Highlights of 4/16 Super Commons meeting

A Super Commons meeting was held on Monday, April 16, at Lincoln Public Schools District Office. The Super Commons meeting combines three government groups: The Lincoln City Council, Lincoln Board of Education and Lancaster County Board of Commissioners. 

School Safety and Security

“Kids are the most valuable resource in this community,” according to Lincoln City Council member Carl Eskridge, summarizing the theme of the Monday morning meeting of the “Super Commons” – a meeting of three governmental groups: The Lincoln City Council, Lincoln Board of Education and Lancaster County Board of Commissioners. 

The meeting was highlighted by a series of presentations, as well as robust conversation and questions about a wide variety of aspects of safety and security in our community and schools.

To view the complete meeting, go to: https://videocenter.lps.org/videos/video/3366/

Below is a summary of the major presenters at the Monday Super Commons.

School Security Processes at LPS: Joe Wright, LPS Director of Security

Lincoln Public Schools approaches school safety in a comprehensive manner with many components, Wright said, “with our best efforts to make each building as safe as it can be.”

He noted some of those major components:

  • The LPS Operations staff has ensured the design and construction of secure entrances at many LPS schools – and LPS is currently conducting a study to develop a plan to ensure all schools have those entrances.
  • The six traditional high schools have a comprehensive camera system.
  • Schools at LPS are well designed and maintained, and creating that kind of environment contributes to staff and students behaving “in a professional and safe manner.”
  • Cyber security is in place to protect online data and students.
  • Training from Human Resources is provided to support LPS staff members in creating positive relationships, partnerships with parents, student success, and a strong culture of “see something, say something.”   These are all elements that contribute to student success, Wright said, “and student success is about student safety.”
  • Social and emotional supports for students are in place that include programs for anti-bullying and suicide prevention, as well as a skilled Crisis Response Team.
  • Special education programming is at work in every school, as well as programs for students with additional behavior support needs.
  • Guidelines for crisis response across the district are based on the consistent Standard Response Protocol, and each school has developed a crisis response plan.
  • School Resource Officers are assigned to each of the six traditional high schools.
  • The LPS school district and the city of Lincoln have “become a hub of threat assessment knowledge.”

School Resource Officers in Lincoln: Tom Casady, Public Safety Director; Jeff Bliemeister, Lincoln Police Chief

Casady reported that School Resource Officers (SRO) have been at LPS for 30 years – and there are currently six SROs in Lincoln, one at each of the traditional high schools. “If you want to know about the value of these officers, ask your principals – ask your staff – ask your students.” 

He explained that the cost of one SRO runs about $100,000 – currently split with the city covering 65 percent of that cost and LPS, 35 percent.

Bliemeister noted that the number of officers has varied, but the focus remains the same, “an emphasis on relationships, shared experiences in the classroom, another positive influence in the lives of kids.”

He explained that it takes time to recruit, vet and provide the advanced training necessary to prepare new SROs, a process that can take up to six months. If funding for new SROs is approved soon, he said there is the potential of having six new SROs working inside schools by January of 2019 – but likely no more than six in that time frame. 

School Resource Officers in Lancaster County School Districts: Terry Wagner, Lancaster County Sheriff

Wagner said there are four major school districts outside Lincoln in Lancaster County: Raymond Central, Malcolm, Waverly and Norris public schools – and they utilize SROs using the same funding formula as the city and LPS.

Threat Assessment/Threat Management: Bliemeister and Wright

Bliemeister and Wright agreed that threat assessment and threat management are powerful tools in providing preventative measures for student safety and security – though LPD has no full-time police officer specifically assigned to threat assessment. LPS has two security officials who have a wide array of security tasks and are nationally certified in threat assessment.

Joint Training and Exercising with LPS, Lincoln Fire and Rescue, and Lincoln Police: Casady, Bliemeister

Casady explained that over the past six years efforts have significantly increased to improve community preparedness in the event of a critical incident or mass casualty situation – through training and exercising that includes full-scale exercises and smaller more low-key training.

“We are much better prepared today through training and exercising than six years ago.”

Juvenile Diversion Services: Sara Hoyle, Director, Lancaster County Human Services; Chris Turner, Lancaster County Chief Deputy Attorney

Hoyle and Turner said the juvenile justice system in our community has been analyzing system-wide data for the past 20 years – following potential disparities related to detentions and arrests.

They specifically talked about Project Restore, a program to help young people who are charged with assault or disturbing the peace – with supports such as mediation, diversion, etc. – and help keep those youth out of the juvenile court system.

Community Learning Centers’ Role in School Safety: Lynn Johnson, Director, Lincoln Parks and Recreation; Nola Derby-Bennett, Director of Lincoln Community Learning Centers

Community Learning Centers are now located in 26 LPS school sites, serving an estimated 7,000 students and offering “safe, purposeful activities before and after school – and summer months – during times when students might otherwise not be supervised,” Derby-Bennett said. In addition, she noted, students involved in CLCs achieve higher on standardized assessment than students who are not in CLCs.

“CLCs provide that continuum of support that our community has said – loudly and clearly – that we need for the safety and security of our students.”

Johnson summarized what would be offered by the proposed Safe and Successful Kids Joint Public Agency (JPA) – a collaborative effort between the city and school district presenting multifaceted, comprehensive action that covers increased security, mental health resources and proactive measures (that would include increased funding for CLCs).

“Some people are asking why a JPA,” Johnson noted, listing three major reasons:

  • A JPA creates designated, dedicated funding for student supports.
  • A JPA creates a coordinated and focused process for the school district and city to work together.
  • A JPA offers increased transparency and public discussion.

Mental Health Services in our Community: Katie McLeese Stephenson, Executive Director, Child Guidance Center; Dennis Hoffman, Executive Director, Lincoln Family Service

Mental health is one of the most difficult issues in the school setting, making it so beneficial when mental health services can be offered in schools, McLeese Stephenson said.

She said that currently – through community agencies – mental health services are offered to students at 13 elementary schools, seven middle schools and all high schools, but that not all schools are served, and those that are served have waiting lists. “We are only serving a small slice of students who have needs.” 

Hoffman continued: “We really believe that mental health services can prevent crisis from becoming more of an issue.”


Published: April 16, 2018, Updated: April 16, 2018