. I believe the system needs to be transformed and our work with P-20 and CEN will further that goal. All students need to be successful and the system needs to be designed around their needs — not the other way around.
My brother is lucky too. He had a family of support and has been very successful his entire adult life. I am very proud of him. Upon the death of our dad in 2008, he took over the family farm. He now runs a cattle operation, owns a trucking company and continues to excel as a self-taught individual in spite of an education system that failed him. On a side note, I am proud of my sister too as she is the elementary principal in Lytle ISD.
I pray ALL our children experience a system designed for their future. Please join me in transforming an old system. The Time Is Now!