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Lancaster ISD Superintendent Named as 1 of 5 Finalists for Texas Superintendent of the Year

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Contact: Sonya Cole-Hamilton "Excellence Every Day…No Alibis, No Excuses"
Office: 972-218-1433  Cell: 972-358-7227

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lancaster ISD Superintendent Named as 1 of 5 Finalists for Texas Superintendent of the Year

Lancaster, Texas/Lancaster ISD

Lancaster ISD Superintendent, Dr. Michael D. McFarland is one of five Texas public school administrators selected as state finalists for the annual Superintendent of the Year (SOTY) award sponsored by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB).

"It is exciting to see the work and progress that has occurred in Lancaster ISD and to see that externally that work has been affirmed," shared Dr. McFarland upon learning of his selection. "It’s called ‘Superintendent of the Year’ but the only way you achieve it is through collaboration. From the Board, teachers and staff and community — It is a community award."

According to TASB, candidates are chosen for their strong leadership skills, dedication to improving educational quality, ability to build effective employee relations, student performance, and commitment to public involvement in education.

Under his leadership during the past four years, Dr. McFarland has used collaboration to enact his philosophy of listen, learn and lead to transform the district from low performing to one that is currently ranked as the best in the Best Southwest. The district has improved its financial status, strengthened city and community partnerships, increased the graduation rate to where it is consistently the highest among the Best Southwest member cities and is seeing major gains in student achievement.

"Transformation is an inside job, it begins on the inside," he said. "We know we’re in a transformation we feel it and live it."

Another testament to the successful imprint of the vision of Dr. McFarland is the recently released state assessment (STAAR) ratings and district performance data. Lancaster ISD was the only district in the Best Southwest area with no campuses on the low-performing/required improvement list. All of the district campuses met or exceeded the standards set by the Texas Education Agency. Additionally, 8 of the 10 rated campuses received at least one distinction, and six of our campuses received two or more distinctions.

In addition to the district transformation, the TASB committee also took special note of the fact that this past spring, Dr. McFarland interviewed every senior to ensure each student had a "future flight plan" after graduation.

"Our students must leave us with more than a diploma if we expect them to having a fighting chance at future success," he said. "The flight plan is a guide or a reference for students as they make decisions impacting their future. Without a plan, our students will not have access to choices and opportunities. I am committed to ensuring that our students leave with a plan for their future and the knowledge of their ability to implement the plan."

His idea of the flight plan came as a result of realizing the current realities facing today’s students.

"I refuse to pass out another diploma to our students with the knowledge that it is no longer a ticket to the middle class," he said. "The diploma by itself is a passport to poverty. In Lancaster ISD, our graduates will have a ‘Future Flight Plan’ along with their diploma."

Dr. McFarland’s leadership style is often equated with innovation and transformation and can be attributed not only the work in which he is currently engaged, but is also evident in his administrative record.

Connie Isabell, Executive Director for Teacher and Leadership Development in Lancaster ISD, has known Dr. McFarland for about 20 years and serves as a mentor.

"I met him when he a teacher and coach at John Tyler," she said. "Even back then, he knew what he wanted and took the necessary steps to get there. You know how people talk about being the master of your fate and destiny…I see that in him."

Isabell shared that Dr. McFarland has always been passionate about what he does, but that his greatest quality is that he cares about people.

"He values students, he values employees, he values everybody," she said. "He truly puts people first."

She said that he has always been a leader—forward-thinking and optimistic.
"He believes that with knowledge, training and practice, you can do anything," she said, "And he believes that for everybody."

Seeing Dr. McFarland receive such recognition has Isabell feeling "like a proud parent."

"Anytime anyone that you work with for this long is successful, you can’t help but be proud," she said. "I am proud of him, but I am also proud for the state of Texas. He is an example of what the state needs in a leadership role—especially in the field of education."

Moreover, while she is glad that Texas is taking notice, she sees Dr. McFarland leading at the national level.

"I can see him being the national secretary of education one day and really transforming education across the country," she said. "See, I am like a proud parent."

In addition, to Dr. McFarland, the 2014 finalists and nominating education service centers (ESCs) are A. Marcus Nelson, Laredo ISD, ESC 1; Jon Wunderlich, Weimar ISD, ESC 3; Danny Taylor, Burkburnett ISD, ESC 9 and Mark Eads, San Marcos CISD, ESC 13.

The 2014 Superintendent of the Year will be announced September 26 at the TASA/TASB Convention in Dallas. The winning superintendent will receive an award from Balfour, the program underwriter.

The state selection committee conducted face-to-face interviews with the regional winners in Austin and targeted such issues as the long-term success of public education, implementation of House Bill (HB) 5 and recommendations for the next legislative session, staff morale and maintenance of district health, program and student success along with the superintendent’s role as a leader for students, staff, and community.

Since 1984, the SOTY program has recognized exemplary superintendents for excellence and achievement in educational leadership.


The Lancaster Public Schools serve more than 6,000 pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students in 11 schools. The mission of the Lancaster Independent School District, a leader in providing innovative, quality programs, is to educate every student with the knowledge; skills; and principles to succeed and contribute in a competitive and technologically advancing world by providing rigorous and engaging learning opportunities that promote diversity; create an environment of integrity and respect; and establish a commitment to continued improvement in partnership with families and community.



422 S. Centre Ave. Lancaster, TX 75146 ~ 972.218.1400 ~