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NCSA Congratulates Dr. Matt Blomstedt Nebraska Commissioner of Education

Speaker Adams Provides Overview of 2014 Session LB 438: School Accountability

Nebraska Council of School Administrators

Winter 2014

D.A. Davidson & Co. 



Helping Build Brighter Futures Since 1935



2 Blomstedt Named Education Commissioner 3 Speaker Adams’ Provides Overview of 2014 Session BY ELISABETH REINKORDT

5 Preparing Our Students for the Future BY BOB WHITEHOUSE

6 LB 438: School Accountability BY ELISABETH REINKORDT


The Promise of Strategic Planning

NCSA EXECUTIVE BOARD 2013-2014 Chair ............................Chris Stogdill Vice Chair.......................Tim DeWaard Past Chair....................... Dave Kaslon NASA Representatives President ........................Mike Teahon President-elect ..................Mike Apple Past President .................Tim DeWaard NASBO Representatives President .....................Kelli Ackerman President-elect ..................Rick Haney Past President ................... Jill Pauley



Forward Momentum: Why Nebraskans Stand Behind Early Childhood Education BY MICHAEL MEDWICK


Transforming Nebraska’s Struggling Students BY LINDA FOX


Key Insights from a Successful Bond Issue Election BY GEORGE SCHULER


Creating a Great Culture to Realize Sustained Excellence and Academic Achievement BY BRAD BLACK

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Affiliate Awards Hastings Middle School Named a National Breakthrough School Mentoring to Build Capacity and Success BY DR. MIKE DULANEY and DR. DAN ERNST


NASES Representatives President........................Brenda Tracy President-elect.............Sally Giittinger Past President ..................Jane Moody

Mentorship for Special Education Directors BY DR. JENNY PIENING


NAESP Representatives President .......................Mike Janssen President-elect....................Rod Engel Past President ...............Ann Jablonski

Calendar of Events

NCSA Mission The mission of the Nebraska Council of School Administrators (NCSA) is to be an effective leader for quality education and to enhance the professionalism of its members. NCSA Today is a benefit of membership in the Nebraska Council of School Administrators, 455 South 11th Street, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68508. Telephone 402.476.8055 or 800.793.6272. Fax 402.476.7740. Annual membership dues are $335 (active members), $100 (associate members), or $40 (student members). NCSA Today is published quarterly. Send address changes to NCSA, Membership, 455 South 11th Street, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68508. Copyright ©2014 by NCSA. All rights reserved.

NSASSP Representatives President .....................Brian Tonniges President-elect............ Ryan Ricenbaw Past President ................Chris Stogdill NARSA Representative President ........................Larry Sweley NCSA STAFF Dr. Michael S. Dulaney Executive Director/Lobbyist Dr. Dan E. Ernst Associate Executive Director/Lobbyist Kelly Coash-Johnson Assistant Executive Director Amy Poggenklass Finance and Membership Director Carol Young Executive Administrative Assistant Michelle Smith Administrative Assistant Elisabeth Reinkordt Communication Specialist The opinions expressed in NCSA Today or by its authors do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Nebraska Council of School Administrators. WINTER 2014




Blomstedt Named Education Commissioner


State Board President Pat Timm said the Board’s goal he Nebraska State Board of Education has is to work in partnership with Blomstedt to ensure all named Matthew Blomstedt of Central City the students learn at high levels and the achievement gap new Nebraska Commissioner of Education. among groups of students is narrowed. The Board’s focus Blomstedt was selected from a field of four finalists. will include the development of a new state accountaBlomstedt currently is executive director of the Nebraska bility system focused on continuous improvement. The Educational Service Unit Coordinating Council. overarching goal, Timm said, is to ensure all Nebraska He received a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and students graduate college and career ready. Higher Education from the University of Nebraska–LinA national search was conducted after former Comcoln; a Master of Community and Regional Planning from missioner of Education Roger Breed announced his reUNL; and, a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from tirement in July. UNL. For more information about Blomstedt, visit The State Board of Education voted unanimously for n Blomstedt. The four finalists were interviewed Wednesday by the State Board of Education and also met with Nebraska Department of Education staff, legislative staff and representatives of Nebraska’s education partners and policy makers. Several State Board of Education members noted Blomstedt’s experience with members of the education community statewide and, specifically, his experience working with rural Nebraska schools and developing statewide education and fiCommissioner Blomstedt visits with Denise Fisher, Executive Office Associate nance policy.

Executive Director, Nebraska Educational Service Unit Coordinating Council The Nebraska Educational Service Unit Coordinating Council (ESUCC) has an opening for its Executive Director beginning July 1, 2014 or an earlier mutually-agreed to time. The ESUCC is charged by statute with the coordination of Nebraska's 17 Educational Service Units and with providing state-wide leadership to Nebraska's school districts and other educational entities. ESUCC works toward statewide coordination to provide the most cost-effective services for the students, teachers, and school districts in each educational service unit. The ESUCC works closely with the Nebraska Department of Education and other governmental agencies in the state of Nebraska. For general information pertaining to the ESUCC and the opening please visit the website @ Application materials are due by January 31, 2014.




Speaker Adams’ Provides Overview of 2014 Session BY ELISABETH REINKORDT, Communications Specialist



s Senator Greg Adams, Speaker of the Legislature, prepares for the 2014 session, he is striking a somewhat somber tone. “When an outsider looking in on the Legislature looks in on the legislative session, they understandably focus on the issues. But for me—and for my colleagues—the issues are important, but equally important are the variables that may influence the issues,” he said. His first observation before launching into his predictions for the upcoming session is that the 2013 session was a very difficult one. “We haven’t really recovered from the 90-day session yet,” Adams begins, “and as we go into the 60-day session, we’re going to take virtually the same number of bills, and we will be dealing with bills more quickly, and the debate will start sooner.” NCSA Today spoke with Senator Adams in early December for a look into what Nebraskans can expect as the Legislature reconvenes. The first order of business will be addressing carryover legislation from 2013. (Of special importance for the education community, see the accompanying article on LB 438.) “Some of these are bills senators won’t want to revisit,” he said, “but that’s right were we left off, and the intensity will be ratcheted up quickly.” In picking up old business, Adams mused about the fact that seventeen of the forty-nine senators will be leaving at the end of the session—many of whom are in leadership positions. “I don’t think any of us who are leaving are going to make any radical ideological turnaround,” he said, but “there is that feeling of ‘This is it,’ so some might be bringing up issues at their last chance to do so.” As these senators take to the floor for the last time, other members of the legislature will be “jostling for leadership positions, and making known their desires to lead various committees” Adams noted, adding that there might be speeches made and actions within committee hearings as junior senators look to prepare for steps up into leadership roles. “We’ll be seeing some politics of leadership this session,” he noted. On that same note, Adams reminded readers that the Governor, too, is in his last session, and will be similarly motivated by one last chance to plug his agenda. Noting several policy clashes from previous sessions, Adams remarked the

Legislature and the Governor “will have to figure out if our agendas mesh, and whether we will have differences to reconcile—there is that variable out there.” It should come as no surprise to most Nebraskans that taxes will be up for discussion. After a series of hearings statewide where Senator Hadley’s Tax Modernization Committee listened to concerns from residents, Adams noted that it “became clear that property taxes were the main concern for Nebraskans, which doesn’t mean that we don’t have issues with our sales tax or our income tax.” Citing the tremendous growth in land values in some areas with flat lines elsewhere, he remarked that the situation could be much worse. However, he added that he thinks it is going to be quite difficult to make many changes to the way property tax and land valuations work. “It’s much easier to tweak income taxes,” Adams explained, “and much harder to change the more complex property tax system, there are so many moving parts, especially when we value local control and recognize the importance of agriculture to the state.” This is, of course, of extreme importance for administrators looking at their local revenues and what they may or may not be receiving in the form of TEEOSA allocations. “I don’t know that increasing state aid really solves the problem, even though on its face, it ought to,” Adams said, “because putting more money into TEEOSA wouldn’t really change tax rates for schools much, and it wouldn’t even affect 114 districts!” While he thinks there are likely small changes to be made this session, he does not predict that there will be whole-scale reform at this point in time. Perhaps the most pressing issue facing the Legislature in 2014 comes from Senator Ashford’s Judiciary Committee, and that is the matter of prison reform. Nebraska is currently facing a serious crisis in overcrowding, with prisons at 150 percent capacity. “It’s been a tough year for Corrections,” Adams remarked somberly, adding, “From a legislative standpoint, what it says is, we have issues to deal with.” Acknowledging that overcrowding is a serious concern, Adams added that it is important to investigate who is incarcerated and why. “We have too (continued on page 4)




LEGISLATION Speaker Adams Provides Overview of 2014 Session (continued from page 3) many people in prison,” Adams explained “and we have to address that, but underlying that, you have all the complicated issues of why are they there, and if they’re really needing to be there, how do we keep them there without building new prisons, and how do we follow up, to make sure that our recidivism rate isn’t contributing to this overpopulation?” With Senator Ashford making this his committee’s primary focus, Adams said, the Legislature has reached a point where “we can’t just ignore it and put it away, and push it onto the next legislature.” Other issues on the table include the fact that Senator Campbell has indicated she will be bringing forth a new bill on Medicaid expansion. While LB 577 is still on general file, Adams said Senator Campbell is not intending to revive that, opting instead for a new bill. “That was a ten-and-a-half hour debate without a vote ever being taken,” he said, “and I have no reason to believe it won’t be a long debate this next time.” Adams also noted that he is waiting to see how big of an issue water will be in this next

session, noting that Senator Carlson’s water sustainability task force will be presenting a report on their interim work, too. Finally, when asked about the preliminary forecasts indicating a revenue surplus in 2014, Adams was cautious. “We had very strong farm income this year,” he said, “and the economy of the whole state has been improving. The forecast is good.” However, he noted, the real question will be how much money the Legislature decides to leave in the state’s cash reserve, and to that, he quipped, “there are 49 opinions on the right amount.” He reflected back on 2009, when, as Chair of the Education Committee, he faced a massive shortfall in meeting state aid allocations. “As we think about the reserve, we have to think about what we’ll need to weather the next storm.” n

Upcoming Events NASES Spring Conference March 27-28, 2014 Cornhusker Hotel – Lincoln register online at

Emerging Administrators Program February 1st and February 15th NCSA Offices – Lincoln register online at



Education Forum February 27-28, 2014 Younes Conference Center – Kearney register online at

GRIT 6, 2014 rch Ma Cornhusker Hotel – Lincoln register online at


Preparing Our Students for the Future BY BOB WHITEHOUSE, University of Nebraska Board of Regents, District 4



hen I was first asked if I might consider writing an article for the NCSA Today, I thought, what does the fellow who’s been out of the business for over a decade have to offer? Then, I began to reflect on events since my principal days at Omaha Bryan Senior High and realized what a journey it’s been. The days of the NCSA sponsorship of NELI, (Nebraska Educational Leadership Institute) may be gone, but the many participants of those programs and the mentorship they received remain in place today in extensive leadership roles, mostly at superintendent and assistant superintendent levels, as well as building leadership folks. My point is, that each of us continues to give back every day while helping to develop others so that we may continue to serve each new generation of students who walks through our doors. I look at myself as one of the lucky ones who have the opportunity to serve at another level of education – namely higher education. I was elected to the state office as a University of Nebraska Regent in 2007 and reelected in 2013. The job of governance is somewhat different from being a building leader, but there are certainly similarities, too. Please allow me a few paragraphs to dwell on the similar challenges that I see K-12 and Higher Ed facing. • We are all in this together—Oh sure, the buzzwords of cooperation, collaboration, and transformation are constantly used, but has there ever been a time before that we haven’t needed K–12 and Higher Ed to succeed together? Probably not! UNL, UNO, and UNK continue to develop curriculum that allow teachers and administrators to learn and find strategies that will assist one another in everything from educational administration to STEM activities. When K–12 succeeds, then so does our University system. There are aggressive enrollment goals of 30,000 students at UNL and 20,000 students at UNO by 2020. A true partnership with K–12 districts and the University are a must if these goals are to be attained.

students ranked 17th in science and 25th in math among industrialized nations. While the good news in Nebraska is: standardized test results and graduation rates both continue to rise, we know that STEM education has to be treated like a top-notch educational policy. • How do we prepare our youngest to be school ready? All the research points to early childhood education. The University has made it one of the top three goals and is investing millions to develop a world-class institute to train, assist, and to implement strategies under renowned leaders like Sam Meisels. His work with K–12 leaders will have a major impact for decades to come. As we continue to prepare students for the future, a recent platform transfer from UNL to online Worldwide of fully digital, fully accredited online high school offers opportunities to expand our reach to help Nebraska high school students, particularly in rural areas to afford them the same academic opportunities available in the Omaha/Metro and Lincoln areas. The University continues to be a leader in such topics as Water for Food, Rural Affairs, Healthy Needs, and has a medical school dedicated to healthy professions education, clinical care, research, and service. Your University has a mission similar to K–12. While campuses stress more research, the similarities of teaching and service remain the same for all of us. If time and space were available, I'd go into detail and depth on college-bound Nebraska, improving graduation rates, innovation and economic engagement, the Nebraska Innovation Campus and the Buffett Cancer Center. For now I’ll leave these topics to another article another day. Nebraska can be proud of its leadership at every level of education from every corner of P–16. We, the citizens of Nebraska, thank you for your leadership and your unwavering support of, especially, K–12 education. Both are key to moving our young people to the next levels. These are challenging times to be an administrator, but exciting ones, as well. Best wishes to each and everyone of you as you look to 2014 with renewed vision and collaboration. n

• As people talk about a global economy, we know that a robust workforce has to contain technical know-how. According to the “Atlantic Journal,” it states the US Department of Education reports that American WINTER 2014




LB 438: School Accountability BY ELISABETH REINKORDT, Communications Specialist


ne piece of carryover legislation from the 2013 session that will be of note for Nebraska’s education community is LB 438, which Speaker of the Legislature Greg Adams has made his priority bill this session. The bill, which is a piece of the state’s development of school accountability systems, would task the State Board with identifying “priority schools” for intervention. While the bill was introduced in 2013, Adams held it over and set it under general file for this session with his personal priority attached. “It bought us time to rethink the way we’re approaching school accountability—both the Education Committee and the State Board,” Adams opened. NCSA Today spoke with both Senator Adams and Nebraska Department of Education Assistant Commissioner Brian Halsted to find out what our readers need to know as the bill makes its way through the 2014 session. Adams explained that he has been meeting with the State Board in the interim, and that his offer to them was to “tell me what you want to do differently with this bill, because it will get debated this session,” and he is confident that it will have the votes necessary to pass. “There is not a single administrator in this state that doesn’t know we don’t have a complete accountability system,” Adams stressed, “We have an assessment system, we have a means by which to collect data, but we don’t have an accountability system to say what we’re going to do with that data.” And while he noted that



Speaker Greg Adams

“we rely on schools to make changes and improve, and they do, but we don’t really have a system in place to support that.” Adams noted that he feels it is critically important that Nebraska build a model that “is reflective of the way we as Nebraskans believe schools should be held accountable—not necessarily what the Feds think—and I think that we can do better.” Noting that part of what is prompting his bill is keeping Nebraska in line with federal requirements because of the money in Title I and SPED involved, he said that he feels “the Feds will be flexible with what we propose, but we have to have something to show them.” Assistant Commissioner Halstead, however, countered that while this system will be able to mesh with federal requirements, “we’re not doing this just to comply with the Feds.” If passed, LB 438 would grant the State Board power to identify and intervene in so-called priority schools, (continued on page 7)

FEATURE LB 438: School Accountability (continued from page 6) which a committee amendment changed from five to just three schools per year. This change, which reduces the fiscal note attached to the bill, also allows for less staff from NDE to be required to meet the needs of intervention. This amendment also removed a provision for operating councils, which would have been a sort of “quasi-committee of the PTA, which was sort of unnecessary and unworkable, due to the diversity of districts in the state.” The funding is proposed to come from state general fund appropriations that will assist NDE in sending staff to intervene. Adams stressed the importance for the state to recognize schools that are having problems, and the commensurate need to deal with them. Adams emphasized the rhetorical importance of identify schools as “priority schools” in the bill. “I want to prioritize schools that need help,” Adams said, “and then get them the help that they need, and not just be punitive.” He added, “This model is about prioritizing help, not just in the form of a check of more money,” he said, “and we want to make sure schools identified are provided with administrative help, resources, and the tools they need to improve.” Currently, Adams added, “the closest we could come to accountability is taking away accreditation, and that’s not going to happen, nor is it a solution.” As the State Board looks to develop a state intervention system, Halstead explained that the Commissioner would appoint a team “to go into a priority school, look at their data, identify their needs, discover the causes of their needs, and develop best approaches to address issues in that specific school.” He noted that the state “does not want to presume it’s a problem with the school,” but rather that the intention would be to “talk to the people in the school and community to address whatever issues they’re facing as best as possible.” The school intervention teams would help craft a plan to address needs within the school which would then be presented to the State Board. “It’s all about transparency regarding needs and plans,” Halstead added. Assistant Commissioner Halstead said that the State Board and NDE staff have been working with Senator Adams since 2009 on the accountability topic. He explained that LB 870, which asked the State Board to create a system and was enacted in 2012, resulted in NePAS which he described as “simple, but not the best.” As the state’s education leaders look ahead, Halstead stressed that the aim is for “a more rational system, one that is more fair. We want to do accountability the way Nebraska does things, by trying to supply assistance,” to schools in need. He put this in stark contrast to the federal model, which he described as one that emphasizes “label and blame.”

Halsted gave a run-down of the work to come, noting that at the January Board Meeting, he expects that the Accountability Committee of the State Board will be bringing forth a framework for what they feel should be included in the model. He added that the senators on the Education Committee have been briefed on committee’s work, adding that the work with Senator Adams and Education Committee Chair Kate Sullivan has been solid all throughout the process. Halstead also indicated that the State Board and Accountability Committee have expressed their intent to hold policy forum meetings on this topic, and urged superintendents and principals to be prepared to provide input sometime between January and March. Halstead said the Board is still looking at the same indicators and measures as exist in NePAS, namely scores from all the current NeSA tests. However, he noted, the Board emphasized it wants to look not just at status, but also improvement & growth. “The Board feels that growth is very important,” he explained, “because then we can see how an individual student done over series of years, which gives us a more longitudinal indicator of how a school is doing.” He also added that while status highly correlated to poverty, growth is not, which helps ensure that priority schools are not just ones in which there are high poverty counts. Adams is confident the State Board will know how to devise a fair and effective system for identifying priority schools. “Certainly, we are looking to include multiple measures, including not just status, but improvement and especially growth,” he noted. Further, he explained, “a school district is just like the kids its made up of – there’s not just one side to them.” Halstead stressed that while “we all hoped Congress would have revised ESEA by now, obviously, that hasn’t happened. And since NCLB and AYP is not how we believe accountability should be done, if the Feds aren’t going to fix their laws, we need to do it the way Nebraskans think it should be done.” Adams expects the bill to move smoothly out of committee and onto general file, and expects it will pass this session, thus charging the State Board with developing the model to match the legislation. n





The Promise of Strategic Planning BY DR. LARRY L. DLUGOSH, President, Emilsson, LLC



trategic thinking has long been associated with ‘what’ and ‘why’? What do we do and why do we do it? American schools, public and private, exist to prepare youngsters for citizenship in a rapidly changing, global society. Schools work to ensure society is populated by well-educated citizens who are difference makers in all areas of endeavor. To ensure they serve their constituents and fulfill their mission schools should think and plan strategically. Consider three simple steps when thinking strategically; (1) think, (2) plan, and (3) act. Each of the activities can stand alone with no connection among them. However, when they are unified, an organization will move forward with a renewed sense of purpose and an increased capacity to address the ‘what’ and ‘why’ questions. Strategic planning is a process that assists schools and other organizations to confront their current reality and move beyond that reality to improved performances and outcomes. Once again, strategic planning actually requires more than just planning; it requires thought and action as well. A necessary first step in strategic planning is for schools to think openly about what they do, what and who their work is dedicated to, and how they measure their performances in the present. The second step is the design or plan new measures to improve performances for the future. Finally, once the plans are created, schools must act on the new measures to move the organization forward. Planning without action is frustrating and not very useful. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of changes alter the course of events every day. Under constant bombardment from all sorts of changes a school or school district must be strategic in the application of its resources (time, money, materials, and people) to fulfill its mission. All schools have resources to use—they have to plan about how to use resources most effectively. Strategic Planning: A Dynamic Process A strategic plan is not a plan to plan. It is a plan to design and accomplish goals that lead to improved performances for schools. A strategic plan involves a series of steps: 1. an examination of the current reality for the school, 2. an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportuni-



ties, and threats associated with the school (SWOT Analysis), 3. an examination of the impact of environments in which the school operates; usually the political, economic, societal, technological environments, plus the larger environment of education from preschool to postgraduate education. 4. a consideration of intentions and expectations; what do stakeholders expect from their schools in the future? 5. the creation of high priority goals for the future, 6. the construction of action plans that serve as the roadmap to help accomplish each high priority goal, and 7. a commitment to continuous management (and modification) of the plan after it is introduced to school district and community. Step seven is crucial because the strategic planning process is not static, it is dynamic! Many years ago, Helmuth von Moltke, a German Field Marshall during World War I, was credited with saying, ‘no battle plan ever survives its collision with the enemy.’ More recently, Susan Scott, the author of Fierce Conversations, was recognized for stating, ‘no plan survives its collision with reality.’ She was correct because reality has a way of shifting and changing just when we are planning to overtake it! When reality shifts, school leaders must shift with it, thus the need to continuously examine the strategic plan and make the necessary changes to assure the school can and will accomplish its mission. The Strategic Planning Team: Involvement of Stakeholders A reasoned strategic plan involves the collection of ideas about the current reality of the school, its measures of performance, and the expectations for the future from a wide range of stakeholders. School leaders, including members of the board of education, administrators, and teachers are important members of school district strategic planning team. Students, parents, community leaders, and business people are also necessary partners in the planning process. A functional team could include 25-40 representatives who are connected with the outcomes of the school. (continued on page 9)

STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP The Promise of Strategic Planning (continued from page 8) Typically, the strategic planning team holds a series of meetings to address steps 1-5 above. The meetings result in the assemblage of a clear picture of the current operation of the school district (current reality) and the outline of a direction the school intends (expectations) to pursue in the short-term and long-term future. The major product of the meeting is a set of prioritized strategic goals the stakeholders have agreed are essential to the future of the school; goals they will recommend to the board of education. While many goals may be examined, stakeholders are asked to recommend only 3-5 high priority goals to the board of education. The adoption of more than 3 to 5 recommended goals may overwhelm the system and result in spreading resources too thin to ensure completion of any of the goals. Once the strategic planning goals are prioritized they will be presented to the board of education with the caveat the board can accept, reject, or ask for modifications to the goals. Modifications to goals usually happen when the language of a goal needs to be clarified to meet policy requirements or align with resource allocation. By and large, boards of education approve the goals they envision as most important to move the school district to new levels of achievement. Action Plans After the board of education approves the strategic goals each goal will be assigned to an action planning team. The action planning team is composed of additional stakeholders with expertise that may assist with goal completion, school administrators, a member of the board of education, and a member of the strategic planning team; usually 5-7 people. The action planning team is tasked with writing a step-by-step process to ensure goal accomplishment. They have to consider what is to be done, by whom, by when, and at what cost to make goal accomplishment a reality. Once the action planning team has written the action plan it will be presented to the board of education for approval. Once again, the board of education can accept, reject, or ask for modifications to the action plans. Finally, each approved action plan is assigned to a person or team who has the responsibility to shepherd it to completion within the timeframe established in the strategic goal and accompanying action plan. The strategic goal and action plan usually become part of someone’s job responsibility. The Work Begins and Never Ends After approximately 3-4 months of thinking and planning, the school district has a blueprint to move forward in the direction of the high priority goals as addressed in the action plans. It is at

this point that disciplined school district leaders make things happen. They monitor and adjust the plans as necessary and see them through to completion. Along the way, the board of education and the community are informed of the progress of the goal and have multiple opportunities to know what might have been changed and whether the changes might delay or speed up the accomplishment of the goal. As a minimum requirement, it is advised that school leaders prepare quarterly progress reports for the board of education, school district employees, and the community. Once a goal is accomplished, a new goal is brought forward and a similar process is enacted to guide it forward to completion. Strategic planning becomes a means to the accomplishment of important goals to move a school district to elevated levels of success. Goals resulting from strategic plans are promises made to a school district and community; promises completed through intelligent behavior, stakeholder input, solid strategies, and excellent follow through. It is not for the faint hearted nor is it a process to ‘go through’ just to say you’ve engaged in it for a while. It is hard and rewarding work and, as a result, school leaders will point to measureable successes when they help their schools meet the needs of students, parents, and community. n Note: There are many ways to strategize about the future and accomplish goals and there are several methods of strategic planning. This article addresses one of them. (LLD)

National Convention Dates NASSP — February 6-8, 2014 — Dallas, TX AASA — February 13-15, 2014 — Nashville, TN NAESP — July 10-12, 2014 — Nashville, TN ASBO — September 19-22, 2014 — Kissimmee, FL





Forward Momentum: Why Nebraskans Stand Behind Early Childhood Education BY MICHAEL MEDWICK, Senior Communications Associate, First Five Nebraska


s Nebraska’s Legislature enters its 2014 session, lawmakers are already positioning early childhood education as an investment priority in the year ahead. Last month, members of the Education Committee declared their intention to seek additional funding for programs and services targeting children below kindergarten age, particularly those considered likely to enter the K–12 system behind their peers in cognitive, social and emotional development. The announcement from the Education Committee comes in the wake of a year of remarkable legislative support for investments in Nebraska’s youngest children. Earlier in 2013, the 103rd Legislature approved a number of measures intended to improve the caliber of services available to at-risk children to better support their early development and ultimately reduce the achievement gap. These measures included—but were not limited to—the creation of a new accountability system to improve the quality of services purchased through the state’s Child Care Subsidy, as well as additional funds enabling Nebraska’s innovative Sixpence Early Learning Program to reach more at-risk infants and toddlers through public schools across the state. In a political and economic environment where fiscal caution is considered paramount, 2013 was a watershed year, but it was only made possible by support that had The first five to been building for some time. eight years of life are Public-private partnerships unite the stable infrastructure particularly crucial, of state agencies and organizations with the flexibility, as this is the time innovation, and accountabilwhen the ity demands of private enterprise. In the end, the needs foundational neural of both partners are served— “circuitry” is wired public education and civic systems benefit from chiland then reinforced dren’s academic achievement and social competence, while in the human brain. the private sector benefits



from a stronger, more highly educated workforce. Why all this forward momentum for early childhood education? What the Research Tells Us Neuroscience and a growing body of educational, sociological and even economic research are substantiating what Nebraska’s parents and teachers have known for generations—children’s earliest learning experiences, environments and relationships have the strongest impact on their lifelong trajectories. The first five to eight years of life are particularly crucial, as this is the time when the foundational neural “circuitry” is wired and then reinforced in the human brain. Children who enjoy the benefits of safe, supportive and stimulating environments and relationships in the earliest years of life are more likely to develop stronger, more robust neural networks. These networks support the acquisition of healthy cognitive, social and emotional skills that sustain a lifetime of learning and productivity. But the window of opportunity is limited. As children grow towards school-age, the human brain begins to lose its plasticity, making it increasingly difficult to go back and “rewire” problems in the neurological architecture. Naturally, not all children begin life with the kinds of advantages and assets that lead to strong skill formation. This is particularly true where significant risk factors are present—premature birth or low birth weight, low levels of parental education, and low-income households where parents lack time or resources to provide stimulating learning experiences for their youngest children either in or out of the home. A landmark study (Hart and Risley, 1995) indicates that, by the time children from low-income homes enter kindergarten, they have heard 30 million fewer words than their more advantaged peers. The result is a smaller vocabulary and slower acquisition of communications skills—recognized predictors of school success. Some research indicates these developmental disparities become evident as early as 18 months of age, or even sooner. Said another way, the achievement gap that will haunt so many of these chil(continued on page 12)


Transforming Nebraska’s Struggling Students BY LINDA FOX, Learning Together


hat does a struggling, disengaged student look like? Perhaps he is a 6’2” 17-year-old named Rodrigo who is in the ninth grade for the third year in a row. If that were your picture, would you expect to see him voluntarily wearing a suit and tie to school for his first session as a peer tutor? Probably not, but he did just that—and he looked great! After parent conferences later in the semester, Rodrigo’s parents were so pleased with his success as a tutor that they took him out to dinner—their first academic celebration in a very long time. As an at-risk student, Rodrigo was invited to participate in Learning Together, a unique program that uses the power of peer teaching to engage students in a rigorous, structured curriculum that also builds leadership, interpersonal and study skills. Instead of labeling students like Rodrigo as remedial—implying they need to be fixed—Learning Together trains them as role models and mentors to younger students. They learn by teaching and, for the first time, they are learning with dignity. More than 150 school districts nationwide are achieving significant results with Learning Together as in-school interventions and after-school supplements. In fact, a number of school districts in Nebraska are using these reading and math interventions to improve academic achievement and student engagement for tutors and tutees in grades 2 through 12. The Omaha Public Schools are using Learning Together’s reading programs to improve the language and academic skills of their ESL/migrant students. Reading Together is used in Saturday and summer schools, with ESL high schoolers serving as peer tutors for elementary students. Suzanne Wetzel, OPS ESL/Migrant Teacher Trainer, relayed this comment from an elementary teacher: “Reading Together has been an amazing experience for my students. They have built a relationship with their tutors and through that relationship are able to learn better because they feel comfortable and are willing to make mistakes.” Nyaguok, an OPS high school tutor, said, “I really enjoyed spending time with my tutee. It feels really good to help someone.” This year, the Dukes at York High School are implementing Learning Together’s Get Ready 4 Algebra intervention with struggling math students. According to teacher Jordan Crawford, “Learning Together has been a great growing experience for our students. It has given students who have traditionally struggled in math the opportunity to be math leaders.” Mitch Bartholomew, York High School Principal, states, “Learning Together is a fantastic program that allows students the opportunity to help each other and develop leadership skills. This program has increased

our math scores and student confidence has grown.” In Grand Island and Lincoln, as well as in other Nebraska districts, Reading Together is being used successfully as Extended Learning Opportunities for elementary students. Fifth graders tutor third graders and fourth graders tutor second graders. Students were selected because they are reading below grade level. Lea Ann Johnson, the CLC Coordinator in the Lincoln Public Schools, shared the following comment made by a student tutor on Halloween, “My Mom said I could skip L2 today and go trick or treating with my friends, but I thought it was better to be here for my tutee.” How does Learning Together work? Here are the key elements: • Reading and math peer tutoring programs engage struggling students. English Language Learners, Special Education students and at-risk General Education students in grades two through high school learn cooperatively in a nurturing environment that builds confidence and motivation. Secondary programs support dropout prevention efforts, college and career readiness and the transition to higher academic expectations. • Rigorous research-based curricula support State Standards. Reading Together and Math Together lessons scaffold instruction until both tutor and tutee use concepts independently at the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Before each lesson, tutors receive direct instruction from the trained program coordinator; then they master the academic content by teaching and mentoring their tutees. • Social and emotional growth transforms self and school. Students who begin to feel successful can change the whole school climate, as well as their own lives. Using proven and evidencebased teaching techniques, programs incorporate the essential strategies of social and emotional learning: self-awareness, selfmanagement, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. • Uniquely effective structure prepares teachers, tutors, and tutees. Programs begin with professional development for program coordinators, but go further by providing extensive and ongoing training for student participants. • Progress monitoring helps differentiate and evaluate. Ongoing monitoring assures that content is being mastered and allows program coordinators to select from a range of supplemental activities that support identified weaknesses. Longitudinal studies show students who complete Learning To(continued on page 12)




EARLY CHILDHOOD Forward Momentum (continued from page 10) dren throughout their school-age years and beyond manifest itself long before they even enter a kindergarten classroom. What’s at Stake in Nebraska It’s one thing to recognize what the research tells us about risks to children’s cognitive, social and emotional development, it’s quite another to realize how that applies to so many of Nebraska’s youngest children. Per 2010 census figures, approximately 40 percent, or 59,825 of all children birth through age 5 living in Nebraska fit the “at risk” definition employed by the Nebraska Department of Education. What’s even more alarming is the growth in the at-risk population. Between 2000 and 2010, the total number of children age birth through 5 increased by approximately 13,600. Of these, 11,663 children were considered at risk. It’s worth noting that, while Nebraska overall boasts an enviable high school graduation rate of 86 percent, statewide high school dropout data in the recent past has corresponded significantly to those regions of our state where the birth to five at-risk population is concentrated. According to 2010 data, 14 Nebraska school districts, located in 11 counties, represented 70 percent of the state’s high school dropouts. These same counties also accounted for most (64 percent) of the state’s at-risk, birth through 5 population. Common Sense for the Common Good Much of the growing support for increased programming to serve at-risk children below school age can be credited to Nebraska’s educators. In a letter to the Appropriations Committee last spring, more than a dozen Nebraska public school superintendents explained their position in terms of budgetary pressures. The letter, written in support of a bill to allocate more resources to the Sixpence Early Learning Fund, pointed out that more and more children are entering the K–12 system with different degrees of preparedness, and all too many lack the skills needed for

constructive classroom performance. “A growing amount of our fiscal resources are spent annually trying to compensate for their lack of these skills,” the letter read, concluding that broadening our support for quality early childhood programming is the better investment. “It represents a more cost-efficient use of the taxpayer dollars Nebraska commits to the education of its citizens.” As effective as the endorsement from Nebraska’s educators has been, the overall momentum for broader early childhood investments has been magnified exponentially by support from the private sector. Nebraska’s business leaders increasingly recognize that investments in human capital as the key to growing a skilled, world-class workforce must begin before children enter the state’s K–12 system. Significantly, the State Chamber of Commerce and Industry chose to invite Dr. James Heckman, the Nobel Laureate in Economics and the nation’s leading expert on the economics of early childhood investment, to speak with business leaders at its annual meeting in 2013. Failing children in their earliest years, said Heckman, will have enormous consequences for Nebraska— in terms of their educational achievement, workforce preparedness, and the state’s ability to attract industry. Failing our youngest children creates problems associated with crime and persistent intergenerational poverty. It’s not something we can afford to ignore. Fortunately, Nebraska’s leadership—including its legislators, business community and public school educators—is on target in terms of broadening our state’s commitment to stronger early beginnings for Nebraska’s youngest, most at-risk children. We’re all looking forward to seeing how all of this momentum for quality early childhood education carries us into 2014 and beyond. n

Transforming Nebraska’s Struggling Students (continued from page 11) gether make exceptional academic gains, and continue to outperform matched peer groups for three years and beyond. What has been sparked is not just immediate learning, but an intrinsic desire to learn that provides a foundation for lifelong achievement.



Author note: Linda Fox-Kamerling is an educator with more than 40 years of experience as a teacher, principal and central office administrator. She is District Development Specialist for The Learning Together Company in NE, CO, OK, MI and IL. Contact her at, 720-217-4359. n


Mentorship for Special Education Directors BY DR. JENNY PIENING, Director of Student Services, Malcolm Public Schools



he majority of leaders can attribute at least part of their success to the mentoring they received upon entering their career field. In 2010, The American Society of Training and Development produced an article that stated the benefits of mentoring include the creation of relationships throughout the organizational structure, assistance in feeling more connected to the organization, and promotes career and leadership development, among others. Most literature regarding mentoring is out of the business sector; the research regarding the mentor/mentee relationship and process is limited in the field of educational administration, and has specifically been conducted as it relates to principals and superintendents. In order to start an effective mentoring program that focused on the needs of novice special education directors, the Nebraska Association of Special Education Supervisors (NASES), in partnership with the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) Department of Special Education, established the NASES New Member Program in 2009. This program supports special education directors new to the state, their district, or their position during the first one to two years of accepting the position. Peggy Romshek, Special Services Director for Mitchell Public Schools and NASES Past President is the creator, collaborator, and coordinator for the New Member Program. Every year, she links the new special education directors with mentors based on the needs and geographic location of the new member. Since its inception, the New Member Program has spanned participation levels of 7 to 18 new special education directors, with participation climbing each additional year. The New Member Program holds three trainings throughout the year in conjunction with other NASES meetings (fall, winter, and spring). The largest of these trainings occurs over two days in September. The first day of training is provided by NDE Department of Special Education to review personnel, departments, and finance as it relates to special education. The second day of training is run by NASES and delves deeper into special education finance, calculation, and reporting. For the other two meetings, topics presented during the new member meetings is based off of interest areas and questions by the program participants. An informal email survey was provided to first year, second year, and alumni participants of the NASES New Member Program, and was designed similarly to a survey by Alsbury and Hackman (2006). The survey contained

open ended questions along with 4-point Likert scales to determine the efficacy of the program for new members, along with gathering information on how to evolve and grow with the changing dynamics of special education administrators. Participants were asked the extent to which the NASES New Member Program met their expectations. This question scored a 3.5 on a 4-point Likert Scale (4 = met all of my expectations, 1 = did not meet my expectations) which would indicate that program participants were satisfied with the New Member Program. Survey participants were also asked to rate the benefit of four activities: contact (email, phone, in person) with the mentor (3.46), workshop opportunities (3.6), written materials provided to the New Members (3.46), and attending regional meetings (3.7) on the same 4-point Likert scale. For each group of participants surveyed, the data indicated that each of these components were met with relative satisfaction. It was noted that those respondents that worked for Class A districts were less likely to attend Regional meetings as indicated by providing no response or noting that they did not attend. On the survey, participants were also asked openended questions. The majority of the responses were positive, and questions answered were regarding years of service and other duties, recommended changes to the program, and new insights that could be attributed to having a mentor. Most respondents (62 percent) to this survey had over ten years of service as a special education teacher or related service provider prior to becoming a special education supervisor. Respondents also noted that they were responsible for other programs such as curriculum, grants, preschool, ILCD, paraeducator supervision, student discipline, building principalship, preschool administrator, transition, Title 1, alternative education, supervisor of nurses and/or counselors, SAT/RtI, 504 plans, school psychologist, summer school, and safety beyond the title of special educator director. Respondents recommended the following constructive changes as the New Member Program evolves: set dates for the entire year for new member meetings, appoint NASES or NCSA as the disseminator of information and meetings for new members as emails and contacts change hands that first year, having a more substantial meeting for new participants during Administrators’ Days in Kearney each summer, providing time to work on financial reports together, and continuing to allow alumni to attend trainings advertised for the new members. n WINTER 2014




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Key Insights from a Successful Bond Issue Election Fort Calhoun Community Schools Case Study BY GEORGE SCHULER, Boyd Jones Construction


f your district is investigating a bond issue election, it’s likely that you’ve heard quite a bit about best practices. Every community is different and there are several ways to approach an election. For the purposes of this article, I’d like to focus on the recent successful bond issue election in Fort Calhoun. There were several key influences that may prove to be helpful to your district. Gaining Perspective, Buy In & Support There are likely several underlying factors driving your need to improve facilities. To complicate matters, there may be many different perspectives and opinions regarding what’s most important and why. In the case of Fort Calhoun, the Board and Administration thought it would be best to enlist the help of a professional team to investigate facilities-related challenges and opportunities at their JR/SR High School building. They selected an architectural firm to conduct a thorough facilities assessment and to present their findings. The Board and Administration believed that something needed to be done, but they wanted insight from the community on how best to address their facilities challenges. They reached out to a broad crosssection of community members and invited them to weigh in on the conversation. This diverse group of potential supporters and skeptics became known as the Facilities Planning Committee and helped the Board and Administration gain a more balanced perspective of what was most important to the community and why. The Committee members were invited to tour the building and were provided with an overview of the findings of the facilities assessment. In the meantime, the Board and Administration selected a construction management firm to work collaboratively with their architect. As the Committee began to zero in on key needs, several potential solution options were developed. As these solution options were refined, the construction manager provided information regarding cost, schedule, constructability and phasing to help the committee weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each option. Going Public The Committee participated in a series of meetings over five months and weighed in on options ranging from a minimal renovation to a brand new building. The Committee proposed a preliminary recommendation to the Board, which was taken to a series of public meetings to gain feedback. Based on the response

from the public meetings, the Committee decided to make a formal recommendation to the Board. By this time, the Board had an excellent understanding of the recommended solution option and a balanced perspective of what was most important to the community and why. They were able to move forward confidently and unanimously approve a resolution calling for a bond issue election to finance the renovations and additions to their JR/SR High School building. From early on in the process, the Board and Administration wanted to provide an unbiased source of factual information to help voters make an informed decision and to combat misinformation. A website was launched at the latter stages of the planning effort and updated regularly prior to the election to accomplish this objective. The website included information about the planning process, existing facilities and the recommended solution option as well as general information about the school district. Patrons were able to review frequently asked questions and could submit a question directly to the District. This process really builds upon itself. As you can imagine, the time and effort invested during the Facilities Assessment and Planning Committee phases produced multiple benefits. Ensuring that the Board moved forward unanimously and that they could provide unbiased factual information to Patrons about the due diligence process were key ingredients to their successful bond issue election. From Facilities Planning Committee to Campaign Committee Ideally, you would hope that a group of supporters would organize out of the Facilities Planning Committee to carry the message to the voters. Fort Calhoun is a textbook case of how impactful a group like this can be. A Campaign Committee did organize, many were members of the Facilities Planning Committee, and they were very well educated about the recommended solution option. They understood the planning process and the importance of specific design and construction strategies and were able to communicate them very effectively. The Campaign Committee was very strategic and employed advanced voter registration research combined with door to door training sessions. They pulled information from previous elections, established ranking criteria and then focused on mobilizing volunteers to reach out. The ranked voter analysis was then analyzed geographically to ensure sufficient campaign coverage; keying in (continued on page 22)





School Engagement by Design

Creating a Great Culture to Realize Sustained Excellence and Academic Achievement BY BRAD BLACK, HUMANeX Ventures®


magine if a school district established the highest standards to build an engaging workplace culture, where educators and staff “gave their all” everyday, which in turn created a great place for students to learn and maximize their potential. Across industry and professions, creating a great culture, where engagement is “built by design” sets the best organizations apart from their peers. In education, be it a public or private school, elementary, junior high or high school, urban or suburban setting, developing a scientific snapshot into the way people think, feel and behave is key to the organization realizing its potential. Evidence-Based Excellence Well-established research, experts in the profession, and a study of the “progressive” organizations, highlight the fact that a great workplace culture for educators is also critical for students to learn. Empirical evidence tying top cultures to the related outcomes within engaged schools shows environments where people give their maximum effort, demonstrate passion to make an impact, and students maximize their learning and growth. Evidence ties engagement (i.e. giving their all) and satisfaction (i.e. desire to stay) to related dimensions, critical to these outcomes. Examples are highlighted below: • Communication—setting expectations, two-way dialogue, feedback on performance, etc. • Continuous Improvement—pursuing excellence, striving to find a better way, etc. • Relationships—collaborative work of teachers, staff, and school leadership, coaching support, building trust, quality relationships being valued, etc. • Quality—commitment to quality work, excellence, meeting and surpassing expectations, etc. • Training/Professional Development—supporting professional development, trained to achieve excellence in their work, encouraging growth and development, etc. • Innovation—encouraging innovation, seeking new ways to improve productivity, etc. • Recognition—providing and receiving meaningful recognition (individual and team)



• Support—providing tools, support, equipment, and information to excel in role, being responsive to needs, etc. • Performance Planning—goals set for role and team to enhance performance—proactively. • Talent/Fit—selecting highly talented individuals for each role, positioning talents to role, maximizing talents, etc. • Mission—communicating school’s mission, aligning day-to-day activities with mission, etc. Framework for Sustained Excellence Our experience over decades, highlights that the most critical components for creating an environment for maximizing the learning and growth for students, at sustained levels, includes the following “core practices”: • Building the systems, structure and practices to guide datadriven processes for driving academic achievement. “If we don’t have a systematic approach with rigor, around empirical data driven processes, we cannot sustain or multiply achievements or excellence.” “Without a systematic or process-driven design, it would be like trying to build a building to last over time without a blueprint—it won’t work or last.” • Building a highly engaged and highly satisfied workplace culture, for teachers and staff alike, within the classroom, building and overall school system. “Culture affects 100% of our staff, students and key constituents. If we don’t build the right one, we can’t attract, engage, retain, or create any sustainable competitive advantage—or really deliver on our mission.” “Knowing that building and strengthening the culture is like figuring out the right soil, water, sun and fertilizer combination, for the seeds to grow. We can’t achieve excellence without this critical area of mastery.” • Selecting a talented (“gifted”) teacher for each and every classroom, and talented staff in every role to create an environment of passionate top performers. “In the past, we hired someone (e.g. teacher) for what they knew and could do (i.e. knowledge and skill) and fired them for (continued on page 17)

PROGRAM SPOTLIGHT Creating a Great Culture (continued from page 16) who they were not (i.e. talent). Now we know that ‘selecting vs. hiring’ is the only way to achieve excellence—we select excellence that transforms students, classrooms and our school for decades.” “Selecting for ‘best, right fit talent’ for every role, every time, is like ‘multiplying passion,’ which is contagious and creates a daily experience unlike anything I have ever seen or felt. A practice we can feel confident about impacting students and the lives we are enriching, which is far better than hoping—which is not a smart strategy.” Knowing that strong and committed school leadership is critical to successfully transforming and sustaining schools into high performing organizations, the leadership has to be properly educated and equipped to drive and guide systematic impact. In addressing the core practices outlined earlier, the focus on “culture by design” encompasses and integrates all three. Number One and Two—combining a research-based system, structure and practice, to measure the critical culture dimensions, is the framework to create a disciplined and consistent data-driven process. • Starting with an anonymous and confidential survey process to maximize participation, confidence, and support for the process, we ensure a reliable understanding of measuring what matters (i.e. engagement, satisfaction, quality, continuous improvement, training and development, etc.). • Completing the survey loop with a feedback and action planning process, we ensure that the results are communicated, understood, and used to build on the strengths of the culture, as well as the greatest areas for improvement---building both top and bottom areas simultaneously, in a skillfully facilitated and engaging process. Platteview Central Junior High Principal Darin Johnson, of Springfield-Platteview Community Schools, is currently in the second year of a three year measurement of their school and district culture. “This experience provided a terrific forum for us to engage in relevant conversation about who we are and where we are going. The bottom line for us is to take the information and make sure we use it to positively affect change that will make a difference in the lives of the students we serve. The HUMANeX Ventures culture survey has provided the foundation for us to do this.” Through a multi-year measurement process, school leaders are equipped with evidence that listening followed by action, change, and process improvement can positively impact the school culture. Darin shares, “Not only was it valuable to see the data in graph and chart form, it was beneficial to sit and listen during the feedback session. As leaders, it’s imperative that we close our mouths and open our ears. For me, I get the most from listening

and understanding the perspective of others.” Number Three—along with the commitment to a systematic approach to measuring and building a strong workplace culture, a commitment to only “select” (i.e. vs. hire) top talent that consistently engages students, staff, and parents alike (i.e. positivity, purpose, mission, trust, empathy, team, creativity, problem solver, influence, etc.), is a critical ingredient in adding the strongest permanent element to the culture and performance equation. Without adding top talent in every role, every time, a culture is weakened, one move at a time. Top performers get less and less engaged, more frustrated, and then leave—first psychologically and then physically. • Starting with the identification of the schools “role model” performers, the organization has the opportunity to set future selection standards, through “calibrating” the future desired against their proven best—and at the same time confirming with each role model their value and unique impact. • Committing to the consistent practice to select against the proven “benchmark standards, each new person selected creates the reinforcement of a highly engaged and highly satisfied workplace culture, full of “dream box” (i.e. upper right box on the 3x3) attitudes, behavior, and related performance---like the world class example that follows (a top 1% school district in the U.S.). Bottom line engagement is the common element within the student success equation, as it encompasses a student’s individual and social needs and requires a positive environment that is motivating to the learning process. Academic achievement isn’t just about test scores. It is about supporting each student to develop his or her abilities to their potential—cognitively, emotionally and behaviorally. n HUMANeX Ventures® has a rich legacy built over more than 30 years, equipping hundreds of school districts with expert screening, selection, and development instruments, along with broad capabilities involving research, assessment, training, coaching, development, culture building, and consulting expertise, in order to build the full capabilities of organizations across industry and professions. The result is a more advanced and integrated model for strategic and systematic impact, with the ultimate objective of building “talent-driven communities” with sustained excellence, helping to see organizations and individuals realize their potential.excellence, helping to see organizations and individuals realize their potential.





NAESP Announces New Principal of the Year

K Homan

eri Homan, Principal at Morrill Elementary of Morrill Public Schools, has been named Nebraska Association of Elementary School Principals New Principal of the Year for 2013-2014. Keri began her administrative career at Morrill Elementary in 2010. Mr. Nick Schafer, Superintendent writes: “Keri is an educational leader who relentlessly pursues perfection in her school. Keri is loved unconditionally by her students and has complete support and respect of her entire staff. Her leadership style is such that she has developed positive relationships with everyone in her building, community, and district.” The Morrill Board of Education writes: “Ms. Homan instills attitudes of respect, responsibility, success, and fun within our school climate as well as our community.” Keri Homan has been involved in many organizations and activities, both in her own district and community. Keri’s community involvements include coaching the

Morrill Athletic Club Girls Softball and helping her husband coach 3rd and 4th grade Girls Lightning Basketball. She likes to attend events and activities within the school and community; she wants the families of Morrill to feel that she has a vested interest in the education of their children. Keri is currently a member of ASCD, NCSA, NAESP, Western Trails Conference Principals, Rotary International–Morrill Chapter, Morrill Elementary School PTO, and First United Methodist Church in Scottsbluff. She is also a member of Region 5 Elementary Principals and was recently elected secretary. Congratulations to Keri Homan for her outstanding start as an Elementary School Principal. We appreciate her early contributions to our profession and are proud to name her New Principal of the Year. n

Hastings Middle School Named a National Breakthrough School


astings Middle School is proud to announce that they are one of nine schools to be named a National Breakthrough School by the MetLife Foundation and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). The schools will be officially recognized at NASSP’s Ignite 2014 Conference in Dallas, TX, February 6-8, 2014. Hastings Middle School is the first, and only, school in the state of Nebraska to receive a National Breakthrough Schools Award; and only around 30 middle schools across the country have received this award since it started in 2007. This award is given to schools that have 40 percent or more of their students on free/reduced lunch and are high achieving based on the last three



year's worth of data. Other areas considered are collaborative leadership, personalization, curriculum, instruction, and assessment. On September 11, 2013, two representatives from the National Association of Secondary School Principals spent a day at the Middle School. They attended classes and met with students, teachers, and community members. These representatives took back what they saw and shared it with a larger committee that makes the final decision. This award comes with a $5,000 grant for Hastings Middle School that is sponsored by MetLife and NASSP. n


NAESP National Distinguished Principal from Nebraska is Announced

T Fillipi

he Nebraska Association of Elementary School Principals is pleased to announce that Sheri Fillipi, Principal at Covington Elementary in South Sioux City, has been named the 2013 National Distinguished Principal from Nebraska. Sheri has been Principal at Covington Elementary for the previous two years and has served in the South Sioux City Community School district as an administrator for the last 18 years. During her time as Principal, she has worked as the ESL and Migrant Director as well as the Sign Language Interpreters Coordinator. Sheri has actively set up the Covington Elementary School Improvement Team, Safety Team, and Celebrations/Community Connection team. Being an instructional leader in the elementary, Sheri has had an active role in developing “The Family Learning Series,” a video series that gave parents information about school in ten areas like reading, math, and social skills. The video series was in four languages and aired on the local cable network. Sheri has been instrumental in sharing her educational experience with hundreds of teachers working towards their Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction or Administrative degrees through Wayne State College. In 2006, Sheri supported the efforts of Harney Elementary school becoming a Blue Ribbon School, an award that shows academic excellence or for

making progress in improving student academic achievement levels. In 2011, her school was given the Compass Learning Odyssey Innovation Grant. The purpose of the grant is to celebrate outstanding examples of increased student achievement through the innovative use of Compass Learning Odyssey in elementary schools. According to Dr. Vernon Fisher, Superintendent of South Sioux City Community Schools, “Mrs. Fillipi not only possesses high expectations for student learning but actively engages her staff in the identification of those behaviors that support higher expectations. Mrs. Fillipi is building a culture that emphasizes a shared mission, vision, values, and goals and is creating a culture of high expectations for students and adults.” Sheri’s leadership has been obvious during her career as a Principal. She has held offices in Region III of NAESP, been Vice President and President of NAESP multiple years. She continues to serve her profession through active involvement in NAESP, Phi Delta Kappa, and NCSA. She has also been locally active with 4H, and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. Sheri will represent Nebraska in Washington, D.C. in the Fall of 2014. NAESP is extremely proud to have Sheri represent our organization as NDP for 2013. She is very deserving of this recognition. Congratulations, Sheri! n

NAESP Longevity Awards 25 Years (Joined in 1989) Paul Bohn, Papillion-La Vista Public Schools Brad Wentzlaff, Lincoln Elementary – Grand Island JoAnne Roberts, Grant Elementary School – Norfolk 20 Years (Joined in 1994) Sheri Fillipi, South Sioux City Community Schools Elizabeth Scott, Lincoln Public Schools Jane Gloor, West Lawn Elementary School – Grand Island Douglas Hoins, Superior Elementary School – Superior Jane Wiebold, Wahoo Elementary

15 Years (Joined in 1999) Corey Dahl, ESU #8 Andrew DeFreece, Millard Public Schools Deborah Lee, Hawthorne Elementary School – Hastings Cathleen Cafferty, Longfellow Elementary School – Hastings Teresa Schnoor, Central Elementary School – Kearney Mark Stute, Meadowlark Elementary School – Kearney Eldon Neddenriep, Clinton Elementary School – Lincoln Nancy Brosamle, Rohwer Elementary School – Millard Anne Doerr, Fire Ridge Elementary – Elkhorn Michael Wentz, Syracuse Middle School – Syracuse





Nebraska State Association of Secondary School Principals Announces 2013 New Principal of the Year



he Nebraska State Association of Secondary School Principals has selected Tammy Holcomb as the 2013 New Principal of the Year. This award is presented annually to a Principal who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in their school, their region, and at the state level. The winner will have demonstrated their enthusiasm for the Principalship by support from students, parents, teachers, and peers. Tammy Holcomb was selected as the NSASSP Outstanding New Principal for 2013. Ms. Holcomb has been in education since 1994 and has been the Principal at Centura Public Schools since 2008. During her tenure at Centura, Ms. Holcomb developed and implemented a Student Support System with staff, compiled and analyzed data from that Student Support System, and developed Response to Intervention procedures for the Jr/Sr High School. Julie Otero, Superintendent of Centura Public Schools, praised Ms. Holcomb, noting: “Tammy always strives to use her talents to provide answers and solutions for organizational improvement and addressing the needs of personnel, students, and constituents she represents. Furthermore, she is an organized, knowledgeable leader in the educational arena both at the local and state level. She possesses an outstanding work ethic, is a selfstarter, and is dedicated to the profession. She easily earns the respect of colleagues, staff, and community members.”

Dorothy Moss, Math teacher at Centura Public Schools, states, “Ms. Holcomb is an excellent selection for the Outstanding New Principal Award. Her leadership skills, knowledge of engaging classrooms, communication skills, work ethic, and passion for education makes her an excellent selection.” Centura students Ashlyn Roth and Megan Kemptar commented, “Ms. Holcomb is a wonderful principal who is actively involved in the school and has set herself apart as a leader. She is an involved principal who cares about her students and staff, she works very hard to make Centura the best it can be, she has the best interest of her students in mind, and she is a positive role model.” Tammy Holcomb is currently enrolled at the University of Nebraska–Kearney and working on a Specialist Degree. She has two previous degrees from UNK: Bachelors of Science, Education with endorsements in Biology and Chemistry and Master of Arts, Education with a 7-12 Principal endorsement. Ms. Holcomb is a member of the Nebraska State Association of Secondary School Principals, the Nebraska Council of School Administrators, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the ESU 10 Teacher Evaluation Advisory Group. Congratulations to Tammy Holcomb for her outstanding start as a Secondary School Principal. We appreciate her early contributions to our profession and are proud to name her New Principal of the Year. n

NSASSP Longevity Awards 25 Years (Joined in 1989) Mary Jo Rupert, Middle School At Firth 15 Years (Joined in 1999) Daniel Gross, Tekamah-Herman Community Schools Timothy Krupicka, Northwest Public Schools Keith Muller, Wilber-Clatonia Public Schools



Brian Begley, Millard North High School Jason Sutter, Beatrice High School Bradley Wolfe, Westridge Middle School – Grand Island Don Hosick, Minden High School Shawn McDiffett, Central City High School Dora Olivares, Gering Junior High School Mark Hanson, Wayne Junior/Senior High School


Nebraska State Association of Secondary School Principals Announces 2013 Distinguished Service Award



he Nebraska State Association of Secondary School Principals is proud to recognize Randy Schlueter, Superintendent of Tri County Public Schools, as the Distinguished Service Award winner for 2013. Randy Schlueter has been selected as the Nebraska State Association of Secondary School Principals recipient of the Distinguished Service Award. Randy received his education from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (Bachelor’s of Science in Education ’74; Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction ’84; Middle Level Endorsement in Math and Social Science ’85; and Specialist Certificate in Educational Administration ’92). Mr. Schlueter is currently in his first year as the Superintendent for Tri County Public Schools. He previously served as the Principal for Beatrice Middle School from 2001-2013, Assistant Principal for Beatrice Middle School from 1998 to 2001, Assistant Principal for Barr Middle School in Grand Island from 1993 to 1998, Interim Assistant Principal for Pound Middle School in Lincoln in 1993, Mathematics Teacher for Lincoln Public Schools from 1983 to 1993, Social Studies and Mathematics Teacher for Friend Public Schools from 1979 to 1983, and Social Studies Teacher for Ogallala Public Schools from 1974 to 1979. Randy has been active in many professional organizations and community leadership positions such as the Nebraska Association for Middle Level Education, the Nebraska Council of School Administrators, and the Nebraska State Association of Secondary School Principals. Mr. Schlueter has held several offices in these positions, including his selection as the President of NAMLE on two separate occasions, Vice Chair for the NCSA, and State Coordinator for the NSASSP. He is also a member of the Association for Middle Level Education (formerly NMSA), Association of School Curriculum and Development, Nebraska Association of School Curriculum and Development, and Phi Delta Kappa. Mr. Schlueter has served in his community as Deacon and Elder of Presbyterian Churches in Lincoln, Grand Island, and Beatrice; a moderator for the Board of Christian Education in Lincoln and Grand Island; Coach for

youth sports teams in Lincoln, Grand Island, and Beatrice; member of Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite, and Shrine Temple; member of the Beatrice Hike/Bike Trail Association, member of Gage County Juvenile Services Committee, speaker for the Gage County Juvenile Services Committee; 4-H Club leader and volunteer in Lincoln, Grand Island, and Beatrice; and member of the City of Beatrice Community Development Tax Authority. Mr. Schlueter’s other honors include being selected as the NSASSP Middle School Principal of the Year in 200607, the NSASSP Region I Middle Level Principal of the Year in 2005-06, Gage County Citizen of Character in 2003, and a nomination for Outstanding Young Educator for Lincoln Public Schools in 1986-87. Chauncey Kleveland, a former student states, “Whether by a serious conversation about school work, to a cordial conversation at a school football game, Mr. Randy Schlueter is an outstanding educator, a friend when no one else is there, and most importantly, an exceptional role model.” Jarrod Brand and Benjamin Essam, Beatrice Middle School Social Studies teachers, noted, “Mr. Schlueter was able to inspire students and staff to accomplish more than they realized was possible and he did this with a caring attitude towards both students and staff.” Jacquelyn Nielsen, Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment and Assistant High School Principal for Beatrice Public Schools, commented: “Mr. Schlueter is a profound teacher, leader, and administrator; he keeps the needs of children first. He looks for the good in others, pushes students and staff to perform at their best, and can be counted on when others need his assistance and support. In my opinion, Mr. Schlueter is a model professional educator who is very deserving of this award.” n





Nebraska State Association of Secondary School Principals Announces 2013 Assistant Principal of the Year



hil Hoyt has been recognized by the Nebraska State Secondary School Principals as the 2013 Assistant Principal of the Year. He has served as Assistant Principal/Activities Director at Minden High School since 2012. Mr. Hoyt has also been the 7-12 Principal/Activities Director at Potter-Dix Public Schools from 2010-2012 and taught in Ainsworth (2002-2010), Gibbon (1999-2002), Mullen (1995-1999), and Minden (1984-1994). Mr. Hoyt is a graduate of Chadron State College (Bachelor of Science Degree) and University of Nebraska–Kearney (Masters of Arts in Education). Mr. Hoyt is a member of the Nebraska State Association of Secondary School Principals, the Nebraska Council of School Administrators, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Nebraska State Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. On the local level, Mr. Hoyt is a member of the Booster Club and is a youth sports program coach. Mr. Hoyt was also recognized as the 2013 NSASSP Region IV Assistant Principal of the Year. Mr. Don Hosick, Principal at Minden High School, states, “Mr. Hoyt is a very intelligent individual that understands both students and the learning process to a degree that is exceptional. He is a team builder. He looks

for ways to bring parents, community members, students, and staff together collectively for the betterment of our district.” Jeffrey Horner, Speech Coach and Guidance Counselor for Minden Public Schools, notes, “Phil does an outstanding job with the duties he is assigned at Minden…he handles these duties well and makes sure that our system runs smoothly on all levels.” Joe Green, English Department Chair and District Assessment Coordinator for Minden Public Schools, commented, “For many years I have witnessed Mr. Hoyt’s unwavering and passionate commitment to education. I have also observed his sterling character—his remarkable honesty, friendliness, and loyalty. That combination of commitment and character define him as one of the best in education.” Parent Kim Olson stated, “Mr. Hoyt is quick with specific compliments, positive feedback, and he has the ability to remain calm, compassionate, and reasonable even when dealing with challenging students and/or situations. As a result of this behavior, his students strive to do their best because of the mutual respect that is present in their relationship with Mr. Hoyt.” n

Key Insights from a Successful Bond Issue Election (continued from page 15) on areas of the highest density of likely yes and undecided voters. The volunteers were provided with information packets organized by key talking points so that they would be readily accessible to hand out during conversations with fellow Patrons. One key example involved the proposed new competition gymnasium. New athletic spaces are often lightning rods for objections during bond issue elections. In this case, due to their involvement in the Facilities Planning Committee, members of the Campaign Committee were not only able to communicate how their current day to day challenges of scheduling athletic events can significantly lengthen the school day for student athletes, but also how critical this new space was to the overall




construction phasing plan. In Fort Calhoun, the new competition gym will be used for swing space to house temporary classrooms while the entire interior of the existing building is gutted and remodeled. These folks were there when the options of bringing in portables or finding alternative locations to house students were discussed. Now they were able to educate others, helping them to understand the why behind the recommended solution. Again, every community and every election is different; my hope is that these insights may prove to be helpful to your district when considering how to approach a bond issue election. n


Mentoring to Build Capacity and Success BY DR. MIKE DULANEY, Executive Director; and DR. DAN ERNST, Associate Executive Director




he Nebraska Council of School Administrators (NCSA) remains strong and viable as a result of experienced NCSA members and their willingness to actively participate in NCSA activities and events in order to build the professional capacity of new administrators. The mission of the Nebraska Council of School Administrators is to serve as a leader for quality education and to enhance the professionalism of its members. Mentoring is most often defined as a professional relationship in which an experienced person assists another in developing specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the less-experienced person’s professional and personal growth. With this mission and definition as a focal point, NCSA has worked diligently to create mentoring programs to promote success for new administrators to the profession as well as those accepting first-time administrative positions in Nebraska. We choose to highlight our mentoring programs in this article. The 2013-2014 year marks the seventh year of the New Superintendents’ Mentoring Program. The goal of the New Superintendents’ Program is to initiate a planned, purposeful, and effective program of activities and training development opportunities in order to promote success. The program is voluntary and is specifically designed to build professional capacity for new superintendents and allow them to perform successfully in their respective schools and communities. Recent participants have indicated that a strength of the program includes the opportunity to be supported by peers and share in a yearlong professional development experience. Mentoring is a critical and important component to the success of this program. An experienced superintendent is selected and assigned to serve as a mentor for each new superintendent. In addition, each new superintendent is also paired with a Business Manager in order to discuss specific school business and finance issues. The mentoring experience provides critical guidance and support for the new superintendents. NCSA has been providing on-going assistance and resources to first-year principals (K–12) in Nebraska for over 19 years through the Networking With New Principals Program (NWNP). School districts typically provide direct mentoring for new principals, so the NWNP Leadership team provides extended assistance and support for new principals. NWNP is designed to assist new principals to expand their knowledge of instructional leadership; pro-

vide critical and timely information to be shared with their staff; provide a forum to discuss educational issues; and most importantly provide ongoing and unconditional encouragement. Weekly communications are provided to the group in addition to the use of a WIKI where resources for principals are archived. NWNP is led by a dedicated group of administrators that comprise the “Leadership Team.” Representing elementary principals are Scott Dodson, Woodland Park Elementary School in Norfolk; and Melissa Poloncic, Ronald Reagan Elementary Principal, Millard Public Schools; and Laura Kroll, Exeter-Milligan Elementary Principal. Representing secondary principals are Kent Mann, University of Nebraska Associate Professor; Mike Wortman, Lincoln High School Principal; Mitch Bartholomew, York High School Principal; and Ryan Ricenbaw, Waverly School District 145 High School Principal. NCSA Associate Executive Director Dan Ernst serves as the coordinator of the team. The Nebraska Association of Special Education Supervisors (NASES) also provides a mentoring program for each new special education director. Peggy Romshek, Special Education Director, Mitchell, has been selected by the NASES leadership to coordinate the NASES mentoring program for new Special Education Directors. An experienced director is assigned to each new director and they work together to develop goals and objectives for the mentoring relationship, including how they will communicate throughout the year. This leadership team provides active training and development opportunities for new special education directors with close supervision and assistance. Resources and materials are available on a new member WIKI. Nebraska Association of School Business Officials (NASBO) also provides assistance and support for new school business managers. The NASBO Executive Board share responsibilities for orientation and induction of Nebraska’s School Business Officials. Business officials meet regularly and include special opportunities for training and development for new business managers. NCSA takes seriously our role in helping to develop quality and capable school administrators. One-hundred thirty-eight new administrators began their tenure in Nebraska schools this fall. We are proud of our programs to assist administrators and confident that we are taking the necessary steps to afford them success as school administrators. n WINTER 2014




FEBRUARY 1 5 7 12 12 15 21 27 27-28 28 28 28

Emerging Administrators NSASSP Region II NASES Region I NSASSP Region IV NSASSP Executive Board Emerging Administrators NASES Region II NASA Executive Board Education Forum NAESP Executive Board NASES Region III NASES Region V

8:00 am 5:30 pm 9:00 am 2:00 pm 4:30 pm 8:00 am 8:30 am 5:00 pm 12:30 pm 10:00 am 9:15 am 8:15 am

NCSA Tiburon Country Club Waverly Public School ESU #10 NCSA NCSA Westside Public Schools Younes Conf. Center Younes Conf. Center Covington Elementary Lifelong Learning Center Community Center

Lincoln Omaha Waverly Kearney Lincoln Lincoln Omaha Kearney Kearney South Sioux City Norfolk Bridgeport

8:30 am 5:30 pm 2:00 pm 2:00 pm 10:00 am 8:30 am 9:00 am 8:30 am 8:30 am 5:30 pm 9:15 am

Cornhusker Hotel TBD Lifelong Learning Center Lifelong Learning Center ESU #10 WNCC WNCC Gretna Public Schools Cornhusker Hotel Fireworks Lifelong Learning Center

Lincoln Seward Norfolk Norfolk Kearney Sidney Sidney Gretna Lincoln Lincoln Norfolk

NASA Region V NCSA Executive Board Technology Boot Camp NAESP Executive Board Technology Boot Camp Technology Boot Camp Technology Boot Camp Technology Boot Camp NASES Region V State Data Conference NASA Region III NSASSP Region IV NAESP Region II NASA Region I NSASSP Region I NASBO State Convention NASES Region II NASES Region III NASES Region IV

10:00 am 9:00 am 8:30 am 9:00 am 8:30 am 8:30 am 8:30 am 8:30 am 8:30 am 12:30 pm 8:30 am 2:00 pm 5:30 pm 1:00 pm 5:30 pm 1:00 pm 8:30 am 9:15 am 9:00 am

Prairie Winds CC NCSA ESU #3 NCSA ESU #13 ESU #10 Lifelong Learning Center ESU #3 Community Center Younes Conf. Center Lifelong Learning Center ESU #10 Upstream Hillcrest Country Club Evening w/ Friends Holiday Inn NCECBVI Lifelong Learning Center ESU #10

Bridgeport Lincoln La Vista Lincoln Scottsbluff Kearney Norfolk La Vista Bridgeport Kearney Norfolk Kearney Omaha Lincoln Milligan Kearney Nebraska City Norfolk Kearney

NSASSP Region II NAESP Region I NCSA Executive Board NASES Region I NASES Region II NASES Region III

5:30 pm 5:30 pm 9:00 am 9:00 am 8:30 am 9:15 am

Tiburon Country Club Lazlo’s Haymarket NCSA NCSA Ralston Public Schools Lifelong Learning Center

Omaha Lincoln Lincoln Lincoln Ralston Norfolk

MARCH 6 12 18 18 19 19 19 21 27-28 27 31

GRIT NSASSP Region I NSASSP Region III NAESP Region III NASA Region IV NSASSP Region V NAESP Region V NASES Region II NASES Spring Conference NAESP Region I NASES Region III

APRIL 1 3 4 4 8 9 10 11 11 14-15 16 16 23 23 23 23-25 25 30 30

MAY 7 8 29 30 30 30 24



Gold Sponsorships Ameritas Investment Corp.


Jay Spearman, Dallas Watkins, Marc Munford, Bruce Lefler, Scott Keene 440 Regency Parkway Drive, Ste 222 Omaha, NE 68114 800-700-2362

Scott Isaacson 455 S. 11th Street | Lincoln, NE 68508 402-597-4866

John Baylor Test Prep John Baylor P.O. Box 30792 | Lincoln, NE 68503 402-475-7737

Boyd Jones Construction George Schuler 333 South 9th Street | Lincoln, NE 68508 402-318-4794

D.A. Davidson & Co. Dan Smith, Paul Grieger, Cody Wickham, Andy Forney 1111 N. 102nd Ct., Ste 300 Omaha, NE 68114 402-392-7986

DLR Group Pat Phelan 6457 Frances St., Ste 200 Omaha, NE 68106 402-393-4100

First National Capital Market Craig Jones, Tobin Buchanan 1620 Dodge Street, Suite 1104 Omaha, NE 68197 402-598-1218

Horace Mann Cindy Dornbush 10612 Monroe Street, #4 Omaha, NE 68127 402-680-9382

Humanex Ventures Katie Lechner, Nicole Degner 2900 S. 70th St., Park One, Ste 100 Lincoln, NE 68506 402-486-1102

Learning Together Linda Fox 5509 B W. Friendly Ave. Suite 201 Greensboro, NC 27410 866-921-0000

National Insurance Steve Ott 9202 W. Dodge Rd., Ste 302 Omaha, NE 68114 800-627-3660

Bronze Sponsorships Northwest Evaluation Association Dan Henderson 121 NW Everett Street Portland, OR 97209 503-624-1951

University of Nebraska High School Charlotte Seewald 1520 N. 20th Circle Lincoln, NE 68588 402-472-1922

Nebraska Public Agency Investment Trust Becky Ferguson PO Box 82529 | Lincoln, NE 68501 402-323-1334

Nebraska Liquid Asset Fund Barry Ballou 455 S. 11th St. | Lincoln, NE 68508 402-705-0350

Pickering Creative Group Will Hays 8001 South 13th Street Lincoln, NE 68512 402-680-9382

TRANE Danny Szegda, Dave Raymond, Denny Van Horn 5720 S. 77th St. | Ralston, NE 68127 402-935-9040

Wells Fargo Katie Thompson 1248 O Street | Lincoln, NE 68508 402-434-4284

Silver Sponsorships Awards Unlimited Larry King 1935 O Street | Lincoln, NE 68510 402-474-0815 Jostens Reid Brakke Bel-Air Plaza 12100 W. Center Rd., Suite 901 Omaha, NE 68144 402-733-0300

Nebraska Council of School Administrators


455 So. 11th Street, Suite A • Lincoln, NE 68508-2105 RETURN SERVICE REQUESTED

3DUWQHULQJWRH[SDQG1HEUDVND·V educational opportunities...

Quality Professional Development...

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