Believe it or not, I was one of the fastest girls in school and was selected to compete in all three relays in track. At one track meet that will forever be etched in my memory, our relay team had won first place in both the 4 x 100 meter and 4 x 200 meter relays, and our entire track team had won so many track and field events that we were winning by a landslide. While warming up for the final race of the evening, which was the 4 x 400 meter relay, we were all tired. One teammate convinced us that it didn’t matter whether we won or lost the final race because we had accumulated so many points overall.
As luck would have it, our coach walked up as we were deciding to not put much effort into the last race. Coach Murphy pulled us together and explained (more like yelled or barked) that the track meet was not over and for us to get out on the track, represent our school, and finish strong. I was the second leg and when I took the baton, I ran like my life depended on it. As I ran around the last curve, “the monkey got on my back” per se, and I began to struggle. All kinds of negative thoughts crossed my mind and I wanted to quit, but I heard Coach Murphy’s voice ringing in my ear, “LaTonya, finish strong!”
Finish strong! I feel somewhat today like I felt during the last 100 meters of the last event of that track meet.
We took the baton and started this year off strong in August at the Opening Convocation, where we welcomed back our entire staff of more than 1,300 employees. The community, parents, and business leaders of Lufkin helped us to celebrate Team Lufkin ISD with food, fellowship, T-shirts and door prizes.
We continued on the course spending countless hours informing thousands of parents and community members about the activities and programs at Lufkin ISD through our Panther Community Forums, our first-ever Evento en Espanol as well as our social media outlets and our updated website.
Business members, church leaders, volunteers have walked our hallways and supported our students with tutoring and mentorships throughout the year. We’ve had input from hundreds of stakeholders in our strategic planning process. Additionally, we have spent hours, days, and weeks looking, listening, and learning about every department and providing feedback for audits. We have done all of this and more in an effort to make our good school district a great one.
One thing I know for sure, now that graduation is approaching and the close of the school year is near, it’s not over. We must finish strong. As I remember my days as a runner, I realize that during those last 100 meters I struggled because I lost my focus, forgot to breathe, and allowed negative thoughts to cloud my reality. In education, it’s important that we finish strong because there are kids depending on us. Not just my kids and your kids but all of our kids. We can celebrate our successes and be proud of our accomplishments, but it is not over. We must finish strong.
As I reflect over my first year of superintendency at Lufkin ISD, I am honored to be a Lufkin Panther and be surrounded by some of the most giving, supportive people God has ever created. These are the ones who have run along beside me and given me words of encouragement. We can do this together. Stay focused, breathe, avoid negative thinking… let’s finish strong!