Lincoln Public Schools: Highlights of 8/8 Lincoln Board of Education meeting

Lincoln Public Schools:  Highlights of 8/8 Lincoln Board of Education meeting

The Lincoln Board of Education held a regular meeting on Tuesday, August 8 at Lincoln Public Schools District Office, 5905 O St. The Board will hold its next meeting 6 p.m. August 22.

Highlights of 8/8 Lincoln Board of Education regular meeting

Budget hearing

The Lincoln Board of Education Tuesday held a public hearing and heard first reading on the 2017-18 proposed Lincoln Public Schools budget – a budget that is student-centered and focuses on the incredible growth in our school district.  The proposed budget provides appropriate staffing, services, supplies and resources to address an estimated increase of 950 more students for 2017-18 – bringing total enrollment to almost 42,000 students. LPS served almost 41,000 students last school year, an increase of 12 percent or 4,450 students over the last five years.  This will mark the fifth straight year of annual growth greater than 850 students.

Kathy Danek, chair of the Board’s Finance Committee, said the proposed budget is the culmination of long, arduous work that includes months of discussion with the community and between Board members.

She said this budget:

  • Reflects dramatic growth LPS has experienced in recent years.
  • Supports essential programs that support the complexity of that growth.
  • Covers the salaries of our talented educators.

Board member Connie Duncan: “I’m amazed at our budget process…Our list of needs is long and we do a good job prioritizing…Board members go through a strict process with the Finance chair meeting with every Board member….and many, many, many meetings of the Finance Committee…I believe this is a well thought-out, thoroughly researched process with a budget that reflects the funding necessary for an investment in our children.”

Board member Barb Baier stressed that the Board has “taken taxpayer requests of lowering the tax levy very seriously…We are going and addressing the concerns of our taxpayers…We’re just going and making sure that’s not hitting the classroom and our students.”

Board member Annie Mumgaard described the budget process as “putting the puzzle pieces together…to continue what we have done well for many, many years…to provide a quality education for the future citizens of our city.”

Board member Matt Schulte said he appreciated the work the Finance Committee has done this year, but has concerns about the proposed budget – saying he thought it was “short-sighted” in not including additional funding for the Building Fund and not addressing some taxpayer feedback.

LPS works on a three-year forecast system to ensure sustainable revenue for supporting all students – evening out swings and taking into consideration the interdependence between state aid and property taxes.  LPS officials recommend a slightly lower – essentially flat – tax rate for the coming school year. The proposed budget totals $420.8 million – a 4.6 percent increase over the previous year (compared to a 6 percent increase last year). According to the most recent statistics, LPS ranked 228 out of 245 school districts in Nebraska in per pupil spending.

Budget work session materials:

Budget videos:

Finalized goals for coming year

The Lincoln Board of Education Tuesday approved the annual goals and priorities established for the Board and LPS Superintendent for the 2017-18 school year.

Goals and Priorities are:  

  • By 2019: Develop, implement and sustain district initiatives that result in an increased graduation rate, with a goal of 90 percent on-time graduates that are career and college ready.
  • By Dec. 15, 2017, adopt a Strategic Plan and provide regular progress reports to the Board of Education commencing in 2018.
  • Establish the Superintendent's High School Task Force to investigate community options and priorities for serving high school students and make recommendations by May 1, 2018.

LPS policy

The Board approved changes for:  Policy 5111 with a change to the requirements for part-time students wishing to participate in NSAA-governed activities to align with the change in NSAA by-laws.

Class rank

The Board heard a recommendation Tuesday for phasing out of the use of class rank in high school – and replacing it with a different recognition system of academic achievement.

Jane Stavem, associate superintendent of Instruction at LPS, said the recommendation originated for several reasons:

  • Higher education institutions are moving away from considering class rank as a major determination of admission or scholarships.
  • Class rank is often not comparable from district to district – state to state.
  • School districts throughout the state are moving away from class rank (and some have never used it).

Stavem noted that LPS is fully committed to providing recognition for academic excellence and achievement, while eliminating unnecessary and negative competition among students in a class rank formula.

No vote was required Tuesday, but Board members discussed the issue and voiced various reasons for support – and concern.   

LPS Superintendent Steve Joel said class rank was a national conversation with an aggressive movement away from class rank, as “class rank can be a negative stigma to kids working hard...We felt the timing for this change was right.”

Next steps:

  • Develop regulation language for recognition levels that replace current class rank language for the graduating class of 2021.
  • Share proposed recognition language with the Student Learning Committee and Policy Committee.
  • Begin sharing information with schools and families.

Solar Eclipse

Thirteen days left to go for the total eclipse in Lincoln, Nebraska!

James Blake, curriculum specialist for Science at LPS, gave the Board an update on plans for LPS students for the total solar eclipse visible from Lincoln on Monday, August 21

Assuming weather is clear and calm on eclipse day, all LPS staff and students in grades 1-12 – who have not opted for staying indoors – will participate directly. Our youngest children will have a virtual experience, but will still get the same cool eclipse glasses as everyone else. 

LPS is focusing on keeping students and staff safe that day – all will be recipients of special, medically-approved solar eclipse glasses to protect their eyes. The Science Curriculum Department has been working with LPS and community experts to build awareness and safety. 

BACKGROUND:  A total solar eclipse happens when the moon completely blocks the sun – for almost two minutes in Lincoln mid-day on August 21. The moon falls between the Earth and the sun once every month, however, usually the shadow appears above or below the earth. When an eclipse shadow does occur on earth, it typically falls on the ocean. A total eclipse has not been viewed in Lincoln for 500 years (before there was a Lincoln, or even a Nebraska) – and it will be 500 years until it returns.

Published: August 8, 2017, Updated: August 8, 2017