New LTISD superintendent's goal: Don't 'mess it up'

New Superintendent Dr. Brad Lancaster has one goal in mind when it comes to the well-being of Lake Travis ISD.

Don't mess it up.

"If I were totally honest, my plan (regarding the school district) is to not mess it up," Lancaster said. "Lake Travis is one of the best districts in the state, it really is. Lake Travis is one of the finest in the state, regardless of size. Whether it's 5A or little 1A, Lake Travis is an amazing school district."

Despite his high praise, Lancaster had no plans of ending up here. Working for five years in the Midway School District in Waco as superintendent, Lancaster wasn't planning on leaving.

With a sophomore in high school and a freshman at Texas A&M University, where Dr. Lancaster received his two graduate degrees, he didn't want to uproot his family.

"We weren't planning to move, but this job was too good to pass up," Lancaster said.

One of the reasons Lancaster decided to leave the Waco area to become the new superintendent at Lake Travis ISD was the options available for his high school-age son.

"We've got every course known to man offered at our high school," Lancaster said. "That was one of the attractions to us, personally. I'm not going to take my kid to a lousy school district. We were perfectly happy in Midway, so one of the attractions for me was, 'Do I have a good place to put my own child?' And Lake Travis just blows the top out of it."

UIL Lone Star Cup

One of the things Lancaster hopes not to mess up is the success and balance that Lake Travis ISD has cultivated in its students.

"Everything is going well," Lancaster said. "Kids do well in academics, they do well in athletics, they do well in fine art competitions."

This diverse success is seen in the UIL Lone Star Cup, which honors the best overall athletic and academic programs in Texas.

Lake Travis High School currently is second in the 4A standings, six points behind Dallas Highland Park, but with academics, one act-plays, softball and baseball still left before the end of competition June 15, Lancaster said he thinks Lake Travis can make a move.

"Highland Park bumped us, temporarily," Lancaster said. "We still have baseball, and we plan on going farther than they do in the academic decathlon.

"What this tells you, as a community, is that you have a good balance between academics, fine arts and athletics. If you are only a football powerhouse, you can't do well in the Lone Star Cup. You've got to have band and choir and orchestra kids doing well, too. What Lake Travis does well is balance."

Texas High Performance Schools Consortium

As part of Texas House Bill 3261, 20 school districts will be chosen "with the purpose of informing the governor, legislature, and commissioner about ways to transform public schools to improve student learning through the development of innovative, next-generation learning standards and assessment and accountability systems."

"We are thinking about nominating a couple of our schools," Lancaster said.

The applications are due at the end of June, and those chosen will be notified in August.

"If not Lake Travis, who?" Lancaster said. "We have great test scores, we have a great staff, we have a great student body."

Another part of the consortium will be how technology is involved with the learning process.

"That is an effort I think our district is perfectly suited to be a leader in that exploration," Lancaster said. "Our students and our staff do well at everything. I'd like us to have a seat at the table. Those 20 districts will be shaping the conversation over the next couple legislative sessions about how do we test differently, how do we utilize technology.

"If we do this, you are asking teachers in a couple of school buildings to maybe shake things up a bit, and we have to make sure we are prepared to do that," Lancaster said. "That's a cool thing we are looking at."

Out and about in the district

In the short time that Lancaster has been in the school district, he has made a number of public appearances at Rotary Clubs and luncheons.

"He's done a lot in the short time he has been here," said Marco Alvarado, director of communications for Lake Travis ISD.

"That is what you do when you are a new superintendent," Lancaster said. "You go shake hands and thank people for passing bonds. It is really a fun part. I like meeting people. You go and show up and say 'hi,' and people like that."

It is the fun part of being new, Lancaster said, and with that comes the question of, "How do you like it here?"

"What's not to like?" Lancaster said. "It's a really fine school district. I was lucky to get this job. Then you look around at the physical community and it's beautiful. My family and I love it here, it's been a great start for us."