By T. Scott Boatright
What a difference a year makes.
This time last year Lincoln Preparatory School Executive Director Gordan Ford found himself being pulled every which way but loose as he scrambled to keep his school moving forward as construction continued on a new building to house the students he oversees.
Today the new Lincoln Preparatory School is open after seeing students move in and end the 2022-23 school year there, celebrating with a grand-opening ribbon cutting ceremony in May and Ford is working to prepare for the first full academic year in the new $30 million facility.
That’s 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).
Ford is also counting the days until June 22, when the Louisiana Department of Education announces its 2022-23 Louisiana Principal of the Year, which will be done that day as part of the 17th annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Awards in New Orleans.
Ford found out in late May that he is one of nine finalists contending for that honor.
“It’s still busy, but still significantly different in that we’re not dealing with facilities,” Ford said of the difference for him between this summer and last. This summer has been about working with kids and helping them with some deficiencies they need to make up.
“This summer, as opposed to the previous few summers, we’ve really been focused on the kids.”
Ford said just being considered for the Principal of the Year honor is overwhelming.
“It’s amazing,” Ford said. “It’s really all a testament to the staff and faculty we have at Lincoln Prep. You don’t win awards like that for individual work. You win awards like that because of the work of your team, and we’ve put together an amazing team at Lincoln Prep and we just continue getting better every year.”
That includes the work being done this summer
“We’ve still got the athletics complex going up,” Ford said. “We’re preparing to add a few Pre-K classes for next year. We’re working on some things for our high school kids to further customize their high school experience. When our kids march across the stage in May to receive their diploma, we want to know where they’re going to be in September.
“Whether that’s college, or that’s going to work, we want to make sure they’re 100% prepared. So we’re customizing the high school experience for kids who are going to college and give them the opportunity to take college courses while still in high school.”
And likewise for future Lincoln Prep graduates who might feel college is not the direction they want to take.
“For the kids going to work, we are working to get them some work credentials while in high school – to intern and test out jobs to make sure that’s what they want to do,” Ford said. “We want them ready to go as soon as they get their diploma.”
Ford says his main focus now is to keep growing and moving forward.
“We finally have a foundation in place,” Ford said. “It’s been a struggle, but it’s been about this school’s dedication to our kids. Now that groundwork is laid and we’re established. We have a home – our own home nobody is going to take away from us. “We survived and continued growing despite all the obstacles we had to face to keep going. Now we want to keep growing, and the foundation that’s now in place with this new school complex sets us up to continue that growth in incredible ways
“The thing is, we’re not finished yet. We’re really only getting started. It’s a great summer to be a Lincoln Prep Panther.”
But before finding out about the Principal of the Year results, Ford admits that a little break is in store.
“We’re out this week (at Lincoln Prep) and then we plan on taking a little family vacation next week,” Ford said. “And then I’ll be back at it on the 17th. But I am finally going to take a little down time and we’re going to take a little family vacation and travel together, which is something we haven’t been able to do a lot of.
“My family can’t wait. And we can’t wait for the 22nd. My wife and kid are excited. My brother lives in New Orleans and he’s going to be there. Some of our executive board and staff are going to be down there with us. But again, it’s all a testament to what they’ve done and what a lot of others all the way down to the students have done to help give someone like me even the chance to win an award like that.”