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February 2020

Scott Middle School honors community leader Nate Woods at annual MLK event


Students, staff, family and friends gathered in the Scott Middle School gym on Jan. 16 to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as pay tribute to Nate Woods, a leader in the Lincoln community known for his compassion and dedication to the city’s youth.

A8 ConnectLPS

A2 Superintendent’s blog A3 TeamMates of the Month A6 We the People competition A12 Students walk to honor MLK’s legacy 2020 Freedom Breakfast SECTION B:

Woods’ photo was added to Scott’s Martin Luther King Jr. Wall of Honor, located near the school’s main office.

B1 Jr. ROTC focus program B3 Learning lunch schedule

“Each day as students, we pass by the wall that displays photos of men and women who have followed the example set by Dr. King,” said Anna, one of the student presenters. “We are fortunate to reflect on men and women who have made a difference in our community.”

B5 Irving steps up for service learning B6 FCS class finds joy in making monsters B7 2020 Census

Woods has been active in the Lincoln community for more than 30 years. In 1996, after serving overseas in the military, he returned to Lincoln and worked as a custodian at Belmont Elementary School. While at Belmont, he started an after-school chess club and eventually became assistant superintendent of the Belmont Recreation Center.

B9 Wellness column B11 Menus B12 Bond Issue

Woods went on to work for 15 years at the Clyde Malone Center, which his grandfather helped open in 1955. Woods developed after-school and summer programs, as well as a program that provided fresh fruit and vegetables for children to take home with them on Fridays. Woods currently works with the National Able Network as a career coach, matching older employees with training and jobs in their community, and is a youth specialist for CEDARS Youth Services. Wood and his family also have welcomed more than 100 foster children into their home.

be a friend, it could be a teacher. It’s certainly helped me along the way.”

Woods thanked a number of friends and family members when accepting the award, then offered the students a piece of advice.

Scott students performed music and read original poetry about King and Woods. Jessie Myles, a local minister who was honored at this event in 2006, gave a stirring rendition of portions of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“What I will say to young people is, there’s always someone in your life to help you along the way, so look for that person,” he said. “It could be a family member, it could

Scott Principal Marco Pedroza closed the event with a message for his students, including the following: “Be diligent, make an impact, be generous.”

Community News is a publication of Lincoln Public Schools. If you have any questions about this publication please contact Jason Keese, 436-1619; or Mindy Burbach, 436-1609; Lincoln Public Schools P.O. Box 82889 Lincoln, NE 68501-2889

February 2020 | Community News | Section A


Student success reminds us of our mission I abhor shopping and I will do almost anything to avoid having to do it. However, it seems that each time I venture out to shop in Lincoln I come home with another heart-warming story from a Lincoln Public Schools student or alum. Just recently I heard from a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Bio-engineering major while she was working at SouthPointe Pavilions. She shared how wonderfully prepared she was to begin her freshman year at the university. At Gateway Mall, a young lady spoke of the rich diversity represented at Lincoln High School and how, despite having moved here from another country, she always felt accepted socially and challenged academically. Of course as expected, a middle school student attempted to bribe me with a cinnamon roll in exchange for the four snow days she believes I owe students each year. I found it humorous in light of the temperature being almost 60 degrees when she offered the bribe. When you dedicate your life to education, these are the moments that define your work. LPS is full of incredible stories of young people, and staff, who are inspired by what they experience here and how they have grown. Together with an incredibly supportive community, committed parents and caring professionals, LPS cultivates outcomes that should make each and every one of us proud. All I have to do is go shopping in our community to have that reinforced. With the first semester in the books, we turn to the work in front of us for the remainder of the school year. Of course, one big event occurs Feb. 11, when our community votes on the $290 million bond issue that seeks to address our immediate high school overcrowding with the addition of two high schools, an additional elementary school in the northeast part of Lincoln, provides infrastructure updates and/or additions at each middle school and invests significantly into maintaining our existing buildings – all of this within the existing tax levy. Community input through the work of the High School Task Force and Superintendents Facility Advisory Committee was instrumental in helping the Board of Education prioritize the work represented in the first tier of the updated Ten Year Facilities and Infrastructure Plan. I’ll close with another thank you to all of our awesome staff and community members who provide incredible support for our mission. I have stated on many occasions that I believe Lincoln is a very unique and exciting place to live, work and recreate because the community is so willing to help when needed. Here’s to a great second half of the school year and to a productive and rewarding 2020. Read more posts from Dr. Joel’s blog at: https://wp.lps.org/sjoel.

February 2020 | Community News | Section A


February TeamMates of the Month

Joyce and Alexis: Sunshine and fun Alexis is the first to say that there were some adjustments to be made between elementary school and middle school. Now a sixth-grader at Lefler Middle School, the one thing that is unchanged is Alexis’s weekly meeting with her TeamMates mentor, Joyce. “Things change in middle school, I think, in terms of friend relationships,” Joyce said. “There’s a lot of the same things that go on when I was in middle school 50 years ago, but there’s a lot of new and different complications that go with being a kid today. We do a lot more talking than we did in the beginning.” Alexis was a third-grader at Randolph Elementary School when she first met Joyce, nervous and unsure of what to expect. But that changed quickly. “We made a bond,” Alexis said confidently. “I call Joyce my grandma because we’re that close…[she’s] someone you can play games with and learn from.” As a middle schooler Alexis has set new goals for herself, and Joyce is her cheerleader. “She’s working really, really hard to get straight A’s,” Joyce said. “I encourage her and tell her not to be disappointed if it doesn’t happen right away, because it takes a lot of adjustment when you go from elementary school to middle school.” “She asks a lot of questions so she knows how I’m doing, so that helps a lot,” Alexis said of Joyce. “It’s like she’s always by my side….” But it’s not all seriousness for Joyce and Alexis. “Sometimes, she’ll wear some funky shoes or a necklace or funny socks,” Alexis said with a grin. Joyce laughed and admitted to purposely wearing something goofy to amuse Alexis. Because of this, Alexis picked the “F.U.N.” song from “SpongeBob SquarePants” as the song to describe their TeamMates match. For Joyce, it’s “You Are My Sunshine.”

“I call Joyce my grandma because we’re that close… she’s someone you can play games with and learn from.” “She comes in with that big ol’ smile,” Joyce said. “I just never see her down. Our personalities mix and we have a good time together supporting each other.” Alexis agreed. “When I meet with her, I’m excited until I see her again.”

Although TeamMates requests a threeyear commitment, Alexis and Joyce are sure they will continue meeting through middle school, high school, and beyond. For more information about TeamMates, visit LincolnTeamMates.org.

February 2020 | Community News | Section A


Students show off their constitutional knowledge at We the People competition A team from Lincoln East High School has qualified for the national competition in We the People, a program that promotes civic responsibility and knowledge about the history and principles of U.S. constitutional democracy. Roughly 100 LPS high school students participated in the state competition, held Jan. 8 at the University of Nebraska College of Law. In addition to East which won for the 13th time in 15 years - students from Southeast, North Star and Southwest high schools also competed. Southeast finished second. It was technically a competition, but students said they enjoyed the entire We the People experience, regardless of the outcome. “It took a lot of time, a lot of research, but it was honestly really interesting to learn about all of this, apart from the competition. I honestly just learned a lot about America and history and the Constitution, so that was really interesting to me,” said North Star senior Linda Kuku. “I stress to them that this isn’t a test, this isn’t necessarily a competition when we get here,” said North Star teacher Jace Ahlberg, “it’s a lot of wanting to converse about a very specific topic and their opinions are valued by other people.” As part of the state competition, teams of four students participated in a simulated congressional hearing in which they testify before a panel of judges acting as members of Congress. Judges included university professors, attorneys, and current and retired judges. Students demonstrated their knowledge and understanding of constitutional principles and had opportunities to evaluate, take and defend positions on relevant historical and contemporary issues. Students offered heavily researched answers to questions that included: What are the philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system? How has the Constitution been changed to further the ideals contained in the Declaration of Independence? What challenges might face American constitutional democracy in the 21st Century? Students spent hours preparing for Wednesday’s competition. Max Draus, a senior at Southeast, said it was a lot of work, both during class and after school. But it was worth it. “It’s important to gain that knowledge so you’re involved in your government and you’re able to participate civically,” he said. The national finals will be held April 24-27 in Washington, D.C.

February 2020 | Community News | Section A



Here’s some of our favorite photos from LPS schools in the past month. Want to see more? Connect with your school’s social media at lps.org/connect.

Lincoln North Star High School

“Students sign up for Government & Politics volunteer hours. Thank you to the organizations who came out to North Star today!”

Rousseau Elementary School

“Preschool and Lincoln Southeast High School students had a blast ice skating.”

Culler Middle School

Lincoln East High School

“Congratulations to all of our 6th grade January student of the month winners!”

“Thank you for attending the East High 8th Grade Night! #spartannation #classof2024”

Lincoln Southeast High School

“Welcome Future Knights! We love our Southeast families! #KnightPride”

February 2020 | Community News | Section A


Campbell Elementary School

“Congrats to all of our 4th and 5th grade instrumentalists! This evening’s concert was wonderful! Keep practicing and keep it up! Thank you parents for all your support! #BetterTogether”

Calvert Elementary School

“Mrs. Holibaugh’s 2nd grade classroom has a new therapy dog, Ruby!”

Hill Elementary School 3rd grade visit to Morrill Hall

Elliott Elementary School

“Dr. Leslie Eastman, Director of Assessment and Evaluation, and Kristi Diehl, ESU coordinator, spoke to Elliott Family Literacy parents about student assessment. #elliottproud #elliotthope”

Dawes Middle School

“Students in Ms. Thomas’ 7th grade math class got to put their probability skills to work and created some fun carnival games to share with their classmates!”

February 2020 | Community News | Section A


Students 'Walk Together' to honor MLK's legacy The frigid temperatures and icy streets did not prevent a record number of students and their families from participating in the 25th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Rally and March on Monday, Jan. 20. The annual event was organized by a diverse group of area youth and held in conjunction with the national recognition of King's birthday. The event was intended to celebrate his legacy and the mission of the event's planning committee. This year’s theme: “Walk Together.” Azcia Fleming, Lincoln High School senior and planning committee member, conjured the memory of Leola Bullock, the late Lincoln civil rights activist, when she addressed the crowd: "I 'walk' honoring Dr. Leola Bullock’s desire for youth like me, Azcia Fleming, to not only honor, but to be inspired, and to be educated about the 'walk' of King and those who followed him, and take the reigns of a movement and step into the light as leaders." The day’s events began in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Ballroom with a pre-rally celebration. That was followed by a "Call to Action" program and the "Unifying March" at approximately noon through the streets of downtown Lincoln. Southwest High School journalism students Thursey Cook, Milana Done' and McKenna Deriese, along with their sponsor, Brandi Benson, were awarded the Community Contributor Award. The award is based on the rally's misson: “… promotion of the life and dreams of the late Rev. Dr. King Jr. through positive youth action in the community."

2020 Freedom Breakfast honors MLK Lincoln Public Schools staff and administrators joined hundreds of fellow community members on Jan. 17 at the annual Freedom Breakfast honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., held at the Embassy Suites Hotel. Every year, LPS joins Southeast Community College, the University of Nebraska, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a committee of community members to coordinate the event. This year’s keynote speaker, T.J. McDowell, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a Lincoln High School alum, spoke to the crowd about overcoming his own strong prejudice while attending college. McDowell shared, “We can miss out on great relationships in our life because we have a fear about what we don’t know.” LPS Superintendent Steve Joel also gave remarks during the breakfast. He spoke about the Lincoln Board of Education’s work toward defining equity and what student success looks like in our schools. Joel described the inspirational stories of three LPS students and their success. Joel also shared a King quote: “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” During the breakfast, eight recent LPS graduates were introduced as 2019 MLK Scholarship Award winners:

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” Amro Elimam, Lincoln Northeast High School; Jillian Fougeron, Lincoln Southwest High School; Kate Gonzalez-Mireles, Lincoln North Star High School; Kath-

erine Nepper, a graduate of Lincoln East High School; and Sandra Montoya-Martinez, Aye Par, Monica Pester and Zantiago Zollicoffer, from Lincoln High.

February 2020

Eighth-graders experience LPS Air Force Jr. ROTC focus program More than 20 eighth-graders from six different middle schools spent a day last week experiencing what it’s like to be part of the Lincoln Public Schools Air Force Jr. ROTC program. On Jan. 16, the middle-school students participated in a typical week’s worth of activities squeezed into one, seven-hour visit to Lincoln Northeast High School, where the focus program is based. They participated in team-building activities, physical training exercises and learned the basics of marching. They also observed a uniform inspection, which occurs once a week when cadets wear uniforms to school. “I’m hoping they’ll catch an interest in our program. It’s a way to advertise what we’re doing,” said Trent Woodruff, a retired Air Force master sergeant and the program’s instructor. While it is a military program at its core, Woodruff stressed that a student does not need to be interested in joining the military to participate in Jr. ROTC.

“What my mission is, is to teach them some life skills that prepare them for life after high school… If you’re going to be a banker or an electrician or a doctor, I don’t care. I want to make them better at whatever they’re going to do.”

“What my mission is, is to teach them some life skills that prepare them for life after high school. It has nothing to do with the military,” he said. “We use the military aspects to teach things but I don’t care if you join the military. If you’re going to be a banker or an electrician or a doctor, I don’t care. I want to make them better at whatever they’re going to do.” Roughly 100 students - from all six LPS high schools are currently enrolled in the program. Like other focus programs, students spend a portion of the day at their home high school. Jr. ROTC cadets take program-specific courses about leadership, exploration of space and the science of flight. They also are heavily involved in the community through “cadet community service projects” and take a number of field trips throughout the year.

“Most people just see it as a way to build themselves, to build their resume, so when they go to college they have that,” Curtis said. “When they go on a job interview, they’ll see they were part of this and might be more likely to hire them.”

Senior cadet Trevor Curtis has been in the program since ninth grade. He plans on joining the military after graduation, but - like Woodruff - he stressed that’s not the case for an overwhelming majority of cadets.

Samara Follette, an eighth-grader at Culler Middle School, said she learned a lot during her day at Northeast and plans on signing up for the program next year.

“All of the people we’ve been interacting with today are super fun. They’re real people,” she said. “I’ve always been a leader but I think this program will help me more with that.” Curtis hoped the eighth-graders not only learned the nuts and bolts of the program, but also gained an understanding of its culture, as well. “This program is a family.”

February 2020 | Community News | Section B


Upcoming Learning Lunches: Tuesday, Feb. 18: “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” LPS Government students have the opportunity to showcase their civic and Constitutional knowledge through the “We the People” program and competition. Presenter: Jaci Kellison, K-12 curriculum specialist, social studies

Tuesday, March 17: “The Importance of Our Guest Teachers in LPS”

The job of being a substitute teacher can be challenging, yet rewarding. This session will provide information about being a substitute teacher in Lincoln Public Schools and the opportunities that are available for professional growth and development. Presenters: Vann Price, LPS Human Resources Department supervisor for secondary personnel, and Kren Shellhase, administrative assistant.

Tuesday, April 21: “Take Charge, Career Readiness and Financial Responsibility: Lessons in Career and Personal Finance” Lessons from the classroom in teaching young people responsibility in career and personal finance. Presenters: Julie Hippen, assistant curriculum specialist for career and technical education, along with teachers and students.

Tuesday, May 12: “Creating Music on a Blank Canvas”

The final Learning Lunch of the school year will focus on the creative aspect of music. All six LPS high schools offer various music courses that empower and foster students to learn the creative process of music composition and improvisation. Some of our talented high school students will share their experiences, inspiration and performances of creating their own original music. Presenter: Lance Nielsen, LPS supervisor of Music. LPS Learning Lunches are open to LPS staff and the Lincoln community. Learning Lunches are held in the boardroom at LPS District Office, 5905 O St. Doors open at 11:45 a.m., the program begins at noon, followed by questions-and-answers at 12:30 p.m. Please bring your own lunch – we’ll provide dessert

February 2020 | Community News | Section B


Irving students step up for service learning project The mood was festive inside the Irving Middle School auditorium on Jan. 10 during the second-quarter awards ceremony for seventh-graders. Before the ceremony began, students, teachers and staff danced to “YMCA,” then whooped and hollered once the event began as award winners were recognized. They had good reason to be excited. They also were celebrating their second-quarter service learning project, which benefited Friendship Home, a local emergency and transitional shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children. Students collected nearly 650 cleaning supply items and bathroom amenities, more than 6,400 diapers, and more than $500. On Friday, students presented the items and a large ceremonial check to Friendship Home representatives. The students roared as the stage curtain was drawn, revealing the donated items. “You all demonstrated tremendous generosity, enthusiasm to help those in need and a commitment to service to others,” said Irving social studies teacher Kate Larson. “All of these things you see up here are going to the Friendship Home and we are excited - way to go, seventh-graders!” Nichole Palmer, assistant director of development, accepted the donations on behalf of Friendship Home. “Thank you so much for this and for all you’ve done in the community,” she said. Palmer praised the students once more before they hauled the items to cars parked outside the school’s main entrance. She related a story about when she asked a kindergartner to define the word volunteer. The answer: Someone who steps up. “And that’s you,” Palmer said.

February 2020 | Community News | Section B


Scott FCS, Life Skills students partner to bring monsters to life

In her first year as the Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Scott Middle School, Evann Vrana thought of the perfect way to teach hand-sewing to her eighth-graders. She enlisted the help of Life Skills teacher Dorothy Goa, who had her special education students draw pictures of monsters. Then Vrana’s students brought those drawings to life in December by hand-sewing dolls based on the pictures. The pictures varied - some monsters had one eye, some had three. There were horns, claws and jagged teeth. One thing was the same: the response among the Life Skills students when presented with their personalized dolls. "They loved it,” Goa said. “I have a couple students tell me they sleep with their dolls now, so they love them - they love them.”

February 2020 | Community News | Section B


February 2020 | Community News | Section B


Secrets to a heartier February By Michelle Welch, RD, LMNT LPS Wellness Facilitator

If your brain goes back to the robot Valentine’s Day box you made out of an oatmeal container or shoebox, you are not alone. As fun as that was, what if this year could be a more meaningful February for both you and your kids? LPS and other community partners are focusing on kindness during this month of the heart. At school, students will find activities that both support kindness to others and kindness to themselves. Often, the kindness to themselves can be a bigger challenge, especially in middle and high school. How can we help them to grow these strengths? Think differently about Valentine’s Day. We encourage families to shift the thinking about this holiday for kids to focus on kindness and self-acceptance. Sometimes adult concepts of romance are thrust onto kids. This is a great chance to change the view of this sometimes-disappointing/confusing day into one where kids focus on friendship, kindness and being kind to themselves. Boost kindness opportunities. Parents can help train kindness, both by modeling it and giving your child chances to volunteer or do for others. Helping kids realize how fulfilling kindness can be may hardwire kindness habits. Give self-care example shout-outs. Self-care such as a getting a good night’s rest, making healthier food choices when available and moving your body for fun and stress-relief are great examples of self-kindness that could go unnoticed, which are nice examples to point out to kids. We can all benefit from growing these efforts, right? Build awareness of kindness. Help point out to your child examples of kindness, to self and others, when you see it. Social media, television stories, books you read together and actions of people around you are great discussion points. Train them in asking themselves, “Is it kind? Is it necessary?” before posting or making comments. Include you. As adults, we have had many years of practice being tough on ourselves. Our kids are listening. Are we realizing how often we are modeling negative self-talk? Rather that little voice in your head, in front of the mirror or on social media, start noticing and changing the script. Kids are watching and listening. If you’d like to learn more about this initiative and other wellness offerings, feel free to explore our district wellness webpage at www.lps.org/wellness. Click on the “Challenges!” tab specifically for the information on kindness and self-acceptance. Please join us at LPS Wellness on social media for more insight into ways schools are tackling all areas of wellness. Together, we can build a brighter future for our community.

February 2020 | Community News | Section B


February Breakfast

February Elementary Lunch

February Secondary Lunch

February 2020 | Community News | Section B


Profile for Lincoln Public Schools

February 2020 Community News  

February 2020 Community News