Highlights of 8/24 Board of Education Regular Meeting and ESU 18 Regular Meeting

Lincoln Board of Education Regular Meeting

The Lincoln Board of Education met for a regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 10, at the Lincoln Public Schools District Office, 5905 O St. 

Special Presentations and Reports

2021-22 Board of Education and Superintendent’s Annual Goals and Priorities - Presentation of Measurables

LPS Associate Superintendent for Instruction Matt Larson and Associate Superintendent for Human Resources Eric Weber shared with the Board the draft measurables in relation to one of the Board goals, whose four general areas of focus are graduation rate, suspension rate, enrollment in honors courses and diversity of certified staff.

The graduation rate has continued to decrease since 2016. The goal is by the graduating class of 2024, to raise the “All Students” graduation rate to 87% and reduce each existing (2019) differential from “All Students” by 50%.

The suspension rates have generally gone down. The target is that by spring 2024 to reduce total suspensions for all students by 20% and reduce disproportionality ratios to 1.2 or less.

The honors course enrollment has been trending down for all groups except Asian students. By spring 2024, the goal is to reduce disproportionality from “2020-2021 All Students” who have completed at least one honors class by 75%.

The percent of certificated staff by racial/ethnic group. The goal is by the spring of 2024 to increase the percent of non-white certificated staff by 25%, which would bring the target goal to 8.1%.

2021 LPS Pandemic Plan & Procedures

Superintendent Steve Joel gave an update on the school district’s pandemic plan moving forward, particularly in light of the City of Lincoln’s new Directed Health Measure on Tuesday that requires face coverings for everyone inside all businesses and buildings in Lincoln and Lancaster County. Superintendent Joel expressed his support for that measure and the resulting LPS decision to also now require face coverings.

Here are some highlights from Superintendent Joel’s remarks:

  • We are greatly concerned about the rising number of positive COVID-19 cases we are seeing not only in Lincoln, but among our students and staff.
  • Out of the 788 positive cases reported by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department last week, 110 of those were LPS students, or 14 percent of the county’s positive cases. For comparison, during the peak of the spread in December 2020, out of the 2,100 cases in Lancaster County, 110 were LPS students or five percent of the county’s positive cases.
  • First and foremost we must put protocols in place that protect the health of our students and staff. Last year, face coverings reduced the risk of spread.
  • Last week we had 723 students excluded from school. Without the hybrid learning option for students who are excluded, our students are missing out on valuable instruction and stability.
  • We’ve said from the beginning of the pandemic: Students need in-person learning. Families need the stability of in-person school.
  • By requiring face coverings for all students and staff, we will not only reduce the risk of spread, but reduce the number of students who have to quarantine and miss school.
  • This requirement also helps with our staffing. When staff are sick or have to quarantine, we don’t have enough staff to keep school going. We need to protect our staff and their health so they can continue to provide education and services to our students and families who rely on us.
  • Just like on a snow day, when schools close, this also impacts local businesses. Families are forced to stay home with their children instead of going to work.
  • As we heard earlier today during the City of Lincoln’s press conference, our hospitals are stressed. We must support our health care workers.
  • We appreciate the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department and the mayor for being proactive after looking at the concerning trends related to the Delta variant spread in our community. We continue to meet with them at least twice a week.
  • Hopefully we can get rid of the face coverings requirement soon, but not until we have greatly reduced the risk of spread in our community and our schools. 

Vice Board Chair Don Mayhew also updated the Board on the creation of a new ad hoc Board committee that would give Board members the opportunity to gain more information about LPS pandemic plans and open the lines of communication between Board members and staff in regards to ongoing efforts in the 2021-22 LPS Safe Return to School Plan. He also shared there were formal complaints filed with the Nebraska Attorney General’s office about open meeting laws was handled at past Board meetings, but LPS legal counsel assured the committee that established protocols were being followed and was preparing a response.

Board member Dr. Bob Rauner also provided an update with current COVID-19 numbers in our community.

First Reading

Proposed Attendance Area Assignments

The opening of three new schools gives the Lincoln Board of Education the unique opportunity to review projected city growth and adjust current school attendance boundaries to fully and efficiently utilize existing and future building space. The Board Planning Committee presented the final draft of the proposed school attendance boundary changes during the regular meeting on Tuesday. 

The Board Planning Committee has met with staff and the community to gather information, look at data and draft a proposal for attendance boundary changes. You can view all of the proposed changes on the special LPS webpage

Any students impacted by the changes in 2022-23 or 2023-24 would be able to remain in their current attendance center based on Board Policy 5122, which in part states: “Students in attendance at a specific school may be permitted to complete their education at that attendance center if the boundary is changed, placing the family in another attendance center.” In addition, eighth-graders living within the LPS boundaries will still be able to choose any high school to attend their freshman year by January 31 of the previous year. If a high school is not requested by the first day of school, the student will attend their attendance area school.

The Board will hold a second reading and vote at the Sept. 14 meeting.

Proposed 2021-22 budget

The Board held first reading on the proposed 2021-22 budget and will vote on it at the Sept. 14 meeting. 

LPS is again making reductions to keep the budget relatively flat, representing the second consecutive year of budget reductions. That requires a reduction of approximately 1.8% in every area to balance the planned budget growth through salaries, benefits, fixed costs and the start-up cost for new schools. The goal is to ensure programming and staffing decisions are sustainable and stable over time. 

This is a residential property revaluation year, and property valuation increases in 2021 will lead to major reductions in State Equalization Aid for 2022-23. In the past, LPS used the residential revaluation year to add to the cash reserve - a practice that offsets the negative impact of State Equalization Aid dropping significantly the following year. Since 2019, LPS experienced a significant drop in State Equalization Aid - approximately $30 million. It is possible that state equalization could drop $10-20 million next year.

The LPS preliminary proposed budget totals about $463 million, an expenditure budget increase of one-half of one percent. Currently, the preliminary budget proposal provides a decrease of one penny in the overall property tax levy. 

You can learn more about the 2021-22 Budget here.

2021-22 Insurance Rates

For 26 years, LPS Risk Management has arranged for the school district’s insurance coverage through an Owner Controlled Self-Insurance program. The advantages of self-insurance are: 1) lower premiums, 2) the school district holds funds until needed to pay claims, 3) school district legal counsel is involved in all lawsuits, 4) all claim settlements are approved by the district, and 5) LPS staff and legal counsel are involved in claims from the beginning.

The LPS insurance broker, UNICO, provides LPS Risk Management with a report comparing the estimated premium costs for standard insurance coverage to the actual Owner Controlled Protected Self-Insurance program costs and estimates a savings to the district of more than one million dollars per year in premium costs alone.

Risk Management annually solicits quotes for all property and all liability insurance coverage, as well as excess Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage, Boiler and Machinery insurance, and the third-party claims handling service for property/liability through the Arthur J. Gallagher (AJG) Company and UNICO. You can view the new rates here.

The Board waived second reading and approved the rates.

Second Reading

Newly annexed property to the City of Lincoln

The City of Lincoln has annexed a parcel of land, which automatically brings this property into the district of Lincoln Public Schools. This property needs to be assigned attendance centers so potential purchasers of homes in this area will know which schools they will be attending. The annexed parcel of land is Dominion at Stevens Creek, Annexation Ordinance #21085, for the 2020-21 school year. Its assigned schools are Meadow Lane Elementary School, Culler Middle School and Lincoln East High School.

The Board voted to approve the assigned schools.

National Center for Families Learning – Extension of Federal Grant Funding through U.S. Department of Education

The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) was awarded a federal grant through the U.S. Department of Education in 2018 under the Parental Information and Resource Centers Program to establish the Nebraska Statewide Family Engagement Center to develop and replicate family literacy programs across the state. LPS was an initial partner in this program, with a three-year subaward to implement the four-component, evidence-based family literacy model already used by the school district. This program has been extremely successful in collecting additional evidence of this model’s success, and LPS was able to develop a new partnership with the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, which serves as the sponsor of the Nebraska Statewide Family Engagement Center.

NCFL is now receiving funding through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds from the Nebraska Department of Education to continue this programming for two more years. NCFL would like to extend the $30,000 subaward with LPS for these two years to continue implementing this programming, and will continue its fundraising efforts in hopes of extending the program even further.

The Board voted to approve the funding.

Public Comment

There were 41 citizens that addressed the Board during the public comment periods. You can view their comments as part of the full meeting video here.

Glimpses of LPS

We open every Board meeting with a video that highlights the amazing things taking place in our schools. Tuesday’s video featured the start of school for our early childhood program. 

ESU 18 Regular Meeting

2021-22 Educational Service Unit 18 Budget Adoption

Associate Superintendent for Business Affairs Liz Standish presented the proposed 2021-22 budget for ESU 18.

Published: August 24, 2021, Updated: August 24, 2021