Spotlight On: Lowell H. Strike, Ph.D. Superintendent of Schools, Little Elm Independent School District
Please briefly describe your career path. What led you to this position?
I served as a teacher and coach for 11 years in Iowa before moving to College Station, TX where I obtained my Masters and Ph.D. in Educational Administration from Texas A&M. Prior to arriving in Little Elm ISD I served in roles as middle school principal in Brownfield, TX and Bryan, TX. I had the privilege of opening Cinco Ranch High in Katy, TX as the first principal. Cinco Ranch is among the best high schools in Texas. I moved into central administration in Katy ISD as an Executive Director and then to Northwest ISD as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, to Southlake Carroll ISD as Associate Superintendent, and finally to Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD as Deputy Superintendent. I was contacted by some area residents as well as one former LEISD employee and encouraged to apply for the Superintendent’s position when it opened up.
What was most appealing to you about the LEISD superintendent position?
Since I lived in the district I had studied the district prior to this position coming open and had some knowledge of Little Elm ISD. Additional information came from community members and Little Elm ISD employees that I knew. What drew me to the district at this time was the match between my experience and skill sets and the current needs of the Little Elm ISD community. I would never take a position like this without knowing I was the right person. This work is too important.
What would you like to see accomplished during the 2015/16 school year?
We will focus on putting in missing systems, processes, and above all, provide organizational direction. The need for goal clarity is a strong in the district. At the same time we will work to accomplish rapid continuous improvement in the areas of curriculum and instruction. So, the bottom line is we must raise learning and achievement for every student in LEISD for the 2015-2016 year and beyond. In addition, we will work to build the capacity of all district employees to deliver the best education possible. The goal of increased community participation is also of importance in the coming year. There are already plans in place to accomplish all of this. One of the great benefits of coming in January of this year is that we are now in the position to put plans into place immediately for the coming school year.
What are the greatest opportunities for the district? What are the biggest challenges facing the district?
We have fabulous kids and great staff in the district. The greatest opportunity is to play to the strengths of our people and cause great things to happen for every child in various arenas; including, academics, fine arts, athletics, and other extra-curricular activities.
The biggest challenge is to do everything we need to do for our children within the budgetary constraints that we currently operating with in a time of rapid student growth in the district.
You recently conducted a strategic planning session called Destination 2020. Can you tell us more about this retreat, as well as its outcome?
We had a very talented team of representatives come together to collaboratively develop strategic direction for the district. We had representatives from the community at-large, classroom teachers, parents, campus and central administrators, and students from grades 7-12. The team developed core values, vision, mission, goals and strategies.
I am especially proud of the focus of the plan on each student’s success. Our mission is simple and yet complete. It is the mission of Little Elm ISD to:
“… engage, equip, and empower each student to realize their full potential.”
Of course, the key is the execution of the plan on a daily basis by all members of the Little Elm ISD family. This plan will provide the direction we need to ensure that every student in our district receives the education he/she deserves. We will attack mediocrity on all levels through the tenets of the strategic plan.
What would you tell parents who are considering moving into the Little Elm School District – why is it a smart move?
This is a district where your child will be cared about, loved, treated as an individual, and challenged. Each student’s cognitive, emotional, social, and extra-curricular needs will be addressed. The student population in Little Elm ISD is representative of the world that students will encounter as college students and beyond to the work world. The strength of our diversity makes us all better as people. As I attended my first graduation this June I thought I was at a private school graduation.The amount of esprit de corps among the students and staff was amazing.
The STEM Academy is a new concept for this area. What are your thoughts on the school, and in particular, the transition for students from its format to the more formal high school format?
I love Prestwick. Just walking in the building makes you come alive. In today’s educational environment, the STEM concept is one that should be a part of every child’s education to a degree, regardless of the campus designation. Of course, the everyday focus on the STEM concept at Prestwick is somewhat unique in the K-8 grade configuration. Everything that is offered at Prestwick is offered in one format or another at the high school. We have specific and targeted courses at the high school, for example, engineering through the Project Lead the Way program. In addition, more and more of our offerings at the high school are being delivered through the Project Based Learning (PBL) model that is used extensively at Prestwick.
Tell us about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
I would hope that everything I have done every day I have come to work in my 36 years in education has been significant as I do what is right for the children.
As far as large scale changes I would have to point to the turnaround of a low-performing middle school in west Texas where I served as principal. Working with my campus team of teachers we made some almost hard to believe changes in student learning and achievement in one year. It all started with the building of relationships with every student.
What do you do outside of work?
I work some more, just in my choice of location. Seriously, to the dismay of my wife many times, my relaxation is growing as a leader by reading and researching and constantly working to make a difference for children. This work is a God-given mission for me and one that is 24/7/365.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I would say building the capacity of others so that they can impact the lives of greater numbers of children is my favorite part of my job.
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