Safety and security: Schools cannot do it alone

I believe Lincoln ranks as an excellent model community in this country when it comes to caring deeply for children – all children, including those who need additional help and support.  And Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler ranks as an excellent model city leader in recognizing and prioritizing an investment in young people – an investment at the earliest ages when it makes a significant difference in their life trajectory.  We are indeed fortunate.

The recent community conversations concerning the proposed Joint Public Agency (JPA) – to provide community resources for a continuum of safety and security efforts, including Community Learning Centers – have been robust.  The concerns expressed about the formation of a governmental taxing agency are genuine.  But concerns are just as genuine over the reality that schools are not able to alone address the many societal concerns that have emerged in, say, just the last decade.

Jamie Vollmer is a noted author and former corporate CEO who has written a book, “Schools Cannot Do It Alone.” He tells the story of his appointment to a state initiative that focused on converting education into a corporate model of efficiency – an initiative that was supposed to lead to higher outcomes and significant cost reductions.  His experience brought him to a greater understanding of public education and the challenges involved in teaching students with a broad scope of needs.  He realized that, while businesses can eliminate less-than-efficient personnel from their processes and ranks, schools embrace all students who come to their doors. On top of that, when Vollmer looked back over the last five decades he recognized the incredible number of new requirements and responsibilities heaped onto schools to address broader societal issues. While the list is too long to articulate in a blog, Vollmer determined that schools have been asked to engage in these responsibilities without getting much in the way of resources (unfunded mandates) nor additional time. To say that we don’t have any more room in our school day for additional requirements would be a gross understatement.

Today, the increased emphasis on safety and security – for instance, adding School Resource Officers, or providing sustained support for Community Learning Centers to enhance learning for students in poverty – will be costly if schools are forced to do it alone. The formation of a JPA or an interlocal agreement is a community-based solution that demonstrates safety and security are not solely the responsibility of a school district.

As we work to resolve this issue, my hope is that we emerge stronger as a school district and as a community. I believe we share the same dream that all our students reach their fullest potential and hope for the future.  Lincoln has been and will continue to be an incredible place to live and learn. I am appreciative of the support we receive from a most benevolent community.

Thank you, Lincoln.