LPS Superintendent stresses importance of all means all in the changing landscape of public education

Lincoln Public Schools has each child for 13 years, and though the landscape of public education is changing and the school district is growing, educators must ensure those years are meaningful and relevant to every single child – every day.

That’s what LPS Superintendent Steve Joel reminded his audience Wednesday at the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce’s Face the Chamber forum: “At the end of the day, our work is all about making sure every child is successful, regardless of demographics, appearance, religion – and  that’s all kids, all means all.  

Joel noted that Nov. 12-16 is American Education Week across the country, an appropriate moment to step back and consider an overall look at our public school district – now and into the future. 

Currently LPS has more than 42,000 students with:

  • 3,000 English Language Learners (refugee and immigrant children)
  • 5,100 students receiving gifted services
  • 7,400 students receiving special education services
  • 18,600 students who live in poverty (qualify for free and reduced lunch)

LPS has been growing rapidly in the past decade – LPS has worked hard to shore up safety and security especially this past year – and the school district has hired 2,020 new teachers in the past five years. “Our newer schools are filling up…We are at 106 percent capacity in our high schools…So we are asking the question:  How do we address the rapidly overcrowding at the high school level, as well as needs for more middle and elementary schools?”

Joel said that next semester he will form a community advisory task force to study LPS facilities and eventually develop recommendations for prioritizing facility needs.  “They will give us their best advice on how we should address growth, and where and how many schools to build…We have our work cut out for us next year.”

But there are additional challenges and questions in public education these days – teachers no longer look at schools as providing cookie cutter education, Joel said.  “One of the most interesting topics today is about choice…We want our kids to be college-ready, career-ready and civics-ready….But we are also asking how we need to engage kids in a more personalized manner.”

He stressed that there are many choices at LPS:

  • The Career Academy with 14 different career pathways
  • International Baccalaureate at Lincoln High School
  • Junior ROTC at Lincoln Northeast High School
  • Both the Science, and Arts and Humanities focus programs 

“But we are asking ourselves, are there other things we should be thinking about that can energize students and our community?” Joel continued.  “How can we do a better job connecting our kids with current careers and occupations?”

Joel said there are any number of potential educational choices on the list, including focus programs in areas such as: STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)/STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), Engineering, Fine/Performing Arts, Agriculture, Aviation, Dual Language and more.

“As we consider different modes of education, we are looking at second order change in the way we have traditionally delivered curriculum,” Joel said. “As we consider personalized instruction, we continue to look closer at how we will energize every single student…We have a generation of preschoolers and kindergartners who need us…We want them to come and learn.”

Published: November 14, 2018, Updated: November 15, 2018