Randall Farmer didn’t plan to go to college.
He thought he wanted to be a small engine mechanic, then decided to go to college on a whim, spent six years doing archeology with the National Park Service, then thought to try teaching because, after all, they get summers off.
He ended up helping at a psychiatric hospital his first ‘summer’ and began working with Lincoln Public Schools, specifically with the Behavioral Skills Program. After a decade of work in Pennsylvania working with primarily inner city youth, he began working at the Juvenile Detention Center in Lancaster County, and was totally unprepared.
“One, these were the most challenging kids I have ever seen, and two, they were the most amazing and brilliant kids I have ever seen,” Farmer said. “So how do you get the kids excited about learning?”
Today Farmer is the supervisor of the Pathfinder Education Program in LPS. He acknowledged that the Pathfinder program needed outside help, and it came in the form of a national collaboration of National Partnership for Juvenile Services. There were very few places to go for help eight years ago, he said, but that has changed.
Students at Pathfinder typically have a law violation, or violation of probation or parole. They attend Pathfinder for their own safety, the community’s safety and to limit flight risk. The program is housed at 1200 Radcliff St. When the building was designed, LPS had a key role. The building itself, is designed around the classrooms.
The goals are credit recovery, filling gaps in knowledge and skills, and inspiring students to learn.
He says the ones we hear about in the news, are the kids he knows. And, he says, “Yes, they are still kids.”
Later he added, “Remember this, juveniles are not adults.”
They do not think like adults, they still lack impulse control, logical reasoning, and predictive skills. And this is due to a brain that is still developing, Farmer said.
The Pathfinder program had 639 student enrollments last year – though average daily attendance is in the 50s - and every one of the student stories is different.
“The key is helping them understand that the struggles they are going through have an explanation,” Farmer said.
Helping youth understand how they reached this point in their life is critical for their maturation.
“That’s the way it is …” is a common statement, he said. They aren’t just justifications. “What we have to do is show them there is a different way.”
Most students have lived life one way for 14 years, and that’s what they know. It takes time and repetition and caring to understand the same social contract that makes most people follow traffic signals.
It can come down to the right moment, the right phrase from a guest speaker or just the right person.
One young man had been struggling at the program multiple times, Farmer said. One day he approached Farmer to say, “I have a baby I need to take care of, I have to graduate and today is the day it starts.”
Some students are former student-athletes with bright futures, others are kids who have lived through horrendous situations.
When students are at Pathfinder, they:
- get three meals a day and a snack;
- are sleeping safely;
- are not using any substances;
- are 10- to 19-years-old, with an average of 15.8;
- come from various schools across the city;
- are males and females, two-to-one;
- stay on average 26 days, though most come in for a few days or a few months;
- attend based on security needs, not academic level, thus there is one general classroom for all ages;
- attend school 92 percent of the time.
Students in special education and youth of color are over-represented in attendees (which Farmer said is a national issue).
Farmer said it’s state law that students cannot be punished academically for their problems with the law. The program is not treatment, and is just one available path for students.
A life of incarceration costs $3-$5 million for one person, Farmer said, so every positive outcome for Pathfinder saves taxpayer money.
The program is funded by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, and coordinated with Lancaster County. Staff are certified, and the program earns approval by the Nebraska Department of Education.
Kids take math, science, English, social studies and the same core classes - including P.E., which is new this year - for six periods a day. Life skills classes are taught in the evenings and weekends.
Kids are resilient. Teachers are too, Farmer said. One student told an LPS administrator that they just needed a chance. Then two other kids admitted on the spot that it will also take more than one chance, because they will likely make more mistakes.
“They don’t need to be punished anymore,” Farmer said. “They are amazing, amazing intelligent - I would argue genius - if you see their creativity.”
“This is my passion; this is what I love to do.”
Posted on January 20, 2015
Hugh McDermott, who has been serving as Interim Principal at Southwest High School for these last two years has announced his retirement effective at the end of this school year (2014-15).
Mr. McDermott came to Southwest from Irving Middle School, where he was principal for 9 years. Previous to that, Mr. McDermott served as principal at Lefler Middle School for 14 years. Mr. McDermott is finishing his 40th year in the education business; 33 of those years with LPS, 4 years as assistant principal for Papillion-La Vista Schools, and three years at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as an audiovisuals instructor.
McDermott always stated that as long as he could stay ahead of the students mentally and physically he would continue this type of work but that when the students would begin to “catch up” with him, it would be time to step down from this position of responsibility.
He is pleased with the work he has contributed to at LPS. He informed his leadership team late last week and his faculty on Tuesday, Jan. 20th at the end of the day. Mr. McDermott is unclear about his future plans other than he knows he will have to stay busy at something and that he will greatly miss the outstanding LPS teachers, administrators, students, and parents he has worked with over these many years.
1975-1981---Teacher at Goodrich Junior High (6 years)
1981-1984----Instructor at UNL, teaching Audiovisuals 359, working on doctorate (3 years)
1984-1988---Assistant Principal, Papillion-La Vista (4 years)
1988-1990---Assistant Principal, Irving Junior High (2 years)
1990-2004---Principal, Lefler Middle School (14 years)
2004-2013---Principal, Irving Middle School (9 years)
2013-2015---Interim Principal, Southwest High School (2 years)
Posted on January 20, 2015
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.
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 December 16, 2014
A letter to families in Lincoln Public Schools, from Supt. Steve Joel
We are sending this message to share information with you about a somber topic related to our young people. During the past year, our city has experienced teenage suicide attempts, and the deaths of several students by suicide. For this reason, we are concerned for the safety of our youth.
Every year, our secondary students receive suicide prevention education via the Signs of Suicide prevention program. This resource instructs students to ACT-- Acknowledge,Care, and Tell a trusted adult if they or peers are experiencing signs or risk factors of suicide.
- ACKNOWLEDGE the signs of distress that you or someone you know is experiencing.
- CARE enough to help yourself or others.
- TELL a trusted adult so that help can be found.
This week in our middle and high school classrooms, teachers will be reminding students of this information and to ACT when they know of any situation that threatens the safety of any student.
We have reached out to our community and will quickly come together with mental health leaders, law enforcement officials, educators from the public and private sector and our families to utilize the expertise in our community - to talk about this issue.
As always, we remind you to keep those lines of communication open with your student, which could include interactions on social media. Encourage them to share the things they are experiencing, and to seek assistance if they need help - or if they know someone else who needs help.
We need to make sure our young people know we are here for them.
Lincoln Public Schools Superintendent
Posted on December 03, 2014
The following are the Parent/Teacher Conference Dates for the 2014-15 school year for Middle Schools:
Lux, Lefler, Pound, Schoo, and Scott will conference on these dates:
Thursday, September 11, and Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Tuesday, February 3, and Thursday, February 5, 2015
Schools choosing alternate dates:
Dawes: September 9, September 11, February 10, February 12
Culler: September 25, November 20, February 17, April 16
Irving: September 18 and 22, 2014; February 23 and 25, 2015
Goodrich September 9, November 4, February 5, April 13
Mickle: September 16, November 20, February 10, April 23
Park: September 23, November 18, February 10, April 7
Posted on May 29, 2014
The Chemistry Department at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln encourages you to save the date for this fall's Chemistry Day, Saturday, Oct. 11 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at Hamilton Hall on the City Campus. More information can be found on their website. For More Information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-472-3514.
Posted on April 30, 2014
The Nebraska Academy of Vocal Arts provides music education and performance opportunities. NAOVA is accepting registration for students in grades 3-6 at their website, http://naova.org.
For more information, visit the website or call 402-202-0565.
Posted on April 09, 2014
Parents and grandparents of students in Lincoln Public Schools can learn about saving for college through the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust (NEST), thanks to a new online program offered by the Nebraska State Treasurer’s Office.
The program provides basic information about 529 college savings plans including a section on myths vs. facts and a section for users to check their knowledge. Another feature is a calculator that suggests how much parents or grandparents should be saving based on a child’s age. Audio is provided during part of the presentation.
State Treasurer Don Stenberg launched the new online program to provide information about state-sponsored 529 college savings plans in general and NEST in particular. The new program, introduced Oct. 1, 2013, is called Nebraska NEST Financial Scholars for Families.
The easy-to-follow, interactive program was developed by EverFi, an educational technology company in Washington, D.C. The 15-minute tutorial can be accessed through the home page on Treasurer’s website at www.treasurer.org. There is no charge. Visitors can return as often as they like to seek answers to specific questions or to review the content.
The Nebraska NEST Financial Scholars for Families program is supported by the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust. EverFi is continuing to work with local banks, foundations, and corporations to secure additional funding for the program.
As State Treasurer, Stenberg is Trustee of NEST. First National Bank of Omaha is Program Manager. All investments are approved by the Nebraska Investment Council.
NEST has received national recognition for its fund selection by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Also, two NEST plans were among 32 college savings plans nationwide to receive medals from Morningstar, an independent investment research firm. The two NEST plans moved up from Neutral to Bronze in Morningstar’s 2013 ratings. The same two plans also received the top five-cap rating from the website, savingforcollege.com, in 2012, the latest year for which those ratings are available.
Effective for taxes due in April 2015, Nebraska NEST account owners will enjoy a $10,000 state income tax deduction for couples filing jointly, up from the current $5,000 deduction. The increased income tax deduction was approved by the Legislature in 2013.
NEST has more than $3.4 billion in assets with 214,000 accounts nationwide. More than 61,000 of those accounts are owned by Nebraskans.
For more information about Nebraska NEST Financial Scholars for Families or the NEST college savings program, contact Rachel Biar, director of college savings for the Treasurer’s Office, at 402-471-1088 or at Rachel.email@example.com.
Posted on April 01, 2014
The Lincoln Board of Education Tuesday unanimously called for a special election on Feb. 11, 2014 to ask Lincoln citizens to vote on $153 million in bonds to pay for a variety of facility and infrastructure projects for Lincoln Public Schools.
“We are investing dollars to make sure our school district stays top-notch,” said Kathy Danek, vice president of the Board of Education. “We are looking to the future and making sure our students will be taken care of.”
Other School Board members commented:
Katie McLeese Stephenson: “We are in a district with changing needs, we are a district with growth…and the corresponding financial plan is based on community input….I believe we are addressing the most critical needs of the district.”
Barb Baier: “This bond issue is based on the needs of the children of our community. It does go and hit all four quadrants of Lincoln, because all of our kids have needs.”
Don Mayhew, president of the School Board: “If this bond issue passes, we will be able to address student growth, address security and technology needs, build a career academy…and be able to do it without raising taxes.”
Now that the Board has called for a bond issue, the Election Commissioner will determine whether the election would be a traditional polling place election – or the city’s first complete mail-in election.
The Board Tuesday also adopted an updated 10-year facilities and infrastructure plan that will guide how bond issue money is used.
Major information about the proposed 2014 bond issue
The 2014 bond issue will be funded based on the current levy rate with no planned levy increase.
The 2014 bond issue addresses growth in the community and school district: The Lincoln Public Schools enrollment of more than 37,800 grew by 943 new students this school year. The bond issue will increase the capacity of LPS schools by adding 2,200 new seats through the construction of one new elementary, one new middle school, a high school career academy and a variety of additions and renovations across the community.
The 2014 bond issue will provide enhanced security, a new high school career academy and infrastructure necessary to support technology and learning in schools throughout Lincoln.
The 2014 bond issue was a grassroots effort that began with a group of 80 Lincoln stakeholders from the school district and the community – called together by the LPS Superintendent – that identified more than $350 million top facility and infrastructure needs necessary in the changing landscape of education. The Lincoln Board of Education evaluated and analyzed the recommendations to create an updated 10-year facility and infrastructure plan to hone down the list to $150 million of affordable projects. The school district has maintained a 10-year facilities and infrastructure plan since 2005 to systemically and thoughtfully focus planning for LPS projects into the future.
Information presentations set for LPS bond issue
Informational presentations about the Lincoln Public Schools bond issue – set for Feb. 11, 2014 – will be held in January throughout the community. The Lincoln Board of Education is asking Lincoln citizens to consider a $153 million bond issue that will fund projects at schools and classrooms across the community.
The informational presentations are scheduled for 4-5 p.m.:
- Monday, Jan. 6: Lincoln East High School, cafeteria, 1000 S. 70th St.
- Tuesday, Jan. 7: Lincoln North Star High School, media center, 5801 N. 33rd St.
- Wednesday, Jan. 8, Board Room at LPS District Offices, 5905 O St.
- Monday, Jan. 13: Lincoln Northeast High School, commons, 2635 N. 63rd St.
- Tuesday, Jan. 14: Lincoln Southeast High School, commons, 2930 S. 37th St. (Recommended entry: Park on the east side of the building by the tennis courts and enter the building through the commons entrance, door 18.)
- Wednesday, Jan. 15: Lincoln Southwest High School, commons, 7001 S. 14th St.
- Thursday, Jan. 16, Lincoln High School, theater, 2229 J St.
For more information contact LPS Business Affairs at 402-436-1636.
Posted on March 19, 2014
Lincoln Public Schools students in kindergarten through eighth grade are weighing in at healthier weights and testing more physically fit – for the third year in a row, according to a report released this week by LPS and the Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln (PHL).
The number of students who are obese – kindergarten through eighth grade – has fallen from 17.2 to 15.8 percent, Bob Rauner, director of PHL, and Michelle Welch, LPS wellness facilitator, told the Lincoln Board of Education this week.
In addition, the number of students who passed the school district’s aerobic fitness test has increased from 68.4 to 70.7 percent, according to Rauner and Welch, who pointed out this improvement is especially important because studies show students who pass the fitness test perform better on math, reading and science tests.
“This success is a result of the combined efforts of LPS and several Lincoln organizations,” said Rauner, who has been working with LPS curriculum specialist Marybell Avery to track these results for the last five years. Collaborating community organizations include Teach a Kid to Fish, El Centro de Las Americas, the Malone Center and the Lincoln YMCA.
Rauner said he is especially encouraged to see that improvements in healthy weight and fitness are occurring across ethnic and socioeconomic lines. “We are seeing significant improvements in both minority and low-income populations, which is especially important since studies show these populations are at highest risk.”
Welch said the school district is excited “to see a step wise shift toward a culture of wellness and that our data demonstrates its impact. Our district-wide quarterly wellness challenges have helped unify efforts across our school community and ensure education of students, their families and our staff about their daily choices.”
She said that no single program has created this type of healthier school environment, but instead a combination of gradual shifts and efforts such as daily recess and physical activity breaks at the elementary level – as well as fine-tuning the school lunch program, classroom reward choices and classroom celebrations.
She also cited school and neighborhood fund-raising efforts that have created walking tracks and outdoor learning areas that beautify and benefit the community. This year Randolph and Zeman elementary schools have added walking tracks with Eastridge and Hartley elementary schools close to their fund-raising goals.
Other community-school collaborative projects include Teach a Kid to Fish’s grants with Safe Routes to School to encourage more students to walk or ride their bikes to school, and the BodyWorks program to help children improve their nutrition. LPS’s Community Learning Centers (CLC) and lead agencies have also been working to train CLC staff on the SPARK curriculum. SPARK is a curriculum for after-school programs that adds more physical activity during the time students attend their programs.
For further information:
Bob Rauner at firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle Welch at email@example.com
Marybell Avery at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on March 19, 2014
Karen Saunders will receive the Nebraska State Reading Association's Distinguished Educator of Reading Award. Karen was nominated by the Eastern Nebraska Reading Council. The award recognizes people that have made an impact on literacy in their classroom, school, and community. The award was presented at a conference banquet in Kearney. Saunders if the curriculum specialist for Reading for Lincoln Public Schools.
Where did you grow up? Attend college? And how long have you been with LPS?
I grew up in southwest Minnesota. I attended Dordt College, the University of Sioux Falls, and received Reading Specialist degree and an Ed.D. at the University of South Dakota. I taught in Sioux Falls before coming to Lincoln in 1992. In Lincoln I worked as a literacy support teacher, a Kindergarten teacher, a Reading Recovery teacher, a literacy teacher leader, and for the last 14 years as a curriculum specialist.
When you were beginning your career in education, did you foresee your current role with LPS as a possibility?
During my first year of teaching I had a third grade student who was a nonreader. Although we had multiple after-school tutoring sessions, I was unable to help him enough. It was then that I promised to learn everything I could about the process of reading. Although I did not see this specific role, I did know that reading would always be my focus.
What kind of impact can improving reading skills have on a student?
When early readers realize that they are reading, there is a sense of wonder which every teacher of young children has had the joy of sharing.
When struggling readers, who may learn differently, discover how to unlock the code, they not only experience the excitement of accomplishment after much hard work, they also have new positive feelings about school in general, and about themselves as learners. They have a new resilience that, when nurtured, will allow them to keep growing as readers and learners.
All students set reading goals periodically throughout the year and track their progress towards their goal. Reaching a goal is always a celebration.
How has the teaching of reading changed, if at all, since you began your education career?
The teaching of reading has changed considerably over the years. Most recent changes have been in the level of understanding required for students even at very early levels. Students are asked to read and reread to find the deeper meaning of a text, defending their responses with evidence from the text. There is also more emphasis on oral language as students develop their ideas and the ideas of others through thinking conversations. This is a digital age, but reading has never been more important in our literate society.
From a parent perspective, what can one do to help a student read without simply making them read?
Children learn to value reading by seeing it is valued in their home. Families who read and talk about their reading cultivate a literate culture. Reading to children, reading with children, having children read to you, and enjoying books together are powerful incentives.
What books do you enjoy reading today?
I read everything. With our new reading series I have read the rich collection of literature and non-fiction text that our students are reading. I read novels when I have a chunk of time because I like to read them in one sitting. I read essays and short stories. I read the New Yorker regularly. Of course, I read lots of professional books and research journals
Posted on February 26, 2014
The Early Childhood Celebration is an annual event held in Lincoln to celebrate the National Week of the Young Child. Child care professionals, health and safety programs, community volunteers and local agencies come together to offer information and activities to families with children ages birth through 8.
There are also stage performances throughout the day. This event has been held at different venues for over 25 years, and is FREE to the public. This year’s Early Childhood Celebration will be held Sat., April 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Southeast Community College, 8800 O Street, in the gymnasium.
For more information contact Janeen Ward, LAEYC President at 402-437-2452 or email@example.com, or visit the group's Facebook page.
Posted on February 14, 2014
TEDxYouth@Lincoln is a local, independently organized event to be held in Lincoln on Saturday, Aug. 16. The event is designed to re-create the unique experience found at TED, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers congregate to share what they are most passionate about. At its core, the fundamental goal of TED andTEDxYouth@Lincoln is to foster and spread great ideas.
The event organizers aim to provide a platform where youth who are thinkers, visionaries and learners will be inspired and have the opportunity to inspire others.
The conference will be held at the Ted Sorenson Theatre at Lincoln High School, 2229 J Street, and will be centered around the theme Be The Change.
For more information, visit http://www.tedxlincoln.com/tedxyouthlincoln-call-for-presentation-proposals/.
Posted on February 06, 2014
Continuing in the tradition of providing interactive, educational and fun exhibits, the Strategic Air & Space Museum has designed and implemented a program entitled 60 Days of Science which is a celebration of non-stop learning and fun for all ages. This event will offer age appropriate workshops and programs along with intergenerational learning and exploring opportunities. This experience is really about celebrating the joy of learning. The event runs March 1 Through April 27.
For more information, visit http://www.sasmuseum.com/exhibits/featured-exhibits/.
The Discovery Challenge offers the potential for some pretty significant tangible benefits. The grand-champion, honored and recognized that evening during our Night of Champions Celebration, will receive $5,000 cash, with $1,000 going to the student’s teacher. But more importantly, it is the competition’s ability to impact how students think and feel about STEM. This is an opportunity to shape your student’s path, to ignite an interest and passion that will impact what they may study in college and even the career they pursue.
For more information on the Discovery Challenge, visit http://www.sasmuseum.com/discovery-challenge/.
Posted on January 29, 2014
During January, February and early March counselors from the high schools are scheduled to help eighth-grade students select courses for the 2014-2015 school year. Parents/guardians and their eighth-grade child are invited to attend an informational meeting that will provide information about help the course selection process. This will be followed by registration that will be conducted by high school counselors for students at each middle school.
PARENT/GUARDIAN INFORMATIONAL MEETING
The first event is an informational meeting during January. At these sessions, parents/guardians and students will meet with counselors and instructional staff to learn about graduation requirements and alternatives available to students for completing the requirements. Students entering the ninth grade may choose the high school they want to attend. Consequently, these informational meetings have been scheduled to allow families to attend more than one informational meeting.
The schedule for informational meetings is:
- Thursday, January 9 2014 - North Star High School - 7 p.m.
- Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - Northeast High School - 6:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - East High School - 7 p.m.
- Thursday, January 16, 2014 - Southwest High School - 6:30 p.m.
- Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - Lincoln High School - 7 p.m.
- Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - Southeast High School - 7 p.m.
These meetings are being conducted for the purpose of providing information that will help parents/guardians and students work together to make the best possible choices about ninth grade classes and opportunities. Students who will be attending a high school other the high school in their attendance area, need to complete the “High School Choice” form (under Parent Center at lps.org) and returned it to LPS Student Services before January 31, 2014.
HIGH SCHOOL COUNSELOR VISITS
In February and early March, high school counselors will be invited to come to middle schools to meet with students who are planning to enroll at their high school. At that time, high school counselors will discuss graduation requirements, answer questions about the high school curriculum and register eighth grade students for ninth grade courses. Students will participate in pre-registration activities with their 8th grade counselors before the high school counselor visits. Dates for the high school counselor visits will be communicated by high schools and middle schools.
If you have questions or would like more information, please call the high school counseling center:
- Lincoln High School - 402-436-1301
- East High School - 402-436-1302
- Northeast High School - 402-436-1303
- Southeast High School - 402-436-1304
- North Star High School - 402-436-1305
- >Southwest High School - 402-436-1306
Posted on January 22, 2014