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Highlights of 5/24 Lincoln Board of Education meeting < New

Lincoln Public Schools:

Highlights of 5/24 Lincoln Board of Education meeting

The Lincoln Board of Education held a regular meeting on Tuesday May 24 at Lincoln Public Schools District Office, 5905 O St. The Board will hold its next regular meeting on Tuesday, June 14, 2016.


Highlights of Board Meeting

Evaluation, contract for superintendent

LPS Superintendent Steve Joel received high marks from the Lincoln Board of Education in his annual evaluation and contract presented and proposed Tuesday.


Kathy Danek, a member of the Board and former president, explained that the “superintendent’s evaluation is some of the most important work the School Board does.”


Highlights of the evaluation:

“Dr. Joel received several positive comments from board members acknowledging his leadership in major initiatives. The Career Academy has completed its first year of operation and it is widely regarded as having made ‘impressive progress.’ Several Board members commented on the positive, collaborative aspects of the program as well as how it responds to the needs of our students and the community. Board members also noted the ‘consistent, effective and ongoing implementation’ of our Technology Plan and appreciated that the ‘comprehensive approach, including staff development, effective curriculum, policy updates and infrastructure, ensures the Technology Plan is about more than just devices.’


“Board members were pleased with Dr. Joel’s work as a strong leader and public face for the district. Observations included that we have received ‘good comments from the public’ regarding Dr. Joel’s positive image, and acknowledged that he is ‘well respected across the community and has many leadership opportunities within a variety of groups.’


“Board members also spoke to Dr. Joel’s ability to build strong relationships with the Board and with his staff. This year was the first year of service for three new Board members and Dr. Joel put in a great deal of effort to make information available and to provide Board access to staff, especially the Executive Committee. Regarding the Executive Committee, it is clear that Dr. Joel trusts his staff and empowers them to do their jobs. Dr. Joel ‘fosters a team spirit’ and embraces the team philosophy of Board and staff working together as a cohesive unit. This strength helps the district to establish goals, prioritize them, and help them come to fruition. Timelines are sometimes aggressive, but he never stops working towards achieving. Of particular note is Dr. Joel’s belief in providing ‘an education that allows every child to be successful’ and his embodiment of the idea that “all means all.”


The proposed contract for Joel in the 2016-17 school year calls for a base salary of $313,239, a 1.56 percent increase over the previous year. His total package – including health insurance, retirement, Medicare and Social Security – would be $362,410.


The Board will take a final vote on the contract June 15.


Other LPS contracts proposed

The Board also considered proposed salary increases of 2.88 percent in 2016-17 and 2.89 percent in 2017-18 for additional employee groups at LPS: administrators, custodians, maintenance, office professionals, technicians and transportation.


In addition, proposed salary increases for the members of the superintendent’s Executive Committee are 2.85 percent, and an overall package increase of 2.9 percent for 2016-17.


The proposed base salaries for the executive team are:

  • Jane Stavem, associate superintendent for Instruction, $218,274.
  • Eric Weber, associate superintendent for Human Resources; and Liz Standish, associate superintendent for Business Affairs, $205,359.
  • John Neal, assistant to the superintendent for General Administration and Government Affairs, $179,525.

The Board will take a final vote on the contract June 15.


Transportation Plan approved

The Lincoln Board of Education Tuesday gave free transportation to students attending the LPS Science Focus Program (Zoo School) and the Arts and Humanities Focus Program – from high school to the focus programs and back – in approving the LPS transportation plan for 2016-17.


The vote was 6 to 1 with Board member Matt Schulte voting no.


Board member Connie Duncan was in favor of providing transportation to Focus Program students: “I think we need to stick with our saying, ‘All means all…’ Not everyone has Connie Duncan as a mother…I picked up my kids, packed a lunch, ate the lunch in the car.”


She said: “Our numbers tell us that the kids from farther away have a hard time getting to the Focus Programs. This tells me if we open it up we might get more kids to attend.”


Board member Annie Mumgaard agreed: “This is about accessibility…I believe it is our responsibility to make sure all our kids have access to all our programs….and this is making these programs accessible for all students.”


Board member Kathy Danek noted that “if we don’t give kids the opportunity, we might limit their potential success.”


Lanny Boswell, Board member, agreed this vote was about “access and equity…In addition to the benefit of opening access….we have crowding in our high schools…and everything we can do to increase enrollment at Focus Programs helps alleviate numbers at high schools.”


Board member Barb Baier called the free transportation an important investment. “This is something I have advocated for a long time…I don’t see enough diversity at Focus Programs…and I think that this is one piece of that puzzle… It is important that we allow kids in all areas of our town to benefit from these programs.”


She urged the Board to make sure they provide free transportation beyond one year, because “we need to give this some time to prove itself.”


Board President Don Mayhew said: “We like these programs, they speak to our graduation rate, they are very valuable, I think the transportation part is something integral to the programs and I think is overdue…As we are looking for relief in our existing high schools…bus routes are much cheaper than portables….This is part of a well thought-out, deliberate budgeting process…It will be money well spent.”

Schulte said he was concerned about the increased cost in the transportation plan with what he said came with no assurance it would increase student numbers at the Focus Programs. He asked for more research about how many students and families would use this kind of possible transportation.


Contract with First Student Inc. for transportation services

The Board considered a contract with First Student Inc. for transportation services and bus drivers, due to a shortage of local bus drivers. The contract provides for up to 15 drivers and 6 route buses.


The Board will vote on this contract June 15.


Grant applications approved

The Board approved submission of the required application for two grants:

  • LPS would add automated external defibrillators (AED) to 20 additional elementary schools with the submission of a Phase I proposal to the Community Health Endowment for up to $32,500 for the one-time purchase of AED equipment. Several years ago, LPS worked with the Lancaster County Medical Society and Community Health Endowment to purchase AEDs for all secondary schools. LPS will request Community Health Endowment support to help purchase AEDs for all elementary schools in the district, and the Endowment has agreed to consider support for the purchase in the 20 elementary schools that serve the highest proportion of low-income students – a cost of about $32,500. (Of this amount, $20,000 may be awarded to LPS without a match requirement.)   The remaining $12,500 must be matched dollar for dollar.  LPS and the Foundation for LPS are working to secure this match, as well as funding for an additional $32,500 to purchase AEDs for the remaining elementary schools and the new Marilyn Moore Middle School.
  • A Community Health Endowment Grant – for up to $100,000 per year for up to three years – would pilot a new service by contracting with a licensed therapist to become part of the Transition classroom team at Lincoln High School. LPS students returning to home and school from acute care or residential mental health programs receive little of the formal support or follow-up necessary to help them continue with recovery, which often results in lost school time, recidivism and, ultimately, dropping out of school. This will allow the district to pilot a broader scope of transition for students returning from acute or long-term mental health placements back into the school environment with mental health support. 

Annexed property

The Board of Education Tuesday assigned school attendance areas to two parcels of land newly annexed to the city of Lincoln:

  • Prairie Village North, Annexation Ordinance #20312, for 2015-16 school year:  Pershing Elementary School, Mickle Middle School and Lincoln Northeast High School.
  • Grandview Estates 1st Addition, Annexation Ordinance #20308, for 2015-16 school year:  Maxey Elementary School, Pound Middle School and Lincoln Southeast High School.

Policy change approved

The Board approved revisions to Policy 5520 – Student Fees – that reflect changes to fees and the fee waiver eligibility fees that address changes in cost while remaining in compliance with all applicable laws.


Celebration of Success

The Lincoln Board of Education recognized a student celebration of high school graduation, welcoming two high school seniors who shared part of their graduation speeches:

  • Hunter Sieckmeyer, a senior at Lincoln Southeast High School.
  • Haley Martin, a senior at Lincoln North Star High School.

The Board recognized members of Leadership LPS, a group that helps aspiring LPS administrators further develop their leadership potential and prepare for principalship through a variety of quality leadership experiences. The following LPS administrators have completed the 18-month course:

  • Kelly Apel
  • Fairouz Bishara-Rantisi
  • Jeff Brehm
  • Amy Carnie
  • Kristin Finley
  • Mike Gillotti
  • John Gloe
  • Betsy Gomez
  • Michaela Hahn
  • Tonya Jolley
  • Mark Larson
  • Gena Licata
  • Angee Luedtke
  • Liz Miller
  • Terri Nelson
  • Takako Olson
  • Cheryl Richter
  • Daniele Schulzkump
  • Erik Witt

Posted on May 24, 2016

Composing music with words, art, tech and voice

This story had rhythm, and Drake could feel it. 

Listening to each story with his hand around the storyteller’s shoulders or locked arm-in-arm with the narrator, this Fredstrom Elementary School second-grader took it all in.

“I liked the artwork, and I liked the music,” said Drake. Then he added, “I can hear the beat in the rhythm of it.”

Diana, a classmate of Drake’s, said: “I liked that all of the stories are fiction, and you could believe in them in your dreams.” 

But, she added, the artwork added another element. 

“Instead of just making you wonder, ‘OK, what does this look like or that look like?’ It just says ‘OK, this is what is happening.”

This feedback had to be a confidence builder for the storytellers who composed the music, wrote the story, created the artwork and published the entire piece in Keynote, a digital presentation tool.

The storytellers … were also students themselves, students in a music technology class at Lincoln North Star High School.

“I just hope that they will see themselves in my little character, and realize if they are different,  they don’t have to hate themselves for it,” said North Star sophomore Trinity Cox. “When I was younger, I was different and all, and I was never told it was OK to be different, so I think it’s important.”

Another book’s key message, delivered by a bird: Don’t talk to strangers.

“I figure that is one of the biggest rules in the books for children,” said senior Dylon George. “I know that was big for my parents when I was little.”

While George worried a bit about drawing, he does appreciate this experience could impact a career interest in computer science, perhaps in design games and having to “come up with ideas on the spot.”

This approach encourages use of all areas of the brain, and better shows how music can be one part of an entire story.

“This whole experience is to help kids become creative with music, composition or production,” said Brian Moore, an associate professor at Glenn Korff School of Music at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and also a North Star teacher this semester.

“One aspect of sharing music is tying it with visual and stories and films. Sometimes you write a piece of music and it’s on its own. There is also a place for writing music to accompany a story.”

The project also helps students better understand the potential impact of music on people, such as changing one’s mood.

“The creative aspects are boundless, and they have really embraced the whole idea of telling their own story, and then being able to actually present it to real children,” said Joni Osborn, music teacher at North Star. “So we are making it real for them.”

Osborn has a knack for working with North Star’s so-called feeder schools, elementary buildings that have students most likely to attend North Star based on their attendance areas. Her choir students recently sang in a concert with Fredstrom students.

“I like to collaborate with feeder schools, for sure, just to let kids know what is going to be available to them,” she said. “Get them excited about continuing musically, but also, getting them familiar with what is going on academically, and presenting them with really good role models.”

Those role models developed their own confidence, from creating their own art, using technology to show movement and transitions, and eventually reading the story in front of younger students.

And these students, the second-graders in music class on this day at Fredstrom, were locked in on this project, too.

“The kids are so engaged, and they are asking great questions,” said Judy Bush, Fredstrom Elementary music teacher.

Posted on May 20, 2016

VOICE interns grow skills for both work and finding work

Taking the knowledge he has learned about himself and the skills he has gained, Jake Reffert thought about his future plans.  He is interested in finding a hands on job where he can move around a lot. 

With school coming to an end, the interns (students) are gearing up to find jobs.  It began in January with the writing of resumes and collecting names for references.  The interns learned that finding a job is not easy.  In fact, “this is really hard”, according to Whitney Gropp.

With resumes polished and references gathered, the interns traveled to LaVista in April to attend the Transition Job Fair.  The Embassy Suites LaVista-Project SEARCH Program hosted the Job Fair.   

All Project SEARCH Programs in the state of Nebraska were invited to attend as well as schools from the LaVista area.  The interns had an opportunity to take part in skills assessments, mock interviews, training sessions, and stopping at over 30 booths to inquire about job opportunities.  During the skills assessments and mock interviews, interns were provided feedback on how to improve on their skills and interviewing style. 

When the interns returned with their new information from the Job Fair, they began to get more excited about finding a job.  With the assistance of Nebraska VR, the interns began their quest to find the “perfect Job”.  

The interns began job hunting with Nebraska VR, checking business web sites and keeping a watchful eye for the “help wanted” sign.  It soon became apparent to them that job-hunting takes time to fill out applications and go to interviews.

This year eight interns will be completing the Project SEARCH Program.  The interns worked with associates of the Embassy Suites to learn skills in Banquets, Kitchen, Restaurant, and Housekeeping.  As the third rotation draws to an end, the interns’ look back at the experience they gained while working at the Embassy Suites.  Zach Kriz discovered that he enjoys working in Housekeeping.  Many friendships were made and it is hard to say good-bye. 

This month, the internships came to a close. The interns worked in their departments in the morning, but the afternoon was reserved for the Project SEARCH Celebration program.  Invitations were sent out to families, partners, and associates inviting them to come and celebrate our year of hard work.  Interns greeted guests and introduced various parts of the program. 

When school begins in August, 10 new interns will begin the 5th year of the Project SEARCH Program at Embassy Suites.

Posted on May 20, 2016

Hop SCIP Jump & Run

Hop SCIP Jump & Run is an event benefiting School Community Intervention and Prevention.  SCIP works with schools by providing tools and resources to address behavioral and emotional health issues that impact children, adolescents and their families.  The event is Saturday morning, May 28 at Haymarket Park in Lincoln.  The event includes a 1-mile fun and a 5k.  Runners and walkers are welcome! Before and after the race participants will have an opportunity to participate in games and activities sponsored by local community agencies and a chance to win some great prizes.  Tickets are $15 for the fun run and $25 for the 5k and may be purchased at   Register by May 18 to receive an event t-shirt!

Posted on May 18, 2016

Homestead Days Talent Show

Homestead Days Talent Show is a fun musical/talent contest to showcase local talent. A panel of judges will evaluate each contestant on the following criteria: poise, stage presence, appearance, pitch, and overall Performance on it’s own merit.

The Rules:

  • Register Early-Due to limited time, we will only be able to accommodate 10 performances so it will be on a first come-first served basis. Early Registration is encouraged.
  • Check-in from 12:45-1:45 pm on June 18th Each contestant must check-in by 1:45 pm or they will not be able to compete.
  • Performance line-up will begin 15 minutes prior to your performance–There will be no late calls, so if you miss your performance time, you will not be able to perform.
  • Performance-each contestant will be allowed 5 minutes to set up and perform
  • Warm-ups-will be on a ‘first-come, first-serve’ basis from 12:45–1:45pm.
  • Equipment-there will be a microphone and a sound system that can accept CD’s or iPods/ MP3’s, any additional equipment is your responsibility and needs to be listed in your entry form.
  • Music-live or pre-taped accompaniment is welcome.

For more information, contact the Beatrice Chamber or 402-223-2338.

Posted on May 18, 2016

LPS to host community budget forums

Lincoln Public Schools invites the public into the discussion about the preliminary 2016-17 budget for the school district.

Two Community Budget Forums are scheduled in June, which will both include a budget presentation as well as opportunities for comments and questions:

  • Tuesday, June 28, 5 p.m., Board Room, LPS District Office, 5905 O St.
  • Thursday, June 30, 7 p.m., Media Center, Goodrich Middle School, 4600 Lewis Ave.

Work Sessions

The Lincoln Board of Education has two work sessions set for Board discussion about the budget:

  • 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, LPS District Office, 5905 O St.
  • 5 p.m. Thursday, June 30, LPS District Office, 5905 O St.

Public Hearing

6 p.m. Tuesday, August 9, LPS District Office, 5905 O St.



For more information contact Liz Standish, 402-436-1635.

Posted on May 18, 2016

Help is here for you: Suicide prevention information

Lincoln Public Schools is committed to the safety of all students. We are encouraging families, students, staff members and the larger community to talk about the issues related to suicide or other unhealthy actions. Below is information on who to call, or how to have this tough yet important conversation, as well as additional information.

Information from LPS

Local/National Resources

National Suicide Prevention Helpline
1-800-273-TALK extension 8255
By calling you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

National Institute of Mental Health/National Institutes of Health

Bryan Health

Crisis Line (located in Lincoln - provided by CenterPointe)
402-475-6695 - anytime 24/7

Nebraska Family Helpline


Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition

National Institute of Mental Health/National Institutes of Health

Responses from in-class conversations, as given by LPS teachers and staff:

"I felt like it went really well. I think that sometimes as teachers we get caught up in all that we have to do in terms of academics and we forget that even though they are high schoolers...we still teach young people who get their feelings hurt. Some of them even have major issues going on at home.  It think it was a good reminder as to why we're here, to offer support, understanding, and guidance."

"I spoke with my 5th period class yesterday about this issue and we had a very heartfelt conversation about caring for one another and who they can speak to if they need to. As for my 3rd period class today, they listened intently, were very respectful and took the information to heart.

"I think the most telling part about how it went today was immediately after 3rd period ended, I had a student, who is not on my roster for classes but is a cheerleader, come to me and share concerns that they have about another student. Based on the information that she gave me, we immediately went and spoke to someone in the counseling office about it.

"I believe the message is a good one, one that we all needed to be reminded of. I'm incredibly thankful to the district for addressing this issue with our young people. Not only that, but we need to remember our adults as well. I'm glad I work for a district that isn't afraid to tackle the tough issues and puts the well being of all our students first."

Reading the script seemed to get everyone's attention. Kids were attentive and said very little about it, which I took as a sense respect and maturity. In a gym environment, where students are eager to get moving, this was something they appeared to take seriously and respectfully. It didn't take much instructional time. I think it was a good message to send.

I did this with my freshmen. Actually, I read the sheet and then talked to them about treating others with respect. We talked about how everyone has their hidden stories and that they should think before they say things. I shared with them an experience from my childhood and they seemed to connect with that. They were all very responsive and attentive.

"Thanks for the common message that was composed that we shared with students. In talking with some staff members before lunch, they indicated that students listened and took the message to heart.  I even was able to give the message to one student who was waiting in the commons during the 10:30 time.  He expressed his appreciation to me for doing this.  Staff were very supportive at our faculty meeting Wednesday night and we had a few teachers that needed some extra support from us or counselors in delivering the message to their classes but folks really pulled together.  Let's hope we turn some of these very sad situations around---very quickly. Thanks again."

Posted on May 17, 2016

Beefy brownies? LHS culinary students say 'YES!'

May is beef month, and culinary classes at Lincoln High School prepared three beef dishes to share with other students during lunch. Beef and black bean salsa, beef gyros, and beefy brownies were available for students to sample as they waited in the lunch line. The beef brownies surprised the students.

“I was a little surprised, to say the least, I was confused. We were a little shocked, but when she said it’s your standard brownie mix with a little bit of ground beef added. When we tried it, it turned out pretty good,” said Hunter, LHS sophomore culinary student.

“Can I have another one,” interrupted another LHS student.

Culinary instructor Sheri Wiedan wanted students to see there are many different ways to use beef.

“We went through the Nebraska Cattle Women’s recipes and found these three to serve to the students. I want to bring awareness to Nebraska’s number one commodity,” added Wiedan.

LHS senior Alliah said it was a fun experience.

“I love cooking. There’s different ways of cooking meat, like I’ve never thought of making meat into a brownie, and it was actually pretty tasty. A weird texture, but it was pretty good. I would definitely find different ways to use meat, even try to find a different way to use duck.”

Posted on May 17, 2016

Highlights of 5/16 Lincoln Board of Education organizational meeting

Lincoln Public Schools:

Highlights of 5/16 Lincoln Board of Education organizational meeting

The Lincoln Board of Education held its annual organizational meeting on Monday May 16 at Lincoln Public Schools District Office, 5905 O St. The Board will hold its next regular meeting on Tuesday, May 24, 2016.


Highlights of Board Meeting

New officers for LPS

Don Mayhew will be the new president of the Lincoln Board of Education serving from May 2016 until May 2017, elected at the annual organizational meeting of the Board held Monday. Connie Duncan was elected as vice president.


New officers for ESU No. 18

Lanny Boswell will be the new president of the Board for Educational Service Unit (ESU) No. 18, and Matt Schulte will be vice president.


Posted on May 16, 2016

ACS needs volunteers for fall event

The American Cancer Society is hosting a kickoff event for awareness of its fall event, Making Strides of Lincoln. The event will be on Sunday, October 23, 2016 at 1 p.m., but a kickoff event will be held on Thursday, August 25, 2016 at the Wilderness Ridge, 1800 Wilderness Woods Pl, Lincoln, NE 68512 to learn more about the event.

Last year nearly 1.2 million Making Strides walkers nationwide turned awareness into action and helped to raise more than $60 million to help the Society save more lives from breast cancer.

To receive an invitation just call 866-227-9474.

Posted on May 16, 2016

Penrod named new principal for Bryan Community FP

Pat Hunter-Pirtle, director of Secondary Education at Lincoln Public Schools:  "Tanner has a passion for all students, but particularly for students who are struggling or don't fit into a large comprehensive high school. Tanner builds deep connections and relationships with students and staff, and because of his prior experience, he knows what has worked well at Bryan Community, and he has ideas to lead the school forward. He wants to make sure Bryan students graduate with a high school diploma and are ready for careers or post secondary study."  
Penrod has been the associate principal at Lincoln High School for three years.  Prior to that he served as instructional coordinator at Bryan during the 2012-13 school year. He also taught and coached at Lincoln Southwest High School from 2005 to 2012.  
Penrod earned his master's degree in Educational Leadership from Doane College.
Mindy Roberts, the current principal at Bryan, will serve in a supervisor position in Special Education at LPS.

Posted on May 13, 2016

For students and staff at Meadow Lane, Prabulos is fabulous as Scottish Rite honoree

Cheers, tears and a whole lot of school pride were on display Friday at a special teacher recognition event at Meadow Lane Elementary School, 7200 Vine St.

Computer Science teacher Susan Prabulos won the 2016 Scottish Rite Honor given annually to a teacher in Lincoln Public Schools. Scottish Rite is one of the most prestigious awards given to an LPS teacher and comes with a cash prize of $3,000.

“I am so overwhelmed and so humbled,” Prabulos said to a gym full of students and staff. Her parents were also surprise visitors.

She noted that she also teared up the day before when witnessing first-graders accomplish great things in her classroom.

Prabulos said her classroom continues to astound, “when my students learn, and take something that I’ve given them and turn it into something amazing that I didn’t expect, and when they persevere, and keep trying until they reach a goal...It’s so amazing to see how excited they get when they realize they have accomplished their goals.”

Prabulos has taught at Sheridan, Brownell and Meadow Lane elementary schools for 20 years. She serves on various school improvement committees, helps with teachers and curriculum across the LPS district, and is recognized as a state and national leader in sharing professional development strategies and classroom instruction.

“She is a servant leader,” said Daniele Schulzkamp, Meadow Lane principal. “She is there to serve kids and their passion in technology, and problem solving. She sees how everything she does in the classroom connects to things outside the classroom.”

Students and staff were told they were going to celebrate their morning routine with special guests. Prabulos wondered if that was the case, and eventually figured out the routine would be extra special, as well.

“This teacher is passionate about technology, but more importantly, she is passionate about providing learning experiences for her students,” said Eric Weber, associate superintendent for Human Resources at LPS, during the surprise announcement.

Prabulos said she was honored to be chosen out of a group of highly qualified teachers throughout LPS. She said she is driven by the work she sees from students in her classroom.

Schulzkamp said students are not the only ones to benefit from the teacher’s conviction for educating everyone.

“She’s on-call all the time, she is willing to drop what she is doing, she gives up plan times, she’s in before school and after school,” Schulzkamp said. “She’s always there to help staff be able to use technology to enhance their instruction. But not just that, she helps with Community Connections after school, so it’s not just technology, but the big picture of all of that.

Posted on May 13, 2016

Middle School ELL students experience college

Over 240 English Language Learner (ELL) students from Culler, Goodrich, and Park Middle Schools participated in a Digital Festival Day on the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Campus.

Developed by UNL education students, the event started in the Student Union Auditorium with opening remarks from the Dean of the Education College, and students were also treated to performances by a few UNL students of diverse backgrounds.

The middle school students then broke into small groups with their UNL student leaders to work on video projects.

All of the students were able to experience college dining as they ate in the Selleck Dining Hall. This was the highlight for many of the ELL students.

The day concluded with a showcase of the video stories in the auditorium. Afterwards, each ELL student received a UNL bag with a few special gifts to remember their special day.

The Digital Festival is a partnership between UNL and LPS. The LPS ELL coaches wrote a Fund-a-Need grant through the Foundation at Lincoln Public Schools, and seven donors contributed to pay for all of the transportation and the lunches for all of the LPS teachers. UNL paid for the lunches of all the ELL students.

“This has been a wonderful partnership for everyone,” ELL Coach Anne Hubbell. “ The advantages for the UNL students to prepare lessons and work with students of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and the opportunity for ELL students to see themselves as college students if very beneficial.”

Posted on May 12, 2016

LPS graduation ceremonies for class of 2016

The Lincoln Public Schools class of 2016 will celebrate graduation ceremonies on Sunday, May 22 – for all six high schools.

LPS high school graduation ceremonies for 2016 are scheduled as follows:

  • Lincoln East High School, noon, Pinnacle Bank Arena
  • Lincoln North Star High School, 1:30 p.m., Bob Devaney Sports Center
  • Lincoln Southeast High School, 3 p.m. Pinnacle
  • Lincoln High School, 4:30 p.m., Devaney
  • Lincoln Northeast High School, 6 p.m., Pinnacle
  • Lincoln Southwest High School, 7:30 p.m., Devaney

The Bryan Community Focus Program will hold graduation ceremonies at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 19, at Lincoln Southwest High School.

Posted on May 11, 2016

Highlights of 5/10 Lincoln Board of Education meeting

Lincoln Public Schools:

Highlights of 5/10 Lincoln Board of Education meeting

The Lincoln Board of Education held a regular meeting on Tuesday May 10 at Lincoln Public Schools District Office, 5905 O St. The Board will hold its next regular meeting on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. The Board will hold its annual organizational meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, May 16, when they elect new officers.


Highlights of Board Meeting

Grant application for defibrillators

Lincoln Public Schools would add automated external defibrillators (AED) to 20 additional elementary schools if they move forward with submission of a Phase I proposal to the Community Health Endowment for up to $32,500 for the one-time purchase of AED equipment.


Several years ago, LPS worked with the Lancaster County Medical Society and Community Health Endowment to purchase AEDs for all secondary schools. LPS proposes to request Community Health Endowment support to help purchase AEDs for all elementary schools in the district, and the Endowment has agreed to consider support for the purchase in the 20 elementary schools that serve the highest proportion of low-income students – a cost of about $32,500. (Of this amount, $20,000 may be awarded to LPS without a match requirement.)


The remaining $12,500 must be matched dollar for dollar.  LPS and the Foundation for LPS are working to secure this match, as well as funding for an additional $32,500 to purchase AEDs for the remaining elementary schools and the new Marilyn Moore Middle School.


According to Student Services, 596 students within LPS have a known cardiac condition, a statistic that continues to rise with the incidence of childhood obesity, as does the likelihood of undiagnosed cardiac conditions. In an emergency situation, AEDs are easy to use and save lives. This equipment has been proven valuable each year, as one or two incidents due to sudden cardiac arrest happen per school year somewhere in the school district. Last year, for the first time, one such incident occurred at an elementary school involving a student with an undiagnosed heart condition who almost died as a result of sudden cardiac arrest. Thankfully, school staff performed CPR on the student until an ambulance arrived and treated the student successfully.


The Community Health Endowment (CHE) of Lincoln is a municipal endowment dedicated to making Lincoln the healthiest community in the nation. The Lincoln Board of Education will vote final approval for submission at their May 24 meeting.


Annexed property

The Board of Education assigns school attendance areas to property newly annexed to the city of Lincoln or newly platted.  This action establishes school attendance areas prior to the sale of residential lots, allowing purchasers to know what schools their children will attend.


The city has annexed two parcels of land, and proposed attendance areas are:

  • Prairie Village North, Annexation Ordinance #20312, for 2015-16 school year:  Pershing Elementary School, Mickle Middle School and Lincoln Northeast High School.
  • Grandview Estates 1st Addition, Annexation Ordinance #20308, for 2015-16 school year:  Maxey Elementary School, Pound Middle School and Lincoln Southeast High School.

The Board will vote final approval at the May 24 meeting.


Woods Park Tennis

The Board of Education voted a resolution of intent to pre-pay $10,000 per year to the city – for a maximum of 10 years – for use of the Woods Tennis Center to assist with financing of a current renovation project for the Woods tennis facility. The Center is intending to undergo a renovation project to replace the indoor air structures along with other site improvements. The city of Lincoln and program operators are currently in the process of determining final contract arrangements and design and costs for the project.


Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) has been asked to contribute as a result of its use of the facilities. The Center is an important part of LPS programming and is used by many LPS schools and students for tennis practices, events, tournaments and related activities.


Grant applications

The Board approved submission of the required application for year three of the Indian Education grant to the U.S. Department of Education for $146,179. The original four-year grant was approved by the Board of Education in May 2014. No district-funding match is required.


The Board discussed submission of a Community Health Endowment Grant – for up to $100,000 per year for up to three years – to pilot a new service by contracting with a licensed therapist to become part of the Transition classroom team at Lincoln High School. LPS students returning to home and school from acute care or residential mental health programs receive little of the formal support or follow-up necessary to help them continue with recovery, which often results in lost school time, recidivism and, ultimately, dropping out of school. This will allow the district to pilot a broader scope of transition for students returning from acute or long-term mental health placements back into the school environment with mental health support.  Based on attendance, behavior and academic outcomes of students involved in the pilot, the school district may expand the program to include Lincoln Southeast High School’s Transition classroom at the end of the grant. No matching funds are required for this proposal.   The Board will determine final approval at the May 24 meeting.


Dual language program

During the public comment section of the agenda, 18 people spoke in favor of LPS establishing a dual language program.


Celebration of Success

The Lincoln Board of Education recognized the successful LPS BackPack Extra Mile Walk that raises money for the Food Bank of Lincoln’s BackPack program. So far this year the event has raised more than $152,000 – and in over nine years the event has raised more than $1.3 million.


Schools raising the most money:

  • Maxey Elementary School, elementary category
  • Lux Middle School, middle school category
  • Lincoln East High School, high school category

Posted on May 10, 2016

LSW theater honored for recent performance

One high school's theater production has won various awards.

Lincoln Southwest High School's production of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN has won the following awards from Omaha Performing Arts:

  • Outstanding High School Musical Theatre Production
  • Outstanding Ensemble
  • Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role: Matthew Hakel
  • Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Lead Role: Abi Stine
  • National Finalist: Matthew Hakel

The school will be honored at the Nebraska High School Theatre Awards Showcase at the Holland Center in Omaha on June 9.

As an Outstanding Production winner, Southwest will be performing one of our production numbers at the ceremony and the Best Actor/Actress/National Finalists will also be performing songs from the show, as well as an opening and closing number with an ensemble made up of students from all 51 schools who participated.

The "Tony Award" style ceremony is at the Holland Center and has a red-carpet entrance. The Awards Showcase tickets are now on sale for $10 on line at

Posted on May 10, 2016

Prescott, Irving have results to back up national honor

Podcast: Learn about LPS's partnership, the Green Schools Alliance

Prescott Elementary is celebrating their Green Ribbon Award.

Prescott and Irving Middle School earned the distinction from the U.S. Department of Education. The honor recognizes the schools' efforts on health, wellness and environmental education and living.

In the nomination form, Prescott staff had to submit a wide array of information (see more below). For example, Prescott noted it uses 608,200 kilowatt hours in electric energy consumption, down from 787,640 kwh from 2011-12.

In just the past year, Prescott alone has saved more than $11,000 in total utility costs, including electric and natural gas. At Irving, water consumption is down to 1,200 gallons per year, down from 1,573 in 2011-12, a 20 percent reduction.

Green efforts have been a focus of of schools across Lincoln Public Schools.

Today, more than 85 percent of school square footage in LPS uses geothermal to heat and cool the buildings. It is now possible to heat and cool a school building for the same price that it used to cost to just to heat a building.

LPS also focuses on:

- construction waste management in an effort to eliminate 90 percent of construction waste,
- an energy management system for facilities so lights and HVAC systems are used efficiently and only when necessary,
- recycling a growing number of electronics,
- a high participation rate in its recycling program,
- environmental assessment to ensure students and staff have fresh air in classrooms, for example.

LPS has six schools composting after school means, with plans to add more in the fall of 2015. One school turned food and food product waste into 90 percent compost materials in just a few weeks, with the help of students, nutrition staff and school staff.

Here is what Prescott submitted in its nomination for the award:

"The highlight of Prescott’s efforts to connect students with the environment is their outdoor classroom. Prescott families, staff and community have collaborated to build and provide a Nature Explore Certified Outdoor Classroom on Prescott Park, our playground. A walking path was installed in the spring of 2010 along with a rain garden, followed by a bridge, park benches, plantings, raised vegetable beds, designated learning areas and an arbor throughout the 2011-12 school year. Summer of 2012 the school added a stage built as an Eagle Scout project and a gazebo that provides shade and a learning space in May, 2013, built by Chad Johnson. Spring of 2015, Prescott built a Fossil Dig area with a large saber cat buried in the pit. This school year, teachers will be providing Prescott students opportunities each quarter to experience learning in our outdoor space. This outdoor space has served as an avenue for students to engage in nature and develop skills and knowledge associated with a variety of topics including gardening, nutrition, and environmental stewardship. In addition to classroom use, this space is available for the community."

"Prescott was one of the first schools to participate in the LPS pilot recycling program in 1998, and has continued
recycling mixed office paper, cardboard, plastic & aluminum, newspaper & magazines, and tin cans. To-date, Prescott
has diverted over 261,000 pounds of recyclables from the landfill since initiating the recycling program in 1998.
Prescott has been very successful in the LPS Wellness program through their efforts. For the 2013-14 school year,
Prescott won the LPS Wellness Award dollars, which is a $5,000 award related to their wellness approach focusing on
students, families and community, staff wellness and establishment of school based policy and guidelines, combined
with their high participation in district-wide challenges. Resources are invested in items to support further wellness for
the school. Dollars will support indoor and outdoor active space resources."

And from Irving Middle School:

Irving Middle School has consistently demonstrated their ability to be a leader in the district for school waste management and reducing their environmental impact. They were one of the first schools to participate in the LPS pilot recycling program in 1998, and have continued recycling mixed office paper, cardboard, plastic & aluminum, newspaper & magazines, and tin cans. To-date, Irving has diverted over 258,000 pounds of recyclables from the landfill since initiating the recycling program in 1998. 

They were also one of the original three schools to pilot a compost program in the cafeteria. This program engaged students and was supported by a group of student leaders deemed the “FWCP Team” (Food Waste Composting Pilot). The peer support and encouragement was critical to the outstanding success of the program. Since implementing the compost program, 93,920 pounds of cafeteria waste has been diverted from the landfill, and building diversion has increased to 67%. 

Irving is in the midst of an Indoor Air Quality and Renovation project, which focuses on a new energy efficiency heating and air conditioning system. The project will significantly improve energy efficiency as well as provide a better learning environment for students. The scope of the project includes a geothermal ground source heat pump system, LED lighting and new exterior windows. For construction waste management, the project has maintained an 80% or higher diversion rate. 

Many innovative practices and partnerships ensure LPS students experience environmental and sustainability education at Irving Middle School. In grades 6-8, students experience environmental science and living organisms units. Irving teachers also receive district support for professional development in environmental and sustainability education. In addition, the Lower Platte South Natural Resource District has lead a field trip to teach environmental science in context to Irving students. 

A culture of wellness persists throughout the school year for Irving, with involvement in quarterly district wellness challenges, school based Aardvark Activity Challenges, support for the mental health Run to Overcome, Backpack Walk and the Marathon Cheerfest, just to name a few activities. Each year the school donates barrels of food to the Lincoln Food Bank. The school has a walking club and intramurals for students and holds several fitness focused activities for staff engagement. 

Posted on May 06, 2016

Blue Angels visit LSW

The Navy's Blue Angels met with Lincoln Southwest High School students on Friday hoping students would walk away with three key things - 1) Set goals for yourself; 2) believe in yourself and don't let anyone tell you you can't do it; 3) and don't be afraid to fail.
Navy Lt. Lance Benson is a demonstration pilot for the Blue Angels and he told the students.
"Nobody knows you fail most of the time. Nobody cares, they are so focused on themselves, they don't care. If you fall, pick yourself up and carry on."
He also wished he had been more appreciative of his parents in high school.
"I was not a straight a student when I was in school. But, one regret I have is that I didn't build a deeper relationship with my parents when I was in high school."
The Blue Angels are in Lincoln for an air show, and as part of the week, invited LSW principal Mike Gillotti to take a test flight with them over Lincoln. Students asked Gillotti if he got sick.
"A little bit when we landed," Gillotti said. "I was working my butt off to stay awake. My eyes were wide open, but I couldn't see. I never did pass out."

Posted on May 06, 2016

Coyote Chorus Invitational

The first of its kind, The Coyote Chorus Invitational, will feature music form Zeman and Calvert Elementary and PANgea.

Free and open to everyone, bring your blankets, lawn chairs and snacks to Henry Park (between 44th and 46th on Prescott Ave, just south of Calvert Elementary) on Thursday, May 12, at 6:00 p.m.

Posted on May 04, 2016

Renewal of Nebraska teaching, nurses, special services and administrative certificate

If your Nebraska certificate is expiring on August 31, 2016 please complete your renewal application now unless you are waiting for college coursework that is being taken this summer. If you have any questions about the renewal process please contact Grady Blase at or 402-436-1581.



Posted on May 04, 2016

Lakeview Health Walk beneficial for many reasons

At Lakeview Elementary, many students take a walk to get their school day started, and not just to get to school, either.  Back in January, Lakeview decided to offer third through fifth grade students an alternative to just sitting in the hallway waiting for the bell to ring.  Students had a new choice of heading to the gym to check in and then going outside to participate in the Lakeview Health Walk.  The first day started with about 61 kids, but steadily grew as word got around. To date, Lakeview has had a cumulative total of over 3,800 walkers, including some students who have participated in over 90% of the school days since its inception.  Currently, Lakeview’s third grade class is leading the way with over 1,300 walkers even though they started three weeks later than the upper grades.  

Third grade teacher Tanner Soderberg and P.E. teacher Bob Rung started the Health Walk to give Lakeview students a chance to burn some energy, connect socially with peers, and learn about an active, healthy lifestyle.  

Soderberg feels that the students have embraced the opportunity, “I see an eagerness on the part of the students to be healthy as opposed to just sitting in the hallway every morning.”   

Students can earn a shoe charm for every five days of participation, and the 1,000 walker in each grade earned an activity-promoting prize like a brand new basketball or jump rope.

Principal Scott Nelson says he sees the benefits daily, “ I noticed that the students have been committed to walking and understanding the benefits of daily exercise while also earning rewards for their healthy behavior.“  

Many staff at Lakeview noticed immediately that the Health Walk also contributed to a calmer start to the school day.  


Posted on May 04, 2016

Live from the Met: Opera Curriculum in our Schools

(Full video of the program is at the bottom of this page.)

Lincoln Public Schools District Office swayed and wafted with waltzes and opera music on Tuesday at the final LPS Learning Lunch of the school year, a program that featured: Live from the Met: Opera Curriculum in our Schools. 

Students from Fredstrom Elementary School and Lincoln North Star High School came together to sing, dance and demonstrate what they had learned in a unique curriculum this year.

  •  Myah Figueroa, Fredstrom fifth-grader: “I really liked going to see operas, it’s not something I see everyday…I think I learned that you can get more out of life…when you don’t waste your time doing just one thing.”
  •  Dylan Penate, Fredstrom fifth-grader: “When you go to an opera you can see your friends, eat snacks, it’s a combo thing.”
  •  Kaylee Swartz, 11th grader from North Star: “I feel like it has been a privilege to have this great experience, not only for myself, but also for the elementary kids – kids who may never have had the opportunity to see an opera.”

Fredstrom music teacher Judy Bush explained the project started with an invitation from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. “That’s where the adventure began. It sounded like a really exciting project, and we already know that the graduation rate is higher for students involved in music.” 

LPS was one of 37 schools in the country that was involved in the initial MET project, in which the Metropolitan Opera provided free tickets to local opera experiences, as well as a complete curriculum guide. 

Joni Osborn, a music teacher at North Star, explained that the elementary and high school teachers and students came together to add a high school perspective to the experience. 

“Our vision is that someday we share this curriculum with all the music teachers in the school district,” Bush said. 

Elements of the curriculum experience included:

  •  Learning the history, music and themes of various operas.
  •  Relevant cultural/historical references often tied to other academic areas.
  •  Acting out operas to help learn the stories.
  •  Learning and performing the music.
  •  Learning appropriate dress and etiquette for attending operas (“You don’t crunch popcorn during a really quiet aria”).

Students also learned how to dance the waltz, a common element in opera productions, Bush said. “They now know that the proper way for a gentleman to ask a lady to dance is to extend his hand and say, ‘May I please have this dance? And the lady places her hand on his and answers, ‘With pleasure.’”


** Stay tuned for details: LPS Learning Lunch programs will return for the 2016-17 school year.

Posted on April 27, 2016

Highlights of 4/26 Lincoln Board of Education meeting

Lincoln Public Schools:  Highlights of 4/26 Lincoln Board of Education meeting

The Lincoln Board of Education held a regular meeting on Tuesday, April 26 at Lincoln Public Schools District Office, 5905 O St. The Board will hold its next regular meeting on Tuesday, May 10, 2016.

Highlights of Board Meeting

Transportation Plan

Students attending the Lincoln Public Schools Science Focus Program (Zoo School) and the Arts and Humanities Focus Program would be offered free transportation next year – from high school to the focus programs and back – under the proposed LPS transportation plan for 2016-17.

“This is something we’ve hoped for as a Board for a very long time,” Board member Barb Baier noted. “I would encourage anyone watching or listening to look at those focus programs as an opportunity for their students now that transportation is available.”

Board member Lanny Boswell agreed: “I think lots of families will be excited about this opportunity.”

Board member Don Mayhew thanked his Board colleague, Annie Mumgaard “who has been a champion for getting transportation to the focus programs.”

The estimated cost for transportation for students to focus programs would be $34,640. In addition, other proposed transportation increases next year are: adding one bus route to Adams Elementary School ($18,440); one route for students with special education needs to the new Sally G. Wysong Elementary School ($33,070); and transportation for Humann Elementary School students to an alternate location while the school is under renovation ($108,186).

LPS transportation will provide transportation for students under the following guidelines:

  • Elementary and middle school students residing more than four miles from the school in the attendance area within which they reside.
  • Special education students whose individual education plans require transportation as essential to learning.
  • Students who have been moved for the benefit of the school district to relieve overcrowding, due to major facility renovations, efficiency in use of buildings and/or staff.
  • In addition, the Board, at its discretion, may approve other transportation areas based upon unique circumstances and for the purpose of equalizing school enrollments and facilitating programs.

Wellness Update

An annual “Wellness Update” for the school year was presented at the Tuesday Board meeting – with general reported improvements for fitness levels in the school district.

Presenters included Dr. Bob Rauner, a Lincoln physician and wellness champion; Matt Avey, curriculum specialist for Health and Physical Education; Michelle Welch, Wellness coordinator; Edith Zumwalt, director of Nutrition Services; and Marge Theel, supervisor of Health Services.

Highlights from the year included:

  • In general, LPS students who are determined “fit” score higher on NeSA tests – in reading, math and science – when compared to students who are “not at fitness goal.”
  • LPS students in fourth through eighth grades taking what is called the Fitnessgram PACER have improved in the past year: 71 percent passed the PACER in in 2011-2 compared to 77.7 percent this school year.
  • LPS reports lower levels of obesity in kindergarten and first grade – a level below 12 percent for the first time. Possible explanations include: Impact of Early Childhood efforts; impact of LPS efforts with other siblings; impact of community initiatives such as healthy beverages and nutrition marketing.
  • LPS participates in the Smarter Lunchroom movement that results in serving healthier school meals. Related initiatives include: Colorful banners to welcome children to the cafeteria; bright bowls and baskets full of fresh fruit; seasonal decorations for serving lines; posters to encourage healthy eating; identifying food with unique names that appeal to students.

LPS Policies approved

The Board approved changes in several LPS policies:

  • Age of attendance, more clearly defining the start and end of the school year for the purpose of providing services to students approaching and reaching their 21st birthday.
  • Option students, clarifying conditions for which option students can be assigned to a building closed to transfer – related to siblings.
  • Technology resources and Internet safety, updating language.
  • Parental involvement, related to a minor change that came with the new national Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
  • Controversial issues, changes meant to reinforce the purpose of teaching controversial issues, express the importance of working with families, and expressing how the policy applies to unplanned conversations that occur in classrooms.

The Board looked at proposed changes in policy related to student fees and will vote final approval at the May 10 meeting.

Speaking to the “controversial issues” policy change, Board member Don Mayhew noted a community question that asked if the Board was representing parents or LPS? “The answer is yes. We represent parents, students, staff, taxpayers, the community…So much of our work is finding a balancing act between a very difficult issue.”

Mayhew said the point of the policy is to express the will of the Board that ensures that “ teachers should provide reasonable advance notice in anticipation of a planned controversial subject, and if something should come up controversial in class, then parents would be notified after…In the interest of serving parental notification and parental control, I think this policy does a very good job of that.”

Board member Annie Mumgaard continued: “We want graduates to be ready for life…so we have to allow a space for controversy in our classrooms. This allows for that space…with the professional judgment of our teachers and with the active participation of our parents…We need to have a citizenry that can handle that kind of discussion.”

Grant applications

The Board approved application for an $80,000 EducationQuest Foundation’s College Access Grant with the goal of increasing the percentage of Lincoln Northeast High School graduates who enroll in post-secondary programs after high school.

The Board discussed submission of the required application for year three of the Indian Education grant to the U.S. Department of Education for $146,179. The original four-year grant was approved by the Board of Education in May 2014. No district-funding match is required. The Board will determine final approval at the May 10 meeting.

Celebration of Success

A new regular Board of Education segment was introduced Tuesday: On the second meeting of each month LPS will feature something called a “Student Celebration,” highlighting LPS students involved in the wide breadth of classroom assignments, activities and achievements. Tuesday featured McPhee Elementary School teacher Jennifer Thomas and second graders who described their delightful animal research projects.

Posted on April 26, 2016

Groundbreaking for Park Middle School addition

The warm sunshine and a light breeze embraced the crowd from Lincoln Public Schools and the Boys and Girls Club gathered outside of Park Middle School Monday morning for a ground breaking ceremony.

A total construction project at Park Middle School will add 10,000 square feet to the southwest corner of the building - with the the addition of classrooms, a commons area with separate secured entrance, and another gym to benefit Park students.  The addition will also benefit the Boys and Girls Club, which provides Community Learning Centers (CLC) afterschool and summer activities for Park students.

“Park Middle School and the Boys and Girls Club, along with the CLC initiative, are focused on making Park a full service community school,” commented Ryan Zabawa, Park principal. “The club already boasts the highest enrollment of any CLC in the city. The Boys and Girls Club has been a great partner for Park Middle School over the last eight years and we are very excited about our future endeavors.”

Park Middle School has 903 students this school year, and expects enrollment to reach 930 next year. In addition, Park also hosts the Welcome Center - a place for English Language Learner Families at LPS to get the assistance they need in getting their children enrolled in school and programs. Park currently has students from 30 different countries that speak 25 different languages.

Connie Duncan, LPS Board of Education member, said, “Working together, educators, families, community organizations, businesses and volunteers can extend the school day with opportunities for our students to learn and play in a positive, supportive and safe environment. Park Middle School and the Boys and Girls Club are a perfect example of a community school where everyone belongs, works together, and thrives.”

Construction on the project could begin as early as next week, with the project being completed in January 2017.

Posted on April 26, 2016

Christie honored with local 'Human Rights' award

Thomas Christie has been honored with the Gerald Henderson Human Rights Award given by the Lincoln Commission on Human Rights. Christie was nominated, then voted by the commission to receive the award.

Here is a description of the honor given to Christie, and his bio is below:

Outstanding achievements in human rights, for the purposes of this award, are understood to result from activities that:

  • Demonstrate a commitment to improving cooperation and understanding among people of different racial, ethnic, religious, and other backgrounds
  • Use new and creative measures to fight discrimination, prejudice, and the effects of past discrimination
  • Foster positive intergroup relations by promoting mutual respect, understanding, cultural awareness, and appreciation in business, education, government, health, housing, religion, and other areas of civic endeavor
  • Demonstrate a commitment to human/civil rights activities
  • Use new and creative measures to fight discrimination, prejudice and the effects of past discrimination


Thomas Christie is currently the Multicultural/Community Administrator (Office of the Superintendent) for the Lincoln Public Schools. He is responsible for directing the district’s Multicultural Program, Cultural Proficiency and works in Human Resources, Administrator for TeamMates and the District Office Building Principal.

He is President of the Clyde Malone Center Board, Vice – Chair of the Mayor’s Multicultural Committee, member of Lincoln Public Schools Foundation, Chair of the Education Committee of the NAACP, University of Nebraska President Advisory Council (PAC) and on the MLK Freedom Breakfast Committee since the inception. Pass board Severest on the City Recreation Committee, Lighthouse, UNL Teachers College Alumni Board, Lancaster Women’s Commission, Lincoln Indian Education committee and Child Advocacy Center.

Thomas has 40 year’s experience in the classroom and administration. Thomas was a building administrator for four years and taught Sociology, History and coached wrestling and football for 18 years. He is the administrator directing the cultural proficiency efforts, co-developer of the Racial Response Team project and played a key role in developing the district’s Multicultural focus.

Thomas has a Bachelor’s degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University and a Master’s degree in Administration from the University of Nebraska.

Thomas is a Lincoln High Distinguished Alumni and a member of the Lincoln High Athletic Hall of Fame. 

He is married to Brenda Christie for 40 years, and they have two children, Fayola Christie, and Yohance Christie.


Posted on April 22, 2016

CERTIFICATED STAFF: Summer and Fall Tuition Credit Info

Tuition credit statements, for certified staff who have tuition credit points, will be arriving at your schools within the next couple of days.  These forms should be completed and returned to Human Resources (LPSDO - Box 33) byFridayApril 29th, 2016.  Your statement will tell you how many points you have and when they expire. If you do not have any tuition credit points, you will not receive a statement.

If you do not have tuition credit points, or not enough points to pay for a UNL course, you may complete and submit an Application to the District Tuition Credit Bank For Tuition Credit Points Form (aka PEF2 Form). The deadline for submitting PEF2 Forms, for summer AND fall 2016 classes at UNL, is 4:30pm on FridayApril 29th, 2016.   Completed PEF2 forms should be mailed to Human Resources (LPSDO - Box 33).  PEF2 forms received in HR after the deadline will not be considered.

  • Points may be used towards one UNL course per semester.  If requesting points for both summer and fall, you may enter your requests for both semesters on the same PEF2 Form.
  • Each UNL credit hour costs 9 tuition credit points. No more than 27 points (3 credit hours) may be used in any one semester.
  • When applying to the district bank, you must use the two-part PEF2 form, and send both copies to Human Resources. The forms are available from your school office. Photocopied / emailed copies of PEF2 and PEF3 forms will not be accepted. If you are using older forms, that ask for your Social Security Number, please enter your LPS employee ID in place of your Social Security Number.
  • All actions at this time are for the summer and fall 2016 semesters only. Please do not submit forms for next spring at this time.
  • When submitting a PEF3 form, for PEF reimbursement, please note that tuition credit points may only be used for reimbursement towards an approved activity.  They cannot just be "cashed in". Further details are available in your Tuition Credit Handbook.
  • For your convenience, the Tuition Credit / PEF Handbook is available at (under "Departments", then "Human Resources", and "Handbooks/Agreements").  This easy-to-read handbook will answer many of the questions you may have.
  • Tuition credit points may only be earned and used by certificated LPS employees.  Classified staff do not qualify to use tuition credit points.
Further Questions should be directed to Darbi Umholtz via e-mail ( or phone (402-436-1589).


Posted on April 20, 2016

Making a difference...Thank you, Paras!

Modifying wheelchairs to help students become independent, going with a student to the eye doctor to help him get glasses, helping parents who are overwhelmed get support...these are just some of the amazing stories submitted this week about our paras at Lincoln Public Schools.

April 15 is Paraeducators Recognition Day, and LPS would like to take a moment to thank all our paras for the outstanding work they do every day to make a difference in children’s lives.

Below are their stories, and these are just some examples of the many wonderful things our paras do across LPS - symbolizing the work of each and every para in our schools. 

Changing lives through innovation...

For over 20 years, these four paraeducators have been serving students at Lincoln Public Schools, but in very unique ways. After reading the recognition submissions from special education supervisor Mary Phillips and all of the occupational and physical therapists, it’s clear that these women have touched so many students’ lives - a ripple that can be felt for generations. 

Pam Thorfinnson, Christine Bernt, Angie Smith, and Grayson Spomer are all district motor activity paras (MAPs). Most times they are out in various buildings working with students under the direction of occupational and physical therapists to assist students in learning skills they need to succeed - not only in school, but in life. These skills can include tying shoes, penmanship, walking, moving around, motor skills, and even zipping jackets.   

The therapy team writes in their nominations, “Christine takes the time to understand student’s potential needs throughout the school day, and not just during the time she sees them.  As a result, she frequently has ideas and suggestions to try to help the student be successful beyond just the program she follows for the student.  She collaborates with supervising staff to share these ideas and suggestions for increased student success.” 

It’s hard to believe that work doesn’t keep them busy enough, but these paras do so much more. Inventors, engineers, or even “tinkers” might be the best way to describe these paras as they are tasked with crude drawings and rough ideas to modify existing equipment and furniture and adapting them to meet special education students’ needs, or creating something new to aid the students. 

“Angie is able to look at things that seem impossible and find solutions for our students to be successful,” writes Molly Kouba. “Most recently, Angie fabricated a rolling cart that allowed a student at a VOICE site to be more independent in her work. The cart attaches to the student’s wheelchair or walker.  The student is now able to move boxes from one place to another safely and efficiently.” 

As Smith and Bernt use various tools and lots of cardboard, wood and styrofoam to craft devices to help students, Spomer puts her sewing skills to work to make harnesses and other items to help students. 

Jodi Rust writes, “Grayson also completes many sewing projects for students ranging from making weighted blankets, adapted shirts, bibs, dressing boards and personal bags for the students to put items in on their walkers and wheelchairs.” 

Thorfinnson keeps it all organized and is an invaluable member to the therapy team. No easy task with their workshop being moved twice in a school year due to construction projects. 

“Not only has Pam assisted with moving the department twice within this school year (a monumental task), but she has saved countless hours for staff by maintaining and transporting equipment and supplies to various sites throughout the school year.  She has even gone to student’s homes to bring large pieces of equipment to schools when families have not been able to transport the equipment themselves,” writes Lisa Wieman-Schulz.

When asked about what moment in their career was most memorable in their lives, they shared these stories:

  • Smith said: “I had a little girl years ago that had only use of one hand, and when she tied her shoes for the first time she cried. I had another little girl that had two prosthetic legs, and when she stood up and had tights on she said, ‘I look like the other girls.’ Teaching her to walk and helping her to walk with those was my most memorable moment. Because she so many things against her, but she didn’t let it get her down she didn’t let it get in her way and she is in college now. Just her determination, that’s the way she was.”

  • Bernt said: “I had a student and her joints were fused, so she couldn’t move like we do. I had to teach her how to go up the steps. She’d ride her bike, nothing stopped her. She was just an inspiration to me.”

  • Spomer said: “So many of the kids, Angie would have them in preschool, and maybe Christine would have them in elementary, and maybe I would get them in high school, so we would be able to say, ‘remember when you were doing this with so-in-so, they can do that now!’ It’s like ‘YES!’ It’s the things we’ve worked on for so long.”

  • Thorfinnson said: “I worked with a little guy in preschool that came from a family where there was some neglect. By the time he came to us, he had been adopted by a new family. I worked with him in preschool, and then I saw him again in high school. He had grown so much intellectually, and it just made my heart feel good that he was impacted so much by people in school. He made it. That always stands out for me.”

The full recognition submissions for all four of these paras, and the other paras within Lincoln Public Schools, can be found below.

Angie Smith

District Motor Activity Para

Angie makes a difference in the lives of many students in our LPS community.  She is able to adapt or make anything we need for student with special needs.  With Angie's handy work, children have been able to do simple things like get up to the faucet to wash their hands to more complex things such as to being able to be in their wheelchair but still be able to move a stack of boxes at a work site.

Most recently, Angie fabricated a rolling cart that allowed a student at a VOICE site to be more independent in her work. The cart attaches to the student’s wheelchair or walker.  The student is now able to move boxes from one place to another safely and efficiently.

Angie is able to look at things that seem impossible and find solutions for our students to be successful.

Submitted by: Molly Kouba

Christine Bernt

District Motor Activity Para

Our MAPs have to travel to several different buildings, which requires them to be very organized and build relationships with a variety of students and staff.  Christine has been seeing a student for half of this year and has done a great job of building a relationship with a student that has trouble in this area and often has a difficult time working for new adults.

Christine works with a variety of students that struggle with focus and academics.  She knows how to bring each and every student out of their shell and to get the best work possible out of them.  She helps one student in particular by doing a fun activity at the beginning of the session to put him in a positive mood.  This helps him to put forth his best effort on the classroom work he works on with her.  His spelling grades are going up because of the work they are doing together.  She takes the time to understand student’s potential needs throughout the school day, and not just during the time she sees them.  As a result, she frequently has ideas and suggestions to try to help the student be successful beyond just the program she follows for the student.  She collaborates with supervising staff to share these ideas and suggestions for increased student success.

It is apparent that Christine loves working with all students.  She often states, “Give me another student.  I could squeeze in another one for 15 minutes.”  The occupational therapists appreciate this because we always manage to find more students to keep her schedule extremely full.

Christine also spends her own resources on motivators for students.  The students look forward to her special trinkets or stickers after working with her.  Students frequently tell me that I forgot to give them their sticker.  I have to remind them that those special items come from Ms. Christine.

Christine also helps with equipment needs in the schools.  One student had an adapted chair that was used daily, and a screw came out, so the student could not use it.  Christine was able to take the chair to the workshop, repair it, and bring it back out to the school the same day, so that the student would be without it as short a time as possible.

Submitted by: Holli Longe, Jill Lavene, Carla Crist, Laurie Miller, Chris Neuman, Missy Sears

Pam Thorfinnson

District Motor Activity Para

Pam Thorfinnson goes above and beyond her job duties.  To help enable students to go on field trips,  she has gone out to the student's school, picked up the equipment necessary for bathrooming, taken the piece of equipment to the field trip site, stayed and helped staff members use the equipment for transfers, and then brought the equipment back to the assigned school.  Pam also donates her own personal items for students to use.  She brought in her own dust mop to have it adapted for a student so that the student could help sweep at school.  I don't know what OT/PT staff would do without Pam Thorfinnson!

Submitted by: Jennifer Goddard, PT

Motor activity paraeducator Pam Thorfinson is invaluable to the Occupational and Physical therapy staff and our students!  Not only has Pam assisted with moving the department twice within this school year (a monumental task), but she has saved countless hours for staff by maintaining and transporting equipment and supplies to various sites throughout the school year.  She has even gone to student’s homes to bring large pieces of equipment to schools when families have not been able to transport the equipment themselves.  Our students benefit daily from her hard work and dedication.  Thank you Pam!!!

Submitted by: Lisa Wieman-Schulz

Grayson Spomer

District Motor Activity Para

The Occupational and Physical Therapy Staff would like to recognize and thank Grayson Spomer for her work and dedication to the students at Lincoln Public Schools. Grayson is currently a Motor Activity Para that works directly with students; meeting their individual needs in a variety of ways. Grayson also completes many sewing projects for students ranging from making weighted blankets, adapted shirts, bibs, dressing boards and personal bags for the students to put items in on their walkers and wheelchairs. Anyone that knows Grayson knows that she sincerely cares about the students that she works with and is always able to make a connection with them; ranging from talking about Comic Books, Star Wars, dinosaurs or bugs. Thank you for your service to the students at Lincoln Public Schools!

Submitted by: Jodi Rust

Angie Beach

Kooser Elementary

When paraeducator Angie Beach found out that one of her students at Kooser Elementary needed glasses, but was having a hard time at the doctor's office, she went above and beyond. Angie accompanied the student and his mother to the eye doctor to assist with the appointment, ensuring he was able to get the tools he needed to succeed in school.

Submitted by: Mason Burbach

Vicki Brinkman

Belmont Elementary

Vicki has an amazing relationship with each and every student she works with here at Belmont.  She supervises the Lexia interventions with our primary students and is always encouraging them to try their best, take on challenges, and maintains high standards for their behavior.  Her voice is always even tempered and students love to come to her group.  She also does our DIBELs assessments, and each student is greeted warmly, tested, then given feedback on what they did well, how their scores compare, and what they could improve.  She is a treasure here at Belmont!

Submitted by: Deb Watchorn

Kendall Krzycki

Calvert Elementary

My son Greysen has a huge smile and a busy brain. He needs extra support getting his day started right and Mrs. K is tuned in to help him each morning! She understands what helps and has good stories to share. As his mother, I am grateful that she greets him with a smile and a hug each day!

Submitted by: Becky Tegeler

Nancy Kreber

Calvert Elementary

My son Greysen learns differently and needs lots of special adult support to find success in school. Mrs. K understands how to help him, partners with him and collaborates with other school staff to make the school environment safe and fun! As a mother, I am grateful for the care she shows to my child!

Submitted by: Becky Tegeler

Judy Wasserman

Fredstrom Elementary

Judy volunteers her time in the evening for special events like music concerts to make sure her students are successful. She has also made photo albums for her students to take home in the summer to help them transition.

Submitted by: Ashley Lammers

Helen Hassebroek

Kooser Elementary

Each day, Helen has an amazing way of balancing kindness, no-nonsense, empathy, fun, and patience to support and encourage our students. She truly makes an impact in many lives at Kooser.

Submitted by: Mason Burbach

Pam Shumacher

Lakeview Elementary

Pam is an AMAZING early childhood special education para.  She goes above and beyond the call of duty on a daily basis for the students in our classrooms. When students have come to school without coats or properly fitting shoes, Pam will bring what is needed the next day.  She also finds books and toys for students that are developmentally appropriate and in their interest areas for students to take home.  

When students are having a difficult day, Pam takes the time to tell the students why she believes they are special and why she believes they can achieve their goals.  

I am a better teacher because I have Pam on my team.

Submitted by: Sarah Lefferdink

Laura Altman

McPhee Elementary

Introducing our students to Take5 and really taking time to process with students when it is needed.

Submitted by: Meg Sloup

Rene Longoria

McPhee Elementary

Rene is the sweetest most supportive adult we have in our school. His calm demeanor helps students calm down when they are having a tough time. Rene is always wanting what is best for our students and will do anything to make that happen. He has an amazing gift when it comes to working with our students at McPhee and we are so very lucky to have him.

Submitted by: Meg Sloup

Lezlee Williams

Non-Public Special Education Department

Para-educator Lezlee Williams supports the Non-Public Special Education team. For two years, she has dedicated energy and passion into making this LPS program function, supporting a team of fifteen special education teachers, SLPs, psychologists, as well as occupational and physical therapists, who serve over 200 students in Lincoln's parochial schools. She helps track IEP and MDT reports and related paperwork, coordinates meetings, organizes and maintains student files. Administrators and teachers throughout the public and non-public schools recognize Lezlee’s sincere relationship building strategies as she connects with them on a weekly basis. In addition, her true passion is in the area of supporting Autism awareness and building the awareness of how each one of us has an important role to play.

Submitted by: Cami Prochnow

Nichole Oberheu

Park Middle School

Ms. O, has aided numerous students in being their best academically and behaviorally.  One student, who had difficulty testing and often refused to test, remarked "I need her to guide me to the answer".  She consistently encourages students to do their best and they respond by putting forth their best effort.  She will listen to students who are resistant and then patiently explain to them why they need to complete a task.  She has suggested engaging books to students who refused to read independently and encouraged follow up discussions.

Submitted by: Adeline MIckens

Jacci Reddick

Rousseau Elementary

I am in the Specialist rotation each day and I have students return their books to the library each morning during my plan time.  Jacci comes to  the media center each morning when she can,  to help checking and shelve books. This makes my day go so much better, because I can then focus on planning for students.  I would not be able to do what is best for kids without her daily help!  Thank you, Jacci!

Submitted by: Carol Hughes

Katherine Stewart

Rousseau Elementary

She goes above and beyond after school to help my student with Down's Syndrome who comes from a single parent home. She helps by giving support and finding programs in the community that can assist with care. Katherine is one amazing para who is making a difference in a student's life.

Submitted by: Michelle McClure

Wendy Rodney

Rousseau Elementary

Wendy comes to  the media center whenever she has time during the day to help check-out students or check-in books. I would not be able to do what is best for kids without her daily help!  Thank you, Wendy!!

Submitted by: Carol Hughes

Stacie Swanson, Katherine Stewart, Courtney Anderson

Rousseau Elementary

We have so many wonderful paras at Rousseau that go above and beyond for our students and families each and everyday. Although it is difficult to pick just one story to share, there is one that definitely stands out in our minds. Stacie Swanson, Katherine Stewart, and Courtney Anderson, work daily with a young girl who has some significant needs. This child's mother was struggling at home and beginning to become overwhelmed with her daughter’s care and needs. These ladies quickly volunteered, without hesitation or question, to clean, organize, and childproof their home. They spent a Saturday afternoon with her and were her angels for the day. Since then they have also gone to help this child celebrate her birthday and give mom a break for a little “me” time that was so desperately needed by spending a few hours with the child. These ladies are amazing and performed these acts of kindness without being asked or for any recognition. Our staff, students, and school families appreciate the hard work that all of our paraeducators do for us!

Submitted by: Paula Smith 

Carol Coleman

Saratoga Elementary

Carol always goes above and beyond to help not only the students but the teachers in our building.  During the holiday season the Kindergarten team does a unit on The Gingerbread Man.  Carol bakes authentic gingerbread cookies.  We also had a homework celebration at the end of last year and she helped me with the celebration.  Carol was a one-on-one para for a Kindergarten student and she was always making things to help this student be successful.  It does not matter which room she is in or which student she is responsible for she always gives 100%!

She is our building's para rep for the district.  She takes this responsibility very seriously as she wants to make sure that each para has everything they need to be the best they can be.  Carol is not only a para but I am very proud to call her my friend!

Submitted by: Kris Jenkins

Deidre Bergman

West Lincoln Elementary

Deidre is an amazing member of our para team! She is always ready and willing to work with any student and provide any support that we ask her to. Deidre works with a group of 1st graders on their high frequency words, she is always coming up with new and exciting ways to help these students practice their words. When one of our students moved to a different school across town, Deidre was more than happy to help out by going to the school with him for his first few days. I believe that because of her willingness to do this, the student was able to transition much faster. Thank you Deidre for your compassion and dedication to the students at West Lincoln.

Submitted by: Megan Riggert

Jamie Dejonge

West Lincoln Elementary

Jamie works hard at not only meeting her regular duties within the classroom, but also provides extra support to a student that needs assistance in our classroom with learning appropriate social skills. She has worked hard at learning how to balance the demands of her normal duties and supporting him to be successful in our classroom as well!  She has done a great job of helping to make a significant impact in this student's life. We have seen this student's behavior change significantly in a positive way! It is amazing!

Submitted by: Brittany Brown

Lindsey Bowman

West Lincoln Elementary

The whole preschool class loves Miss Lindsey.  She does so many things for us.  She is really good at building relationships and individualizing those relationships for the students needs.  Everyday at outside time you can usually hear children asking Miss Lindsey if she can play with them.  We love the smiles she brings to our faces everyday.

Submitted by: Brandi

Maria Pagan

West Lincoln Elementary

Maria is very outgoing and proactive in our classroom! I love how she thinks of the small details and is very observant about the needs of the class! She is very friendly and helpful with all the students!

Submitted by: Brittany Brown

Ryan Lorchick

West Lincoln Elementary

Ryan joined our team in the middle of the year but you would have thought he had been hear from the beginning. He jumped right in and was always willing to help. Ryan helps one of my students start each day on a positive note. Since Ryan has started working with this student, he has had fewer behaviors throughout the day, is happier, and is completing more work. Ryan gives 110% all day long and we are so blessed to have him at West Lincoln!

Submitted by: Megan Riggert

Sue Long

West Lincoln Elementary

Sue Long has worked many years at West Lincoln, and knows the families well. She cares deeply for students. Last year, Sue purchased a student’s class photos for his family. She does such a great job implementing lesson plans that she helped a student make progress in math for for several years.

Submitted by: Delia Michalski

Angel Manzo

West Lincoln Elementary

Angel has a place in her heart for working with nonverbal students who have severe needs. She has done amazing things for a few different students over the past few years helping them learn and communicate their wants and needs. She does a great job at setting expectations for kids and following those expectations.  There are times where students will display behavior problems because they don't want to do what is asked. When this happens Angel is really good at waiting the student out until the student follows through with the original direction. We are extremely thankful for the knowledge and expertise that Angel brings into our building.

Submitted by: Jamie Wobig

Cora Corning

West Lincoln Elementary

Cora has been working with school age children for over 25 years.  She has a special place in her heart  for students who have severe needs. She does a great job teaching children how to do tasks. Cora can be enthusiastic with kids when they need it most. We have a little boy with down syndrome who really enjoys spending time with Cora. He gets really happy and excited when he sees her. Cora has also done an amazing job at helping potty train a student who has been in diapers all his life until the age of 8. She has had determination and consistency  the past few years to help him learn to use the toilet and it was accomplished this year. I really appreciate Cora's dedication to doing her job responsibilities every day.

Submitted by: Jamie Wobig

Kathyna Butcher

West Lincoln Elementary

Kat works with a student who is nonverbal and has very limited communication skills.  Through her loving and patient attitude, she has been able to help him utilize his PECS book and determine his needs, even when he isn't able to share them on his own.

Submitted by: Alexandria Baruth

Lois Watson

West Lincoln Elementary

Lois has done an amazing job helping us with a student who came to our school last year who really struggled being in the classroom. Lois spent a lot of time teaching this student to be ok in the classroom without being disruptive. She worked really hard on helping her understand what an inside voice was and also that it wasn't ok to run inside the building. This student went from being included in the classroom activities 50% of the time to now 100% of the time. Lois' verbal and nonverbal actions are always calm which in return has helped our students remain calm at times they might be escalated. We really appreciate the different skill sets that Lois brings to our building here at West Lincoln.

Submitted by: Jamie Wobig

Lynn Fischer

West Lincoln Elementary

Lynn Fischer has worked at West Lincoln for 9 years. She anticipates needs for a variety of students. Lynn fades scaffolding in a way that allows students to struggle productively, while avoiding frustration as much as possible. Her ultimate goal is always self-determination for students. Lynn is one of the most flexible Para educators I have ever worked with. Her schedule changes on sometimes a daily basis, yet she supports all students with ease. Lynn uses her sewing talents to help students, including a time that she made a princess dress for a student on Halloween.

Submitted by: Delia Michalski

Sherri Dreeszen

Sheridan Elementary

I would like to recognize Sherri Dreeszen, who is a paraeducator at Sheridan Elementary. She is amazing at what she does.

I have the privilege of working with Sherri on a daily basis, and she always goes above and beyond for her kids and coworkers. She shows up every day with a smile on her face ready to teach and take care of her student. She started working with him when he was in Kindergarten and he is now in fifth grade. He has grown so much and I’m not surprised due to the high expectations she has for him. She has built such a strong relationship with him as well as his family. She steps in at times to personally help when basic needs are not being met. She is starting to worry about his transition to middle school, and will be a part of making sure things are in place for him for sixth grade.

Sherri also fills in where ever she is needed. You will find her on the playground, in the cafeteria covering lunchtime, at indoor recess, before school supervisor, covering lunches for other paraeducators, and many more jobs. She is an amazing teammate.

Thank you for everything that you do, Sherri! We all appreciate you!

Submitted by: Karen Schur

Posted on April 20, 2016

Virtual field trip, engaging journey and fruit fly karaoke

A couple of Irving Middle School teachers and two seventh-grade classes piloted the evolution virtual field trip offered through Morrill Hall, ‘Evolution Explored.’

Teachers Lindsey Reinieri and Molly Hoffmann partnered with Linda Dickeson, Lincoln Public Schools distance learning coordinator; Annie Mumgaard virtual learning coordinator at Morrill Hall (and also an LPS board member), and Tory Petz, also of Morrill Hall. The trio helped bring an enriching experience into the classroom.

They explored the evolution exhibit, highlighting Peter and Rosmary Grant's research on the Galapagos Islands, a UNL student's diatom research, fruit fly research, and the world of mutating viruses.

The session included interactive and engaging experiences for the students. They were able to deliberate possible causes for the finches on the Galapagos Islands changing over a 30-year period, explore how viruses are able to survive through mutation, and were even challenged to simulate the courtship songs of fruit flies with a little fruit fly karaoke activity.

Posted on April 19, 2016

LPS BackPack Walk raises $1.3 million and climbing – filling family fridges

Thousands of walkers streamed around Lincoln East High School on a brisk spring morningSaturday, all wearing bright turquoise t-shirts that proclaimed their cause: “BackPack Extra Mile Walk, Helping to Feed Families One BackPack at a Time.”

The ninth annual BackPack Walk – a partnership initiative of Lincoln Public Schools and the Food Bank of Lincoln – raised more than $145,000 this year and donations are still climbing. That means the annual walk has raised more than $1.3 million since it began – with the goal of “Filling the Fridge” for the children of our community.

Shari Styskal, director of Budget at LPS and the woman who coordinates the BackPack Walk: “Thanks to everyone for all their hard work and another fantastic BackPack Extra Mile Walk.”

Alynn Sampson, director of Youth and Family Programs for the Food Bank: “This is remarkable that we keep getting this many people coming out – after all these years – to help feed the kids of Lincoln. It means a lot to the Food Bank, to our kids, to our community.”

Liz Standish, associate superintendent for Business Affairs at LPS: “Thank you so much for helping address hunger in our community as we raise money to send more BackPacks home every Friday with our students – as we work to fill the fridge for all the families in our community.”

Schools with the most donations in their category were:

  •  Maxey Elementary School
  •  Lux Middle School
  •  Lincoln East High School

The annual event is not only a fund-raiser, but also an educational opportunity. So please continue to help spread the word about the BackPack program.

  •  The BackPack Program provides food-filled backpacks that are sent home each Friday to many LPS families in need – to help them get through the weekends.
  •  The Food Bank of Lincoln launched the BackPack Program during the 2004-05 school year at Clinton Elementary School, sending home backpacks on Friday afternoons with 50 kids.Currently 2,582 students at 38 LPS schools receive weekly food-filled backpacks. The program now also includes students from private and parochial schools in Lincoln, as well as from 29 rural communities.
  •  During the first three months of the 2015-16 school year, a record 43,092 food-filled backpacks were distributed. At the conservative estimate of five meals per backpack, that means this year the BackPack program has provided 215,460 meals.
  •  The need continues to grow dramatically: This school year 16,413 of LPS students – 42.7 percent of our student population – qualify for free and reduced lunch.
  •  Children who live in poverty face tougher odds for achievement than do other children. Children who live in poverty for at least half their childhoods are 90 percent more likely to leave high school without a diploma and four times more likely to be an unwed teen parent when compared with people who were never poor as a child.
Thanks to the BackPack Extra Mile Steering Committee:
Shari Styskal, Zachary Baehr, Mindy Burbach, Sue Cassata, De Ann Currin, Gary Czapla, Pat Hunter-Pirtle, Mary Kay Roth, Cindy Schwaninger, John Neal, Liz Standish and Greg Tebo from Lincoln Public Schools – and John Mabry, Michaella Kumke, Alynn Sampson, and Scott Young from the Food Bank.

Posted on April 16, 2016

LPS announced two positions filled

Lincoln Public Schools Friday announced two positions have been filled:  The new director of Transportation and the new curriculum specialist for Social Studies. 
The new Transportation director is: Ryan Robley.
Ryan is currently the coordinator of Transportation for Durango School District in Durango, Colorado. Prior to that, Ryan was Transportation supervisor for Burlington Community Schools in Burlington, Iowa, and also director of Transportation for Sergeant Bluff-Lutton Schools in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa.

The new curriculum specialist for Social Studies is: Jaci Kellison.
Jaci is currently a Social Studies teacher at Lincoln Southeast High School. She has taught at Southeast since 2010 and has been with Lincoln Public Schools since 2008. Her Bachelor of Science degree is from the University of Kansas and she holds two Master degrees. Her Master of Science Education is from the University of Kansas and her Master of Arts in Historical Studies is from Nebraska Wesleyan University.

Posted on April 15, 2016

Highlights of 4/12 Lincoln Board of Education meeting

Lincoln Public Schools:

Highlights of 4/12 Lincoln Board of Education meeting

The Lincoln Board of Education held a regular meeting on Tuesday, April 12 at Lincoln Public Schools District Office, 5905 O St. The Board will hold its next regular meeting on Tuesday, April 26, 2016.


Highlights of Board Meeting

LPS Policies

The Board discussed changes in several LPS policies:

  • Age of attendance, more clearly defining the start and end of the school year for the purpose of providing services to students approaching and reaching their 21st
  • Option students, clarifying conditions for which option students can be assigned to a building closed to transfer – related to siblings.
  • Technology resources and Internet safety, updating language.
  • Parental involvement, related to a minor change that came with the new national Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
  • Controversial issues, changes meant to reinforce the purpose of teaching controversial issues, express the importance of working with families, and expressing how the policy applies to unplanned conversations that occur in classrooms.

Speaking to the “controversial issues” proposed policy change, John Neal – assistant to the Superintendent for Administration and Governmental Relations – stressed that this policy only addresses one of many ways the school district communicates with parents.


Neal explained there were several specific areas to highlight in the proposed controversial issues policy:


“We wanted to emphasize that we value the opportunity for students to develop and practice critical thinking skills,” he said. “The goal is developing those skills, not to make a decision for the child about any particular issue.”


Neal also underlined the recommendation to retain the broader the scope of the policy, and not narrow the focus to one or two issues.


The policy also looks at required parental notification when a controversial issue will be included in a classroom, making sure that students and families receive notification far enough in advance to request alternative activities.


Finally, Neal said, the policy refers to those “teachable moments” in a classroom when a student might ask a teacher something that is outside the curriculum. “We are allowing a teacher to answer that question using professional judgment…Again, we are focusing on developing those critical thinking skills.”


Board of Education member Don Mayhew said they had worked hard to capture the appropriate spirit of the policy. “We wanted to make sure we had clear language about parental notification, making sure parents can protect and are in control of their kids’ education, but also making sure there was nothing punitive for teachers if something came up organically in the classroom. We needed to find the sweet spot for everyone we serve and provide a sound educational environment.”


Board member Matt Schulte agreed: “I think we ended up in a good place with clarity on strengthening parental notification to make sure parents are empowered and can be involved in their kids’ education.”


Board members will vote final approval on these proposals at the April 26 Board meeting.


For more information:


Grant application

The Board discussed application for an $80,000 EducationQuest Foundation’s College Access Grant with the goal of increasing the percentage of Lincoln Northeast High School graduates who enroll in post-secondary programs after high school.


School construction projects

Tuesday the Board approved several construction projects funded through the 2014 bond issue:

  • West Lincoln Elementary School, $4.3 million, classroom addition, security entrance, restrooms, expansion of geothermal wellfield, pavement and more.
  • Humann Elementary School, $8.9 million, significant renovation and additions for building, extensive interior and exterior work, and more.
  • Park Middle School, $3.1 million, new gymnasium, classrooms, commons area, secure entrance and misc. renovations and support space.

All three projects will be completed by the summer of 2017.


Resilient Firewall and threat management

The Board of Education also discussed and approved replacing and updating the school district’s current firewall and threat management system with a purchase from Sirius for Cisco Firewall equipment.


BACKGROUND: A traditional Firewall is a cybersecurity device that provides the first line of defense against electronic threats, serving as a gatekeeper between the district’s servers and the Internet.  In addition to fulfilling this function, the current generation of Firewall equipment is capable of managing more advanced threats from outside and inside the network by employing intrusion detection/prevention software and providing control over applications that increase the vulnerability of the district network to inappropriate use.  The existing Firewall equipment at LPS is five years old and does not provide the support for the expected future volume of Internet traffic or inspection capabilities necessary to properly secure the district network and data.


The total cost of the proposed equipment that includes Firewall equipment for each of the district data centers is $703,093, but the district will seek partial reimbursement of 60 percent based on the current E-Rate formula for Category Two services – through the Federal E-Rate Program.  That would bring the cost down to $346,575.69.  


Newly annexed property

The city of Lincoln has annexed two parcels of land, which automatically brings these properties into the LPS District.  These properties need to be assigned attendance centers so that potential purchasers of homes in this area will know which schools they will be attending.


Approved attendance areas are:

  • Shadow Creek, Annexation Ordinance #20280, for 2015-16 school year:  Pyrtle Elementary School, Lux Middle School and Lincoln East High School.
  • Woodlands at Yankee Hill, Annexation Ordinance #20284, for 2015-16 school year:  Maxey Elementary School, Pound Middle School and Lincoln Southeast High School.

Celebrations of Success

The Board recognized:

  • Jason Rushing, a computer science teacher at Humann Elementary School, who won the Excellence in Teaching with Technology Award sponsored by the Nebraska Educational Technology Association (NETA).

Posted on April 12, 2016

LPS DECA students qualify for international competition

Lincoln Public Schools had 15 high school students qualify for international competition by placing in the top three of their events during the 59th annual State DECA Conference held in March.

DECA competitive events are designed to evaluate the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for career success in a wide array of professions. Over 900 Nebraska students participated in more than 45 competitive events, professional development seminars and elected state officers in March.

Alex Hughes from Southeast High School was elected as Vice President on the 2016–17 state officer action team.

Students placing in the top three, and continuing on to international competition in Nashville, TN include:

Professional Selling Events
Hospitality and Tourism Professional Selling Event
TIE for First Place: Sydney Long, Lincoln Southeast High School

Individual Series Events
Principles of Business Management and Administration
Second Place: Mili Samal, Lincoln Southwest High School

Principles of Finance
First Place: David Petersen, Lincoln Southwest High School
Second Place: Harley Edic, Lincoln East High School

Principles of Hospitality and Tourism
Third Place: Halle Hamilton, Lincoln Southwest High School

Principles of Marketing
First Place: Peyton Bash, Lincoln East High School
Second Place: Ben Weber, Lincoln East High School

Hotel and Lodging Management
Second Place: Qismat Niazi, Lincoln Southwest High School

Human Resources Management
First Place: Emma Vertin, Lincoln Southwest High School

Marketing Management Series
First Place: Dallas Jones, Lincoln Southeast High School

Personal Financial Literacy
Second Place: Emilee Shostrom, Lincoln East High School

Management Team Decision Making Events
Business Law and Ethics
Third Place: Maya Samals, Jacob Shiers, Lincoln Southwest High School

Sports and Entertainment
Second Place: Madie Otte, Grace Pugh, Lincoln Southeast High School

Posted on April 12, 2016

Students learn core values through Link N Leaders

Wide-eyed and eager to work with Husker student-athletes, over 200 Lincoln Public School students and their parents entered the Hawks Championship Center on Sunday afternoon for the third annual Link N Leaders.

Link N Leaders is a program aligned with the Lincoln Public Schools PBIS initiative and the core values of the UNL Athletic Department. Each elementary and middle school nominated six students between 3–6 grades who exhibit core values of loyalty, trust, teamwork, respect, and integrity.

UNL life skills coordinator, Stacey Burling, worked with the LPS Special Education Department to set up the event.

“The goal is to connect our student athlete leaders with student leaders in Lincoln Public Schools,” Burling said. “We decided to base all the activities on Nebraska’s core values— respect, loyalty, integrity, teamwork, and trust.”

As the students worked through the stations, they were able to meet UNL student-athletes from all sports. Activities included a blindfolded sock throw, copying brick formations without speaking, and other fun activities.

Here is what the students said they learned during the event:

  • Autumn, a Beattie Elementary fifth grader: “I learned that being in leadership, you can always stand up and be yourself, you don’t have to hide anything. It made me feel way better about myself, and about my friends.”
  • Itai, a Sheridan Elementary fourth grader: “Today I learned what being a leader is. It’s giving respect, integrity, courtesy, kindness, love, and teamwork, trustworthiness and citizenship. The best part was doing a handstand with football players holding my feet.”
  • Zoe, a sixth grader at Lefler Middle School: “To be nicer, and to do things that other people aren’t doing, and just do the right thing. So other people will do the right thing and we’ll have a better world.”
  • Corinne, Prescott Elementary third grader: “I liked the teamwork. We got to building things and we had to work together.”

While the students participated in the activity stations, parents were taken on a tour of the Husker facilities and were given an opportunity to hear from a UNL student-athlete panel.

At the end of the afternoon, students stood in the middle of the field with their parents and UNL athletes around them as they repeated and signed the Leadership pledge.

Posted on April 11, 2016

McPhee celebrates half a century

Right down the street from the State Capitol, McPhee Elementary School celebrated a 50th year anniversary on a gorgeous Sunday April afternoon with music and memories.

Current and former students, current and former teachers and administrators, and an assortment of families and friends strolled the hallways, pondered the historic displays and paused in the library media center to look through current and former McPhee yearbooks. 

Lincoln High School’s drum line musicians were poised outdoors, just across the street from McPhee, performing for visitors – but also giving elementary kids a chance to try their chops at drum sticks.

And inside a rolling video showed McPhee English Language Learner students interviewing Ed Zimmer, the city’s Historic Preservation Planner, asking him about the history of their school.

Posted on April 10, 2016

A peek inside Wysong Elementary School

Standing in what will be a future kindergarten classroom, local news reporters Friday got a first look at the new Sally G. Wysong Elementary School set to open in southeast Lincoln in the fall of 2016.

“We believe in investing in the longevity of our school buildings,” said Scott Wieskamp, director of Facilities and Maintenance at LPS. “We build them to last 50, 60, 70, 80 years.”

Randy Oltman, principal of the new elementary school, said he is honored to serve as the leader of Wysong, explaining he is now hiring staff, reaching out to parents, establishing procedures for the new school.  “It’s a beautiful facility,” he said, specifically noting the small group spaces and natural lighting.

Friday tour included future classrooms, gymnasium, multipurpose room, library media center, as well as art and music classrooms. Wieskamp pointed out the secure entrances, technology throughout the school and explained that “LPS buildings adapt and change to meet the changing needs of teachers and students.”

Quick Facts:

  •  School will be more than 75,000 square feet
  •  Site is 20.43 acres
  •  Four-section: four classrooms per grade
  •  Preschool-fifth grade
  •  Student capacity of 525

The $20 million Wysong Elementary is funded through the 2014 LPS bond issue, which also financed school additions, renovations, technology and security updates throughout the community, as well as a new middle school (opening fall of 2017) and a renovated facility to house middle school students with behavior issues (opening fall of 2016).

“All of the 2014 bond issue projects will be finished by the end of the summer of 2017,” Wieskamp said, explaining that projects are estimated to be under budget with enough savings to fund additional construction projects to be determined in coming months.

*Sally G. Wysong: Sally G. Wysong was a long-time early childhood advocate who ran the Meadowlane Nursery School, and later served on the Lincoln Board of Education.

Posted on April 10, 2016

McPhee Elementary celebrates 50 Sunday, April 10

McPhee Elementary School, 820 Goodhue Blvd., celebrates 50 years of service to the children of Lincoln with festivities set for 2-4 p.m. Sunday, April 10.
The school anniversary celebration will feature tours of the building, historic displays and more.

Posted on April 09, 2016

Art club students portray beauty, perseverance in Memory Project

The LSE Art Master's Club took part in the Memory Project this year.

The Memory Project is a nonprofit organization that invites art students to create portraits of children from around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as neglect, abuse, loss of parents and extreme poverty. The organization sent photos of children from Ethiopia.

Some of the members from the club created a painting of that child. They sent the painting back to the organization along with a photo of the artist. Then the organization will deliver the paintings to the children and send a video of them receiving the artwork. 

Participating students included

  • Ally Hall
  • Hannah Yohman 
  • Molly Cummings
  • Rebecca Terry
  • Yasmine Sayre
  • Katy Krejci

Posted on April 08, 2016

LPS names new Curriculum Specialist for Career and Technical Education

Lincoln Public Schools announced Wednesday the new Curriculum Specialist for Career and Technical Education: Cindy Baum, currently curriculum director and assistant high school principal at Aurora Public Schools in Aurora.
Prior to the past two years at Aurora, Baum's leadership experience includes high school principal and assistant elementary principal at Elm Creek (Nebraska) Public Schools; professional development coordinator at ESU #10 in Kearney; and director at Northeast Nebraska Career Academy and High School Transitions, Northeast Community College in Norfolk. 
She has Master's degrees in Curriculum and Instruction and in Educational Administratio, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and from Wayne State College respectively.  


Posted on April 06, 2016

LPS's Morehouse elected to top spot of national organization

Lisa Morehouse has been elected as president-elect of the National Association of Educational Office Professionals (NAEOP). She has been a member since 1996 and has previously served on the board of directors as administrative council chairman, area director, and is currently serving as vice president. She will be installed as president-elect this July, and as president in July of 2017.

1 - What made you interested in being the president of the NAEOP?

I have always had a passion for personal and professional growth, which I believe was started as a child spending time with a dad who is a lifelong learner. I believe it is my responsibility to continue to grow and to improve myself. This belief is coupled with a strong desire to help others in this same endeavor of attaining opportunities for growth.

Although I received my Bachelors in Elementary Education from Nebraska Wesleyan in 1981, I ended up taking a different career path into the world of retail management. Eventually I found my way back into education in 1992 when I began my career with LPS in the Purchasing department. At that time, I also became a member of the Lincoln Public Schools Association of Office Professionals (LPSAOP).

Through LPSAOP and the Nebraska Educational Office Professionals Association (NEOPA), I was introduced to many opportunities to develop myself professionally. I served in multiple positions on the local and state board of directors, eventually serving as President in both associations.

In 1996 I attended my first national conference in Chicago where I saw how networking, leadership skills and professional development can change an office professional. I remember listening to the national President emphasize the importance of continuing our education and pursing professional growth. This conference reignited my desire to encourage and assist other office professionals with their professional growth. This is also where my desire to become national president started.

2 - What kind of impact does this group have on you and how does that benefit LPS?

I believe there are two areas the association impacts our office professionals and the district. First; the opportunity to be involved and start networking within LPS; getting to know other office professionals in similar positions opens communication lines. This enables a new office professional to reach out to a veteran office professional as they settle into their job. I have seen how networking within our district leads to improved leadership skills. Many times this leads to career growth for the individual. The district benefits from having experienced office professionals on staff.  My own involvement allowed me growth with LPS as I attained the skills and confidence to pursue positions with more responsibility moving from a Secretary II in Purchasing to a Secretary IV/Office Manager in Human Resources.

The second area that has a major impact on LPS office professionals stems from participation in the NAEOP Professional Standards Program (PSP).

This nationally recognized program provides the opportunity for members to enhance their professional growth and competencies through academic programs, conferences and institutes. After receiving my Bachelors, CEOE, PSP certification, I became the PSP Director for LPSAOP and have been actively involved in promoting the PSP program for LPS office professionals since 1999. I was also appointed to serve as the national PSP Director for two years.  I strongly believe the continuing education of our educational office professionals is essential to aid them in adapting to the rapidly changing world in which we work.

Lincoln Public Schools recognizes the strength and benefits of the PSP program and supports our office professionals in this endeavor by offering staff development, academic opportunities, and PSP stipends based on the certification level they achieve. We currently have approximately 85 LPS office professionals that have received PSP certification and approximately 20 additional members working towards certification. This means LPS has over one third of our office professionals continuing their professional development.

3 - What issues or projects is the group working on to help its members?

In addition to continue to offer conferences and workshops for education credit and professional development at the local, state and national levels, our members also work to provide funds for a variety of student scholarships. Our local association, LPSAOP, gives an annual $1,300 scholarship to an LPS student pursing higher education. We have awarded such scholarships to LPS students for over 30 years.

4 - How has the role of office professionals changed over the last few decades, and what do you foresee for the future roles?

The many changes in our world over the past two decades have caused a ripple effect into the role of the educational office professional. From terminology and technology, from our responses to our attitudes, we are constantly changing. When I started in Purchasing 23 years ago, we were called secretaries. Now we are office professionals and administrative assistants. At that time, secretaries did most of the typing for the administrators. Now the administrators tend to do much of it on their own. We relied heavily on the typewriter and the fax machine; now we use computers and scanners. In the schools we still continue to answer the phone and direct traffic but now we tend to have a wider set of roles, touching a little bit on nurse, counselor and computer tech. Another positive and exciting change has been with the culture and diversity in our schools.  

As I peer into the future, I see a strong need for the office professional to continue to develop themselves professionally through staff development, workshops and conferences. Technology is going to continue to change, new policies and programs are going to continue to be implemented on a regular basis.  The office professional needs to recognize this and continue to grow in order to support their administrators and staff. And more importantly, to be able to give our students and families the best skills and services we are capable of.

Posted on April 06, 2016

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