Dr. LaTonya Goffney
Lufkin ISD Superintendent

Some of the toughest decisions a school superintendent has to make usually involve issues that are completely out of his or her control — the weather, for instance.

As Hurricane Harvey hit the coast and deposited enormous amounts of rain in our area, I needed to make the best decisions possible with the best information possible. I depend on my team to help me make those decisions, and we always err on the side of our students to make sure they are safe and their needs are met.

Lufkin, fortunately, only had heavy rain one day, allowing us to have school, and we were blessed beyond measure that our town did not experience devastation like our friends and family south of us.

What I love about Lufkin is that immediately our town went into action to help those who were hit by the storm. I’ve said time and time again how we live in the most giving community, and  the hurricane relief efforts is just one example of how our town goes above and beyond.

I am most proud as a superintendent of how our staff, students and parents created opportunities to get involved with the relief efforts. Dunbar Primary adopted a school in need and began immediately collecting school supplies, backpacks and gift cards to support Danbury Elementary in Danbury. Herty Primary adopted East Chambers Elementary in Winnie.

These efforts allow our students to have empathy for other students and to imagine what it would be like to lose everything.

Lufkin Middle School had a coins competition to see which grade could collect the most change. The competition ended with Associate Principal Derrick James kissing a pig, all in the name of helping others, specifically Baines Middle School in Fort Bend ISD. Lufkin High School’s Art Club, Communities in School and FCCLA all collected items. Several clubs and organizations went to the local hotels to do crafts with evacuee children.

Our community comes together in a big way as well. I was so proud to see community members carrying in armloads of cleaning supplies to our Lufkin Panther football game to put in the five-ton army truck to donate to families affected by the storm. Our fans put wads of money in the jar and filled up more than half the truck. Even after the game, more gave at the armory. That truck, along with several more truck loads, went to the Sour Lake area.

I know that all of the help and donations were deeply appreciated by those who were recipients of the overwhelming generosity of this town. I know that those affected by the storm will be forever changed, as well as those who helped save lives and clean up the debris.

I also know that although we cannot control the weather, we sure can come together to show the world what kindness and compassion looks like. We are Lufkin.

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

Students at Burley Primary collect items to send to the hurricane Harvey victims.