By most measures, 2017 was another excellent year for Lincoln Public Schools.
Despite the challenges associated with incredible student growth and the employment of more than 400 new teachers, we have continued to demonstrate academic growth. These results are a tribute to the educators, staff and administrators at each of our buildings who prioritize student achievement and helping all students develop their interests and character to enable them to succeed.
Achievement results are also a tribute to a wonderfully supportive community that time and again steps forward to assist us in the critical work with students who often have personal circumstances challenging their success. Community support is why we have 1,300 Teammate mentors – and a Prosper Lincoln initiative that includes the goal of easing the early childhood waiting list. When you consider the contributions from the United Way and the Foundation for LPS, along with our Community Learning Centers, it is little wonder that our graduation rate has maintained consistency despite changing demographics.
As we look ahead to 2018, we are beginning the next five-year Strategic Planning phase that will accelerate our focus on struggling learners and developing more options for students to pursue their academic and vocational interests. I believe the community will enjoy seeing what our educators and leaders develop as we strive to educate students for the future – and not the past. Lincoln will continue to be a national leader in this regard.
The Lincoln Board of Education is eagerly awaiting the recommendations of the LPS/Community High School Task Force. More than 90 community and LPS staff volunteers have been charged with considering a solution(s) for 2,000 additional 9-12 students who will soon be entering our existing buildings. The conversations have been robust and the group will continue their work into spring.
While the future looks bright, there are some challenges looming that we will have to navigate; including:
- A difficult state financial picture that will put pressure on school funding. With all forms of taxation under discussion, we anticipate a number of legislative proposals.
- The possible impact of the recently passed federal tax legislation on appropriations for Title programs. As a school district with a poverty rate of 46 percent and growing (students receiving free and reduced lunch), we are concerned about the future viability of the academic supports we provide to counter some of the challenges poverty presents.
- What might we expect regarding future student enrollment growth? A quick drive around the perimeter of the city showcases many new housing developments under construction. Will we continue to grow the average of 800 new students each year and, if the answer is yes, how will we appropriately house them?
It is often said that an individual, team or organization is ultimately defined by how they solve problems and manage change. As we look to the future for more than 42,000 students, we believe we are well poised to move forward in alignment with a great community that supports schools.
Thank you Lincoln and Happy New Year to all,