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Foundation thanks Lee Schools 'superheroes'

May 30, 2014
Lehigh Acres Citizen

Most people in the community refer to her as Dr. Nancy Graham, superintendent of Lee County Public Schools.

But on Friday, she emerged as her alter ego: Batwoman, complete with cape, cowl and bike to deliver the keynote address during Friday's 23rd annual State of our Schools Partners in Education breakfast.

The event was presented by The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools at the Broadway Palm Theatre.

Graham addressed the community on progress the school district made in the past year, as well as her vision for the next school year. Foundation Board Chairwoman, Robbie Roepstorff, summarized the foundation's programs and shared highlights from the past school year.

It was also an opportunity to thank the "superheroes" of the community, the numerous business partners whose contributions, in total, do a lot of super things for the children.

Graham arrived on stage in costume, aided by Marshall Bower, president and CEO of the foundation, with her old Schwinn and boasted that "everyone wishes they could be onstage in such a cool costume."

All kidding aside, Graham thanked the business community for being part of their story and for the support of their schools, and laid out the past, present and future of the system, all under the superheroes theme.

Graham called the state's prescription of testing wrong, but added the school system is working the best it can under the parameters and that what they are teaching their 86,000 students are the clear standards - thinking, teaching and learning.

"Gone are the days where we wing it and hope the students get it. Hope is anything but a strategy," Graham said. "The world is too hard and too competitive for anything but an educational experience that offers purpose and direction."

Graham highlighted some of the achievements the students and employees accomplished during the school year, adding that between the headlines was the story of the school district.

She also implored the business community to continue to stay involved with the school system, as its very survival depends on them.

"Big business means big dollars, which are difficult to come by when the revenue streams are controlled and limited," Graham said. "You are the movers and shakers when it comes to being engaged in our system It's important to know the needs and barriers we face to meet our needs."

Roepstorff, dressed as Superwoman, highlighted some of the accomplishments and new initiatives the foundation began during the school year, including the A-Team Challenge, The Golden Apple Program, The Academy of Teachers, and the Take Stock in Children scholarship program which produced a record number of four-year scholarship recipients.

The event also honored CenturyLink and Tartan Consulting as Business Partners of the Year, and The Veranda as the Community of the Year.

Dr. Steve McIntosh, president of Tartan Consulting, was honored to be recognized, but added that anything they could do to support the system is reward enough.

"You need professional teachers and administrators, but you need a business community that is available when asked to provide resources and talent that may supplement the system," McIntosh said. "We don't want to be intrusive, but available."

Graham has made quite an impact in her first year as superintendent, making herself known to the community in any way possible. That has not been lost on anybody.

"Things are going great. We have a superintendent who has stabilized things and has us moving in a unified fashion, and the community has pulled together behind her," Bower said. "The major initiatives we're working on are making our students career ready and that's what it's all about."

"We had a great year. I'm proud of the accomplishments of our staff and students. Graham has transformed what we had going on and we feel so much support for the initiatives we're putting forward," Ida Baker principal Melissa Robery said. "She supports student achievement and what we're trying to do to make that happen."

It was Graham who said it best when people ask about the school system, whether with pessimism or otherwise.

"When someone asks how the school system really is, I smile," Graham said. "I know that even without superpowers, we're doing heroic things to keep this an attractive place to live and play."



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