Highlights of 8/22 Lincoln Board of Education meeting

The Lincoln Board of Education held a regular meeting on Tuesday, August 22 at Lincoln Public Schools District Office, 5905 O St. The Board will hold its next meeting 6 p.m. Sept. 12.

Highlights of 8/22 Lincoln Board of Education regular meeting

Budget approval

The Lincoln Board of Education Tuesday approved a student-centered budget for 2017-18 that focuses on significant student growth in the Lincoln community as well as increasing complex student needs.

The budget provides appropriate staffing, services, supplies and resources to address an estimated increase of 950 more students for 2017-18 – bringing estimated 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.  

The vote was six in favor of approving the budget, and Board member Matt Schulte voting no.

LPS Superintendent Steve Joel commended the Board of Education for approving this year’s budget: “I thank the Board for your commitment to students, families, staff and community…understanding that this is a place where we are very proud to say, all does mean all…You have done the very best work you can…We have made the right decision today, and I want to thank you on behalf of 41,000 students and a lot of grateful parents.” 

He affirmed there has been much conversation, discourse and even confusion about this year’s budget.  “Taxation is a very emotional issue, it brings a lot of opinions…In fact, there is a lot of debate about how public education should be funded.”

But currently, he stressed, the school district must use the resources at hand, which is generally state aid and property taxes. “At the end of the day, we can only control what we can control, and that is to utilize the tools we are given by the Legislature, by our state…so accessing the available levy was absolutely the right decision.”

The funding for public education is very difficult to explain, Joel said, especially when many people “want a snapshot for something that is very complicated.” He pointed out that state aid this year did not come close to keeping up with student growth, and that “if we were going to live up to the expectations our community has for our school district…the only place we could go was to use available property tax resources. 

Board Vice President Don Mayhew agreed and said he fully supported the budget, “because the reality of what we are doing, the eye on the prize, is to educate kids.”

He said he looks at three main things when considering a budget:

  • Making sure the school district is meeting the community’s expectations.
  • Considering the impact on taxpayers.  (“And I believe there is no local taxpaying body that has anywhere near our record in reducing the property tax rate.”)
  • Making sure tax dollars collected are spent efficiently. 

“This budget meets all of those considerations,” Mayhew said.  “We have a great process, we do a lot of work to get community feedback, we make sure what we do to meet community goals, and we get a lot of bang for our buck…We are taking care of the needs of our children.”

Board President Lanny Boswell pointed out the many opportunities for public input into the budget: Two budget work sessions, two budget forums, a budget hearing, numerous community presentations and a chance for online comments.  “Shortchanging an investment in student education today would cost us much more down the road.”

Schulte said he voted against the budget because he thought this budget was “an opportunity to give our taxpayers some relief.”

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 approved a slightly lower – essentially flat – tax rate for the coming school year. The 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.

Valuation numbers

Lincoln Public Schools had estimated a valuation increase of 9 percent, and valuation numbers were certified recently at an increase of 8.82 percent.

That means the total budget request needed to be reduced by $356,555, and the net impact will be increasing use of cash flow in the budget. 

Update on plan for struggling students

The Board heard an update on the LPS collaborative action plan for providing increased support for struggling students – a plan coming out of a comprehensive review and recommendations from the District Management Group. 

Jane Stavem, associate superintendent for Instruction, stressed this is a district-wide initiative that will involve many family, parent and educator groups to offer input into the process.  “We are anticipating calling on many people for their feedback.”

The multi-step process includes goals for 2017-18:

  • Create Cluster Sites at the elementary and middle school levels for students with behavioral and cognitive challenges who may not benefit from out-of-school placement options (planning completed).
  • Develop structural models for guaranteeing extended learning and collaborative planning
  • Identify structured time within existing schedules to provide social-emotional and behavioral supports for students
  • Complete implementation of Positive Behavioral Intervention Support (PBiS) Framework to assure 100 percent of buildings are implementing practices with fidelity to meet the social-emotional needs of all learners.

Next three steps

  •  Refine the action plans for 2017-18 school year in partnership with District Office administrators and principals
  •  Begin developing models for extended learning time and collaborative planning.
  • Provide training, support and tools for schedules that support the developed models.

Attendance areas for new annexed property

The Board heard a proposal to provide attendance areas for newly annexed city property in the Iron Ridge area located south of Rokeby Road, east and west of South 27 street. 

Proposed attendance areas are: Adams Elementary School, Scott Middle School and Lincoln Southwest High School.  The Board will vote approval at the Sept. 12 meeting.

Student Celebration

More than 50,000 Lincoln Public Schools students, educators and volunteers stood in the shadow of the moon Monday for a once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse experience. 

For the Tuesday Board Student Celebration, speakers who talked about the eclipse experience were:

  • James Blake, curriculum specialist for Science.
  • Two LPS students who won the LPS eclipse glasses art contest:  Sutton Classen, a fourth grader from Maxey Elementary School; and Tristen Broome, a senior at Lincoln Northeast High School.

Published: August 22, 2017, Updated: August 22, 2017