Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.Superintendent of SchoolsLancaster Central School District177 Central AvenueLancaster, NY 14086District Clerk/Secretary:Sandra Janik716-686-3201
Dear Lancaster Parents, Family, and Friends...In all my years as superintendent of Lancaster schools, never has a year been so fraught with challenges. However, I am happy to stand with the team we have built that has made those challenges into opportunities for unique experiences for our students. Although some traditions have had to be sacrificed in the name of safety, we have not hesitated to be as creative as possible to continue to make this year special up to the very end.
First, I’ve had an opportunity to participate in this year’s graduation as it was pieced together. This is, of course, an emotional moment for any parent, but as superintendent the weight and differentiation of this year’s graduation is particularly poignant to me not only as the leader of the school district, but as father of a graduate. If our future takes a turn for the better, this will be a singular graduation experience unlike any other, and future classes will once again experience graduations in the time-honored Lancaster tradition; business as usual, so to speak.
One day over the last week, I happened to stop by the former Central Avenue School as our Universal Pre-K students were experiencing their own version of commencement. Moving up from pre-kindergarten to kindergarten is a momentous occasion of its own. It gave me pause to think about how quickly the time has spun–between when I first joined the district as assistant superintendent and father of four young children to today. To the parents of our 2020 UPK class: Don’t blink! Your children will be applying to one of our seven famed college and career academies before you know it. Then it’s just a few short years before you’ll be touring colleges and universities, filling out financial aid forms, and encouraging your children to fill out scholarship applications to keep the financial burden of college affordability as low as is it can be.
To that end, Lancaster High School offers amazing opportunities for students to graduate with a wealth of college credits, via dual enrollment agreements, Advanced Placement courses, and other credit-bearing opportunities through our academies. For the record, the Class of 2020 earned $9.2 million in scholarships and awards; so filling out those tedious applications really does matter; and with our matriculation agreements, families can save literally thousands of dollars on tuition.
All of this doesn’t happen as students enter the doors of Lancaster High School, though. Flash back to those UPK days. We, as a district, begin preparing students to achieve their highest level of self-actualization as early as we can. The opportunities are plentiful for advanced learning–leadership programs at our elementary schools connect the dots to our one-of-a-kind Leadership Academy at LHS. STEM and STEAM programs also ignite a passion for learning with new labs at the K-3 level, and a formal program beginning at William Street School that directly aligns with our Project Lead the Way program at LHS (a unique program that makes us one of WNY’s top feeder schools for the UB’s School of Engineering). Our Academy of Visual and Performing Arts is the capstone of learning that begins with award-winning K-12 music and art programs–a rarity in this day and age–and culminates with performances and portfolio displays in our stunning new art gallery/music hall at the high school. Our nationally acclaimed Academy of Finance is introduced to underclassmen as early as second grade, when our AOF students travel to our elementary schools to teach financial literacy to their younger schoolmates. Opportunities for advanced science, math, and creative writing begin as early as William Street to prepare our students to meet the challenges they have the opportunity to avail themselves of in the upper grades.
For those who have difficulty meeting typical or advanced expectations, we have significant support measures in place, including one of only two alternative education programs offered in Western New York.
So, taking my superintendent tie off for a moment and putting my dad polo shirt on...from one parent to another: I hope this proves to be the most challenging year any of us will ever have to experience together in our lifetimes. I hope that next year brings a new sense of healing, solidarity, engagement, and excitement for learning...using all of the new skills that we have learned along the way this year, in addition to tried and true teaching methods. I hope that we continue to remain the same tight-knit community we have always been and continue to reach out and care for each other the way we have during this unprecedented period of crisis. My hope for all of us is health, happiness, prosperity, peace, and resilience–something we are always striving to impart on our students. And, most especially to the Class of 2020: You have survived the most calamitous year in recent history. May the trials and tribulations you have experienced help you to become the agents of change we seek to restore peace and healing for this world! Have a wonderful, safe summer. We’re all looking forward to seeing you in the fall!
Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.