By T. Scott Boatright
Spring 2023 might only be a little more than a week old, but forgive Lincoln Preparatory School Executive Director Gordan Ford if he takes a brief moment to stop and smell the roses.
You see, Lincoln Prep’s remarkable spring continues today as high school students join middle and elementary school for the school’s first day with all of its students within the same building complex for years.
And that comes only days after Ford earned the smell of a little personal success as he was named by the Louisiana Department of Education as one of 24 semifinalists for state Principal of the Year.
But Ford isn’t looking for personal accolades – he’s quick to call his being named a Principal of the Year semifinalist a testament to what he terms the team he’s put together at Lincoln Prep.
“We have an amazing team,” Ford said. “When you’re the leader of a team, a lot of time the credit goes to you but earning his honor is based on the work that our entire team has done. It’s been the effort of the staff, the effort of the kids, and all of that effort goes into a set of results. And some of the things we’ve been able to do, and to do so while we’ve been trying to build a school facility, has simply been amazing.”
After nearly three years of vagabond-like teaching and learning, the faculty, staff and students of Lincoln Preparatory School began moving into the new school two weeks ago as Lincoln Prep’s elementary school students – somewhere around 200 first- through fourth-graders, attended class for the first time ever in the new $30 million, 100,000-square foot school building, located on a 400-acre site located off of La. Hwy, 150 (Old Grambling Road) where the old Louisiana Tech Golf Course used to be located.
Last week the middle school students started classes in the new school while high school students made the move this morning.
The school, which formed after a decades-long desegregation order forced the closure of the old Grambling Laboratory School in 2017, had originally held classes in that building before a court order forced the school to move off the grounds of Grambling State University.
That led to the school having to conduct classes at various locations, including the old Fred’s, New Living Word Church, Trinity Methodist, Grace Methodist and Calvary Baptist.
“There’s no way around it – it’s been difficult,” Ford said. “It’s been very hard between The Justice Department forcing us to move off (of Grambling State University’s) campus and delays causing us not to have a place our students could call home, It’s just been amazingly hard.
“But at the same time, the people working at the school and the kids we have here have been so flexible and resilient, they all just made it work. And the community, the movie theater, New Living Word and the churches and everybody who has helped us with facilities to get us over the hump to give us places to teach our kids and make them feel like they had at least a temporary home – there’s not way to express enough gratitude to all the folks in this community who stepped us and helped us.”
Ford said he filled out an application to be considered as Louisiana Principal at the urging of the school’s Chief Academic Officer Crystal Washington.
“There’s been so much going on this year that I filled it out without ever really thinking about it,” Ford said. “There’s been way too many other things on my mind. And then all of a sudden I found out I’m a semifinalist. I’m proud and I’m humbled.
“But mostly I’m just thankful for our staff and our student body. They’re the reason I work so hard. They make all of that hard work more than worth the effort.”
He said that preparing the school’s students for success after graduation remains the primary goal, including the school’s Early College Academy program that allows students to amass college credits while still attending Lincoln Prep as well as offering vocational school courses and opportunities for students who might be leaning in that direction.
“The new challenge is going to be expanding opportunities,” Ford said of Lincoln Prep’s future. “Now that we have or will soon have all our facilities, we have more to offer our students, like expanding course offerings. We’re looking at offering electrician classes and some of the things we were doing before COVID along with some additional college electives and everything we can do for kids.
“But our main thing will be buckling down on education. We’re working hard on literacy and making sure our kids have the tools they need to be successful in whatever they want to do.”
All of the LDOE Teacher and Principal of the Year Finalists and Semifinalists will be honored at the 15th Annual Cecil. J. Picard Educator Excellence Awards Gala, which will be held virtually on the evening of July 16.