Dr. LaTonya Goffney
Lufkin ISD Superintendent

With all the rhetoric about public schools these days, it’s good to know we can count on our local elected officials to stand up and make a difference for public education. As we’re beginning our new school year, the legislators are winding down their session, and through it all, we feel very supported and heard in East Texas.

Let’s talk about our local city council. I am proud to live in a city where the city council is active and proactive in making the city the best it can be. Councilwoman Lynn Torres wears many hats, from DETCOG board president to Kurth Memorial Library Board. She is my right hand for the district as the Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning and is one of the most organized people I know. What a joy to see firsthand the good she has done for our community.

Councilman Robert Shankle does his best to ensure that his constituents have a voice. He recently held a town hall meeting and invited me along with the police chief, fire chief, city manager, mayor and many others to hear what has worked well and what could use improvement. That simply does not happen in other communities. Mr. Shankle connects people to make our community better.

Councilwoman Guessippina Bonner has recently helped the school district pilot a program for Lufkin Middle School Scholars to enhance learning experiences for students. She is an advocate for children and supporter of public education.

Councilwoman Sarah Murray has been on several of our campuses mentoring and supporting programs, such as the Arbor Day Celebration. She cares for the next generation and shows our students how planting a tree today can lead to a forest tomorrow. Education is a lot like that.

Councilman Mark Hicks was on our steering committee and charter board for the Education Foundation, which today raises thousands of dollars to support innovative grants for our teachers to use in the classroom. He is a proud Lufkin Panther and even spoke at the Superintendent’s Honor Roll Breakfast as an LISD alumnus.

Councilman Rocky Thigpen’s admiration for Panther Nation runs deep. His wife is a former Lufkin ISD teacher, and he attended our 50th anniversary at Trout Primary. The traditions at Lufkin ISD have a solid foundation.

Mayor Bob Brown is the real deal. If he says he’ll be there, he will. If he says he will do it, he does. We are so blessed to have him at the helm of our city. He does the work. He spoke at our Opening Day Convocation and welcomed our 1,300 employees. He opened doors on the first day of school for our students. He does things people don’t even know about, like volunteering for the HOSTS program at Brandon every year and giving his mentee his business card. He gives all.

I’m also proud of our representation on the state level.

Dr. Keven Ellis is about to finish his first term on the State Board of Education. He continues to serve in the best interests of children not only in Lufkin, but now on the state level.

Sen. Robert Nichols does a great job meeting with our area superintendents to find out the issues and what he can do to help. Having that personal touch goes a long way. I am proud of how he actually listens before he votes.

State Rep. Trent Ashby is a true champion for public schools. He stood up for the TRS System for current and retired employees. He knows the pulse of East Texas and does what it takes to give us a voice in Austin. We are grateful for his leadership and indebted to his service.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the work of our local board of trustees.

Just during the month of August the board met for a Team of 8 Retreat, several board meetings, Lufkin ISD Teaching and Learning Conference, New Teacher Luncheon, Back to School Bonanza, Convocation and Red Carpet Welcome Back on campuses, among other events. They are working on your behalf, and our students are the true beneficiaries.

LaTonya Goffney is the superintendent of Lufkin ISD. Her email address is lgoffney@lufkinisd.org. This column originally appeared in The Lufkin News.