Highlights of the 4/11 Lincoln Board of Education regular meeting

The Lincoln Board of Education met for its regular meeting on Tuesday, April 11, at the Lincoln Public Schools Steve Joel District Leadership Center, 5905 O Street. The full meeting video and a summary are below.

First reading

Newly Annexed Property to the City of Lincoln

The Board of Education assigns school attendance areas to property newly annexed to the City of Lincoln. This action establishes school attendance areas prior to the sale of residential lots, allowing purchasers to know what schools their children will attend.
The proposal assigns the newly annexed area of East Dominion Estates to Robinson Elementary School, Culler Middle School and East High School.

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

Title VI, Indian Education Program Grant application

Native American students are enrolled in all Lincoln Public Schools representing about 60 tribes as designated by the parent. 

The U.S. Department of Education, through Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides funds to fulfill the federal government’s responsibility to the Indian people for the education of Indian children. These funds support the goal of ensuring programs that serve Indian children are of the highest quality and provide for not only the basic elementary and secondary educational needs, but also the unique educational and culturally related academic needs of these children.

Lincoln Public Schools has received federal funds for services for Native American students since the mid-1980’s. Grant award amounts vary by year according to the total amount of Indian Education funds available at the federal level and are not based only on the number of students per program.

Estimated funding from Title VI for 2023-24 is approximately $198,000, based on the current student count of 719. Decisions regarding the use of these funds are made in consultation with the Native American Advisory Committee.

Director of Federal Programs Linda Hix provided an update on the program to the Board. You can view a highlight of that presentation here:

The Board will hold a second reading on the grant application and vote to approve it at the next meeting.

Afghan Refugee School Impact Grant application

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has awarded federal funds to the Nebraska Department of Education to provide refugee school impact services in Nebraska for communities with large Afghan humanitarian parolee populations. 

Many newly arrived Afghan families have children who need additional supports to help with effective resettlement and education. The purpose of the Afghan Refugee School Impact (ARSI) grant is to ensure that the goals, services, and activities defined for the Refugee School Impact (RSI) program benefit those newly arrived Afghan populations.

NDE is working with school districts in these communities to develop appropriate programming. If approved, NDE will provide $1,150 per student for the approximately 251 Afghan students served by Lincoln Public Schools (at an amount of approximately $288,000). LPS will use these funds to hire a bilingual liaison who speaks Pashto and Dari to work specifically with Afghan students and their families, as well as a part-time adult literacy instructor to teach English to parents of these students and a part-time newcomer engagement specialist to coordinate services that help families acclimate to life in Lincoln. School-based therapy for students and parenting classes will also be provided.

The Board will hold a second reading on the grant application and vote to approve it at the next meeting.

Children's Hospital Community Impact Grant proposal

Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha has offered a competitive grant program for ten years that has been focused on preventing childhood obesity.  As a result of a recent needs assessment and strategic planning process, four broader impact areas were identified, with emphasis on services to underrepresented children. The four focus areas are financial stability, food security, healthy housing and pediatric mental wellness.

Staff have asked the Board to consider a grant application for $25,000 to Children’s Hospital’s Community Impact Grant to address the focus area of pediatric mental wellness.  If awarded, grant funds would be used to purchase supplies to create calming kits for use at all LPS middle schools, including Nuernberger Education Center and the Student Support Program. These kits would be available for students in need of assistance to self-regulate at any point during the school day through their counseling office. Calming kits would include items that are meant to help students refocus from intense feelings so that they can return to class prepared to learn.

The Board will hold a second reading on the grant application and vote to approve it at the next meeting.

Second reading

Policy 6740 – Extracurricular Activities Code of Conduct

Lincoln Public Schools reviews policies on an ongoing basis and updates policies to ensure that they accurately reflect the ever-changing work of the district and changes in state law, federal law, and court decisions.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision provided clarity to some issues regarding a district’s response to the off-campus speech of student participants in school activities and athletics.  The revision of Policy 6740 provides clarifying language that reflects the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

The Board voted to approve the updates.

Memorandums of Understanding and Salary Schedule amendments

The Educators Health Alliance (EHA) increased health insurance premium rates for the 2023-24 school year. These increases were greater than the amount assumed during negotiations. To reduce the negative impact on employees, the Board of Education will vote on amendments to the Memorandum of Understanding and Salary Schedule agreements with the nine bargaining groups so that the increase in premium rates is paid by the school district and not passed on to the employees. The total cost to the school district is expected to be in the range of approximately $746,019.

The Board voted to approve the amendments.

Informational items and reports

The Career Academy

Board member Lanny Boswell provided an update from the joint TCA Board meeting where they reviewed the enrollment projections for the 2023-24 school year. Currently confirmed to attend TCA next year includes approximately 347 juniors, 90 new seniors, and 278 returning students for a total of 715 students.

TCA also teamed up with First Job Lincoln to host a summer job fair. Over 100 students were able to meet and visit with 70 local businesses and organizations. The event also included information sessions for students on creating a resume and interviewing for a job.

Boswell wrapped his report by saying, “This event highlights that TCA is a partnership that includes not only LPS and SCC, but the business community as well.”

Superintendent update

LPS Superintendent Paul Gausman provided an update to the Board about recent and upcoming news and events from across the school district along with addressing some of the information shared during public comment earlier in the meeting. 

“I thought I would start this evening by discussing just a couple of items related to what we heard so much about in our recent public comment,” opened Gausman. “I think it's fair to do so. I want to be very clear with the community, I am making no attempt whatsoever to have anybody change their opinion. I’m not asking anyone to agree or disagree with the statement that I make. I am simply presenting the information that I am so there is an understanding about the work that we are doing.”

Earlier in the meeting there was a public commenter that said there was a book that was required in the 10th grade reading curriculum, and read an excerpt from that book. Gausman said their statement during public comment about the book being required was not correct.

“That isn’t required. It’s part of the differentiated curriculum. It’s a choice book and there’s a list of books that are sent home to parents for them to preview as potentially controversial topics so they are engaged in what their students are learning and reading,” Gausman added.

Gausman also wanted to explain more on how and why an optional display card given to staff was approved.

“I want to acknowledge that I am listening, and there were things brought up this evening that certainly deserve follow through, and I will exhibit that by contacting you,” Gausman said as he addressed some of the speakers during public comment.

Gausman went on to say that the Equity Committee followed an established process for approving a request by a group of LPS social workers to display a sign that supports LGBTQ students. Any LPS staff member can submit a request through their supervisor to the Equity Committee for district-wide optional signage if they feel there is a societal issue related to students about which it is important for LPS to affirm its support of students in general or for a particular demographic group of students.

Gausman said that Lincoln Public Schools serves students and families from a wide variety of backgrounds and demographics, and each student and every family is unique. Public schools are unique in that they serve students from many different backgrounds and beliefs - diversity being one of Lincoln Public Schools’ strengths – is respecting the diversity of backgrounds that students bring to the classrooms.

“When we provide training or materials supporting one group of marginalized individuals, that does not mean we are attempting to disrespect, take away, to diminish, to ignore, or to provide less support to some other group or individuals. Sometimes it is said that our support is very finite, and if we support this group that must mean we are not going to have any energy left to support the other group. That just isn’t the case. All students deserve to have a safe, respectful and positive school experience,” said Gausman.

Gausman included statistics that Transgender and Gender Diverse or Expansive youth report some of the highest levels of harassment, bullying, and assault. Of the LGBTQ+ students who were harassed or assaulted in school, 58% did not report the incident to school staff due to feeling that staff wouldn’t do anything. Only 14% said when they reported it, that it resulted in effective staff intervention. In addition, LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers. 

In the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services guidance for schools to work on preventing suicides, they recommend actions by school staff to enhance protective factors as an essential element of a suicide prevention effort. Strengthening these factors also protects students from other risks, including violence, substance abuse, and academic failure. Among the list of protective factors is providing a “Safe environment at school - especially for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.” 

“These signs reflect the extra emphasis included in the guiding documents by ensuring that this most targeted group, and thus the group most at risk of suicide, is aware of the support available to them,” added Gausman.

Gausman said he wanted to be clear that the signs were optional and had been shared with staff to let that expert decide how to show students - whether they are straight, gay, transgender, male, female, non-binary, cisgender, as well as students of all races and ethnicities - know that no matter who they are that the LPS staff member displaying the sign provides a safe place for them to report when they have issues. 

“That is the intent behind it [the sign]. The signs do not promote one group over another. The signs are not about sex. It is not about students as sexual beings, it’s about who our students are as humans. Someone’s LGBTQ status is not political – this is a human rights issue.”

Gausman said LPS is not asking staff or students to change their personal beliefs, and that the school district respects the right of each person to hold their own beliefs. He said that it is also an expectation that staff and students should respect those who hold beliefs different from their own which often happens in the diversity of a public school setting.

LPS emphasizes civics and civility, and strives to model how each one of us can respectfully work together in a pluralistic society - no matter the differences. Gausman said it is the responsibility of LPS to prepare students for the reality that they will most likely grow up, work and interact with others who are different from themselves. 

“We are fortunate to live in a community that embraces each and every one of our children, provides them with support, and helps them feel valued,” said Gausman. “I am proud of the work this school district has done to put actions behind the ‘all means all’ saying and look forward to us continuing to make that slogan a reality.”

Gausman also reminded families during his update that the deadline is fast approaching to complete the LPS annual Perception Survey. Each year Lincoln Public Schools sends out a District Perception Survey to various stakeholders – staff, students and parents – to gather information about how they view their school. Results from this important anonymous survey provide feedback to school staff and administrators, and are used to improve teaching, learning and the school environment. In addition, portions of the results are used to inform the effectiveness of our programs to those who administer federal grants to Lincoln Public Schools. Parents can check their email or the LPS website for more information.

Gausman wrapped his update reminding everyone of the Project ExtraMile Walk at East High School on Saturday, April 22, starting at 10am. The Project ExtraMile Walk is a collaboration between LPS and the Lincoln Food Bank to raise awareness and donations to benefit the BackPack food program and school Food Markets.

Public comment

There were 21 individuals that addressed the Board during public comment. You can watch the public comment agenda item in the full meeting video here.

Glimpses of LPS

We open every Board meeting with a video that highlights Lincoln Public Schools. Tuesday’s Glimpses featured the Aspiring Diverse Educators’ Symposium.

Published: April 11, 2023, Updated: April 11, 2023