Highlights of the 4/25 Lincoln Board of Education regular meeting

The Lincoln Board of Education met for its regular meeting on Tuesday, April 25, at the Lincoln Public Schools Steve Joel District Leadership Center, 5905 O Street. The full meeting video and a summary are below.

Special reports, presentations and celebrations of success

Superintendent transition update

You can view the entire video of the presentation here.

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.

First reading

2022-23 Evaluation of the superintendent of schools

The Board is required to evaluate the superintendent during the first year in the position. Board President Don Mayhew provided a summary of Gausman’s 2022-23 evaluation submitted by the Board. 

Mayhew concluded the report by quoting the summary, “Dr. Gausman is off to a great start as our superintendent. His thoughtful transition plan has helped him focus on establishing internal and external relationships while evaluating and learning about the district. He collaborates well with the board and clearly enjoys being a part of our district and community. I am very glad he is here and look forward to our continued partnership.”

A copy of the full public summary is available here. The Board will vote to approve the evaluation at the next meeting.

West Vine Phase II infrastructure project

LPS requested bids from interested vendors for the construction and installation of streets and related infrastructure near Lincoln Northwest High School on West Vine Street between NW 48th and NW 56th streets. LPS will be responsible for 50 percent of the costs, with the other half being covered by the developer. 

Staff recommended awarding the bid to K2 Real Estate and Development out of Lincoln for $1,899,000. Funding for the project will be through the 2020 Bond Fund and other appropriate building funds.

Due to construction timelines, the Board waived second reading and voted to approve the bid.

Promoting Engagement and Knowledge (PEak Project) grant application

The NDE Office of Special Education remains committed to supporting districts in improving results for children with disabilities. To meet this purpose, project funding was available annually beginning with the 2018-2019 school year to support implementation and evaluation of Targeted Improvement Plans (TIPs).

If approved, the LPS Special Education Department would apply for the PEaK Project grant to support the implementation of interventions and provide professional learning opportunities for teachers. The target group will be at-risk second, third, and fourth-grade students performing below grade level. The target teachers will be teachers supporting those students across the district; and will include sessions related to the science of reading, research-based reading interventions and math instruction that meets the needs of struggling learners.

Because the grant application deadline is May 1, the Board waived second reading and voted to approve the grant application. 

Second 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 voted to approve the assignments.

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.

The Board voted to approve the grant application.

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 voted to approve the grant application.

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 voted to approve the grant application.

Public comment

There were 13 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 Don D. Sherrill Education Center student musical production. You can watch the Glimpses here.

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