Dr. Paul Drake, principal of Livingston High School, spoke to the Livingston Rotary Club Thursday, providing an update on things going on at the high school. A 2001 graduate of LHS, Drake returned five years ago to become the high school principal.
He touched on the variety of programs offered for students entering the work force instead of secondary education.
“We have several new programs. One is cosmetology. We have eight or nine in there and they will graduate with a certificate. It’s been successful,” he said.
“We have an HVAC program through Angelina College. Three students will get HVAC certification right after graduation or shortly thereafter,” he said, adding, “We have a welding program at Angelina where the students can earn certificates and we also offer welding at LHS with Mr. Sitton.
“Last year was the first year of our LVN program. Seven participated and can get licensed in August following graduation in May. On campus we offer welding, ag tech and culinary arts, where they’re able to get their Serve Safe certification. The goal of these programs is to make them employable and successful,” he said.
Drake moved on to provide updates on various other programs at the high school.
“Volleyball has turned a corner and is very successful with our new head coach, Macy Box, or as you may know her, Macy Murphy. She is doing a tremendous job investing in our students,” he said.
“Our tennis team went to state last year with Coach Scotty McFarlain. As for football, we’re trying to defend our district championship. The band has a new director and is growing,” Drake said.
“We have a robotics program. Mr. Carr started that. The kids worked tremendously hard and went to state last year. We also have a computer maintenance course. Mr. Carr has done a good job of growing his program,” he said. “What used to be JROTC is now NDCC with Mr. Tinker. He has nearly 100 kids in that program now and it probably started with 50.
“Homecoming is next week. We play Madisonville here at 7 p.m. Next Thursday there will be a community pep rally at the Corky Cochran Complex. We’re not doing indoor pep rallies for obvious reasons,” he said.
Drake addressed the fact that this is the third school year in which the schools have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last year school started and we had a lot of rules to follow. We still had to take the state assessment though and we did well. This year began a little differently. Regarding COVID, I think as a district we’ve done a great job. This year we had to shut down for a week because of so much of our staff being out with it. We were having about 89-90% attendance but since we’ve been back it’s been about 95-96%,” he said.
“We’ve tried to implement a lot of mitigation strategies. We have the students sit a chair apart at lunch. We stagger class dismissal times so there are fewer people in the halls. Our custodial staff has done great and the classes that have sinks, we encourage everyone to wash their hands. We’re really hoping to stay healthy during this long push to Thanksgiving,” he said.
Drake touched on the dual credit courses offered to the students whereby upon completion of the course the student receives both high school and college credits.
“We do a lot of dual credit classes and a few AP classes. We fund it and there is no cost to the student. You can now start as a freshman and take dual credit classes and can graduate with 60 hours,” Drake said. “We had around 100-110 taking them when I first started. We have 190 now. We’re near 200 students, or 15%, taking dual credit.
“Some of the Angelina programs we have are off campus. The students make a lot of sacrifices. The more hours you take, the more likely you are to graduate,” he said.
Drake touched on generational poverty and how it can permeate a community.
“We have a focus on inspiring kids’ lives. We have some people in our community who don’t value work and we’re trying to combat that.
“I’ve enjoyed working here. This is my fifth year here. The high school has changed a lot in five years, kind of the choices of the board. At a 14% turnover rate, it’s been really good to see all the growth and changes over the last four to five years,” Drake said.
When asked to what he attributed the retention of teachers, he credited the decisions of the school board and superintendent.
“I think you can look at our school board and Dr. Hawkins, our salary instrument, the consistency, the fact that teachers know what to expect when they come to work, our pay scale and the board’s vision,” Drake said.
“You’re doing an excellent job and we appreciate what you do at the high school,” Rotarian Judson Pritchard, a former LHS principal, said.