Launch of new year with career academy, construction, honors, partners

The beginning of the school year is always a highlight for me.   From visiting schools to attending extracurricular events, I get tremendous joy from seeing our students and staff in action.  This year was especially meaningful at Lincoln Public Schools as we opened The Career Academy on the first day of classes.  This program is set to explode thanks to 350 students working in 13 Pathways with highly talented staff.   Already, students have taken a number of field trips to business partners who give them advice on career opportunities.  Keep an eye on this concept as it is definitely an educational showpiece that will provide significant help for a very tight labor market.

The work emanating from the bond issue has also been in full swing.   Both the Sally Wysong Elementary and Marilyn Moore Middle schools are well underway, and we look forward to opening them in 2016 and 2017, respectively.  Interestingly, the neighborhood growth in those two areas has been significant and we anticipate both schools having great interest.   Throw in the remodeling and renovation work at schools across the district and our Operations staff members have been incredibly busy.   Thank you, Lincoln, for all your support in helping us build and maintain quality buildings.

The work of the school district has not gone unnoticed by the nation.   Recently, we received a national award from the District Administration Journal for excellence in obtaining a high graduation rate.  A similar acknowledgement was just announced this week by the National School Board Association, recognizing our Board for their leadership in student success.  This award exemplifies the importance of the Board and school district leadership working collaboratively to educate children.  There are few school boards that put in as much time as in Lincoln.  With at least two meetings each month, plus special meeting for planning and informational discussions, and serving on at least three committees that meet monthly, their personal commitment is a primary reason for our success.

As we look to the future, our goal of 90 percent on-time graduation will be the most difficult work we have ever undertaken.  The key for achieving this rests in our ability as a school community to help our students overcome obstacles such as poverty and mental health issues. We can’t do this alone as Jamie Vollmer points out in his work.   Fortunately, there are many in Lincoln that have stepped up to help through partnerships like the Foundation for LPS, Teammates, United Way and our Community Learning Centers.   While we appreciate the help, we could use more.  We now have 400 homeless children and a list of 300 young people waiting for Teammates.  Having been a Teammate (and currently working with two middle schoolers), I can unequivocally tell you this program makes a difference with an investment of one hour per week.

Steve Joel

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Stephen Joel

About Stephen Joel

Dr. Steve Joel is the Superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools. A native of Long Island, New York, with degrees from Doane College, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Kansas State, Dr. Joel has extensive experience as a superintendent in Kansas and Nebraska. Prior to coming to Lincoln, he served for ten years as superintendent in Grand Island and eight years in Beatrice.