Thank you for a great 2016 – looking ahead to 2017

As 2016 draws to a close, I would like to thank all Lincoln Public Schools staff, families and community members for their hard work in helping our students succeed in school and in life. With more than 1,000 new students and 420 new teachers this school year, this is not an easy task.   But we are fortunate to work in a community that places high value on the quality of the educational experience and is more than willing to step up and help when needed.  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

As we look ahead to 2017, the crystal ball is anything but clear. Below I highlight what I see as some of the major questions facing LPS as well as public education in general.

  1. How much more student growth can we expect?   With a city that seems to be announcing development after development and principals reporting more new families arriving each month, are the days of annually adding 750 to 1,000 new students now the norm?  Living in a growing, progressive city has great benefits, however, the task of providing academic space to accommodate that growth can be daunting.
  1. With the completion of our initial three-year technology initiative winding down, are students and staff fully utilizing digital resources in a way that yields academic improvement?
  1. We started an extensive strategic planning process this fall: Will this initiative yield any surprises in terms of the community consensus on direction for the future of our school district?  What will we identify as our major focus for the next five years?  Are we ready to begin the conversation on what another high school might look like or where it might be located?
  1. When the state Legislature convenes in January and confronts a revenue shortfall, how will that impact school funding?
  1. How will our political leaders reconcile the desire for lower property taxes in a state that is ranked 49th in state support (i.e. sales and income) for schools?  If cuts in budgets are mandated, does Nebraska risk losing top five ranking for public schools in most academic comparisons?
  1. Will the new U.S. Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, accelerate her interests in privatization of education through a push for charter schools and tax vouchers?  What impact will this have on Nebraska, a state that doesn’t have either but is a nationally recognized high-achieving state.
  1. After several years without a significant snow storm in January, is this the year for a big one?

It is always fun to try and predict the future but, with so much uncertainty, we have to keep our eyes on the importance of ensuring that 41,000 students get the very best we have – each and every day.   We love our work.

Happy 2017 to all,

Steve

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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.