Highlights of 4/16 Lincoln Board of Education Work Session

The Lincoln Board of Education held a Work Session Monday, April 16, at Lincoln Public Schools District Office, focused on the proposed Joint Public Agency.

The Lincoln Board of Education held a Work Session Monday evening at Lincoln Public Schools District Office to specifically discuss the proposed Joint Public Agency for safety, security and success of students.

The proposed JPA represents 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 Lincoln Community Learning Centers).

LPS Superintendent Steve Joel started the meeting by offering some history about Community Learning Centers, which began in 2000 with CLC sites at four LPS elementary schools funded through the Foundation for LPS.  The Foundation conducted a feasibility study in the following year, which set the groundwork for $2.1 million in federal grants that allowed LPS and community partners to soon expand to nine additional sites and hire two district-wide coordinators.

Joel explained further milestones:  In 2004 LPS and community partners began to look at developing a long-term sustainability plan for CLCs – and by 2010 there were 24 CLC sites at LPS schools, while discussion continued about possible sustainability.  Since 2016 the CLCs have been working on and developed a strategic plan and established “success quality indicators” that will be implemented at all CLC sites next school year – but had still not found sustained funding.

“The Parkland shooting elevated interest in school security and safety once again …and created a different conversation for us,” Joel said.  “We determined at that point, if we could include safety and security…. perhaps all governing bodies could find enough value to approve and move forward … This is a way to strengthen the partnership between the city and LPS and with non-profits … in improving school safety and student academic achievement, packaged in a proactive, preventive and protective approach.” 

LPS officials walked through key elements of the structure, organization, programming and financing of the proposed JPA – then Board members made comments and asked questions. 

Barb Baier specifically praised a proposed memorandum of understanding related to the portion of the JPA that deals with funding additional School Resource Officers - that would underline that the LPS school disciplinary policy will come first and foremost, “so we would not go and encourage a situation where we would have lots of referrals to juvenile justice…. This strengthens what we already do so well at LPS…going and helping some of our community members understand that we are still doing our job with school discipline…I think we are on the right path.”

She also said she likes: Rules of governance that make JPA decisions require agreement from both the city and school district; inclusion and coordination with non-profit organizations; and the ability to fund CLCs into the future.

Connie Duncan also praised the rules of governance, “because they require equal representation” from both the city and school district.

Kathy Danek noted that one significant value of the JPA was that “funds are designated and dedicated” to ensure supports for safe and successful kids – stressing that she is “comfortable with the way this is set up.”

She specifically praised the preventive nature of the proposal quoting the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” 

Annie Mumgaard asked for input from middle school principals about possible SROs – which drew a response from John Neal, currently assistant superintendent for Governmental Relations and Administration, but also a former middle school principal when there were SROs in LPS middle schools.  Neal said the presence of a shared SRO in a middle school provided an element of law enforcement, but much more, the SRO served in the role of mentor for students, as well as an educational role in classrooms and community.  

Lanny Boswell had a long series of questions about the proposed JPA contract, noting he “loves the concept of creating an entity that brings in more than the mayor and superintendent and director of the Community Foundation … bringing in more people from participating nonprofit parties is a fantastic idea.”  He added that he wished the non-profits had more than advisory power.   

Boswell also referred to some debate over the better way to fund these measures, a JPA or an interlocal agreement: “I think that’s what we need to wrestle with over the next three weeks.”

Don Mayhew said he believes there is widespread support for what the JPA would fund, but there is a misunderstanding among some community members that somehow it would cost less to fund additional SROs through an interlocal as opposed to a JPA. “And that is simply not the case…I don’t think it’s realistic to hire more SROs, and not to have it somehow cost more…. A JPA is not more intrinsically expensive.”

He also reiterated the intention of both the city and school district to lower their levies to make the JPA “levy neutral” for the coming year 

Going forward:  First reading for the proposed JPA will be at the regular Board of Education meeting at 6 p.m. on April 24, and second reading is May 9.  The Board also plans a Public Forum on the proposed JPA at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 30, at Lincoln Southwest High School.

To view the complete Work Session meeting, go tohttps://videocenter.lps.org/videos/

For more information about the JPA: https://www.lps.org/post/detail.cfm?id=12783

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