Superintendent's Transition Update presented to Board of Education

Lincoln Public Schools Superintendent Paul Gausman presented a transition update to the Lincoln Board of Education during Tuesday’s Board meeting. 

“I want to point out that this is not mine alone,” said Gausman. “There were teams of individuals that included staff, parents and community members that provided feedback, context, and recommendations based on the data gathered.”

Gausman went on to say there was no expectation that the recommendations in the report were going to be implemented right away or at all. 

“I am sharing these recommendations with the Board with the understanding that they may not all be approved by the Board or funded through the budget process. The action steps presented tonight are what have been identified as priorities to improve student academic achievement at Lincoln Public Schools.”

There were five common themes that rose to the top through the process and were addressed in the report: Review of current LPS initiatives, student behavior supports, early childhood, focus programs and Human Resources.

Review of current initiatives

Read the supplemental report here.

Work has already begun on a district-wide collection and review of current LPS initiatives, strategies and programs. This will ensure that current and future efforts are laser-focused on improving student achievement and instruction is given the highest priority.

“We are doing great work and current initiatives are an indicator of that hard work,” said Gausman. “We need to ensure that our resources and new initiatives are filtered through the new strategic plan and are moving us forward to meet those goals.”

Student behavior supports

Read the supplemental report here.

The theme of addressing student behavior came from both internal and external conversations. Addressing student behavior supports will improve student instruction and achievement. 

Gausman said, “We absolutely must take actions related to student behaviors now. I will show you items we have already begun to work on as they did not require new financial resources, and then I will share recommendations that will need to be considered during the budget process.”

Current actions to address student behavior to help improve student instruction includes:

  • Adding 10 full-time counselors to provide a counselor at each elementary school.
  • Reallocating liaisons to provide a restorative practices liaison at each school.
  • Adding a Student Services supervisor to facilitate ongoing professional learning.
  • Providing professional learning for all administrators on the use of restorative practices as part of the student discipline process.
  • Communicating and implementing consistent district-wide cell phone expectations for students in grades 6-8 and 9-12 during the 2023-24 school year.
  • Installing cameras in middle school common spaces just as they are in the high schools.

New recommendations to address student behavior that will require financial resources and therefore Board budgetary approval include:

  • Adding 10 full-time counselors to provide a counselor at each elementary school.
  • Adding a second high school transition program.
  • Also, adding staff and course offerings for students in the high school Student Support Program.
  • Investing in measures to promote a safe learning environment for all students that will include an electronic hall pass system and vape mitigation strategies.
  • Adding a half-time school social work position to serve the early childhood program at LPS.

Early childhood

Read the supplemental report here.

Gausman spoke to the need for more early childhood programs in Lincoln and increasing efforts to collaborate with public and private partners.

Recommendations from the transition plan include:

  • Continuing a partnership with Lincoln Littles Community Task Force to support children with disabilities in childcare settings.
  • Exploring partnerships with Lincoln businesses to provide LPS satellite preschool programs to address employee needs and the shortage of preschool availability. The agreement would include a preschool on-site or near large business partners with LPS providing teaching staff and educational programming.
  • Adding a teacher leader position in the Early Childhood Department to provide professional learning for community childhood centers.

Focus programs

Read the supplemental report here.

There are currently 11 focus program options at LPS, plus 18 pathways at The Career Academy for high school students to choose from as they prepare to be career and college ready. 

The following recommendations came from the review:

  • Adding a shared school counselor for Arts and Humanities, Bryan Community and Science focus programs.
  • Adding a site-based leader to serve Arts and Humanities, Bay High and Science focus programs.
  • Developing an initial communications plan along with recruiting events for all focus programs.
  • Providing students and parents with comprehensive tools and processes to understand focus program offerings and communicate earlier.
  • Developing an internal focus program strategic communications plan to increase knowledge about offerings.

Human Resources

Read the supplemental report here.

LPS employees are critical to the success of each and every one of our students. The following initiatives are already underway to address staffing needs:

  • Offering incentives to substitute teachers to increase daily fill rates and hard to fill assignments.
  • Offering early candidates unassigned contracts allows LPS to land high-quality staff before they sign contracts with other districts who have earlier hiring timelines.
  • Strengthening current initiatives focused on increasing and retaining diverse staff.
  • Working with the Nebraska Department of Education to explore certification options for second-career candidates in hard to fill content areas.
  • Looking at the student-teacher program and pay.

The following are additional recommendations that will require financial resources and therefore Board budgetary approval:

  • Expanding “stay” interviews to determine staff priorities for consideration.
  • Examining the current pay differentials to determine the feasibility of increasing the salary of 21-30 year certificated staff.
  • Developing partnerships with colleges and universities to support “grow your own” student and staff programs.
  • Adding a Grow Your Own coordinator to develop and manage strategies for recruiting students and current staff to become educators.

Organizational structure

In addition to the five areas outlined above, Gausman reviewed the current organizational structure to ensure it aligned with the primary goal of positively impacting student academic achievement. During the process he examined successful peer school districts of the same size and demographics to explore best practices. 

“So much has changed in both our community and our world since the current organizational structure was put into place,” said Gausman. “LPS added six to seven thousand students - that’s equivalent to an entire school district for a lot of towns in Nebraska. We’ve also experienced significant disruptions due to a global pandemic. As a result, we must address student behavior in order to reduce distractions so we can provide high-quality student instruction.”

Some of the recommended changes based on this review would add .5 full-time staffing equivalent to the current administrative structure and include:

  • Creating an Instructional Division that includes an Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning and an Associate Superintendent for Educational Services.
  • Moving the Assessment and Evaluation Department under Curriculum and Instruction.
  • Moving Security Department under the Associate Superintendent for Educational Services.
  • Clarifying the administrators that serve on the Superintendent’s Executive Team.
  • Changing the title of Associate Superintendent for General Administration and Governmental Relations to Associate Superintendent for Civic Engagement.

Gausman told the Board that next steps in the transition plan process include exploring these requests through the normal budget process. There will continue to be collaborative meetings with the Lincoln Education Association, staff and community partners. The strategic planning process will also help bring focus and ideas to the topic presented during the transition update.

Published: April 25, 2023, Updated: April 25, 2023

Superintendent Update (22-23 Spring)