Second semester filled with weather decisions, legislative vigilance, hope

We were excited to welcome back our Lincoln Public Schools students and staff members early in January after a nice holiday break.   As we look to second semester, we are thankful for the incredible community and parental support we receive to help us in our work.

I believe second semester is always a little tougher than the first. Primarily, this is due to the challenge of winter months that will, on occasion, disrupt the academic week. As of this writing we have taken two full days for winter weather and managed to dodge a third when a storm didn’t materialize. I often get asked if there is a formula or rubric that we use to make a “snow day” decision.  The answer is that each event is unique with many factors entering into the ultimate decision.  If possible, we always want to have school – we value precious instructional time, and we recognize that many parents struggle to make day care arrangements.  On the other hand, we also know that we have many students who are ill equipped to dress appropriately for the weather and risk exposure.  So we look for a balance in these difficult decisions that we take very seriously.

I appreciate, and am actually amused by, the many pleas from students who ask me – beg me – to call a snow day so they can stay home where it is “safe.”  But rest assured, this is not a priority factor in my decision. Having done this work for several decades, I have yet to meet a student who does NOT want a weather day.

Second semester also brings a call to order for the state legislature – and I believe our legislature has a tough road ahead.  The competing pressure to adequately fund public schools to ensure continued excellence – is colliding with a difficult state financial picture that is exacerbated by a desire to reduce taxes. While there are many good ideas worth exploring, there is also great concern about whether a significant tax shift will also provide replacement funding. We intend to remain vigilant.

Meanwhile, whether it’s first or second semester, one of the great parts of my job is visiting schools and interacting with staff and students. The work that is happening every day in LPS is a tremendous source of personal pride.  We have great kids and wonderful staff members, and they work hard each day to better themselves. To see students learning about and acknowledging the importance of being a good person is truly uplifting. I had a couple of these experiences in the last couple weeks centered on the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his “dream.”  The MLK Youth Group and Scott Middle School Tie Club both held events serving as reminders that we are a society where – though still room for improvement – everyone is treated equally without discrimination.  Thank you to all who are involved with those events.

For those looking for proof that our kids really are developing into fine people, I invite you to attend any activity at any of our schools.  You will see that our community’s future is indeed bright.

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.