Lives near: South 16th Street and Capitol Parkway
Occupation: Grants administrator for the city of Lincoln
Political party: Democrat
The pandemic has caused an unprecedented disruption to education, affecting students in many ways including academic losses and mental health issues. How should the district address those issues going forward?
LPS is developing a comprehensive plan, utilizing COVID relief funds, to address academic losses as well as mental health issues. Targeted programs include, but are not limited to, expanded summer school opportunities with lunch provided, provision of dedicated remote learning, enhanced access to community and in-school mental health services, and more. Additionally, I am advocating for summer job/education/internship opportunities in partnership the Greater Workforce Development Board, if additional COVID relief funds are available.
LPS’ state aid allocation decreased significantly last year and is expected to do so again this year. What do you see as the biggest budget priorities and where should the district make cuts if necessary?
LPS’ highest budget priority is keeping any cuts from diminishing the classroom experience, keeping class sizes reasonable, and retaining academic supports for students in need of them. Budget cuts must be approached carefully with a thorough understanding of their potential impacts. District data, input from building level administrators, teachers, parents, and students, and review of educational best practices need to be reviewed prior to determining where budget cuts may need to occur.
The district has embarked on efforts to better address equity issues, a focus that began before the Black Lives Matter protests but has intensified since then. What are the best ways for the district to further that work and ensure educational equity for all students?
LPS has contracted with the Midwest Equity Center to provide training so the district can improve its equity programming. Key to our equity work is to engage on ongoing basis with marginalized communities. This would include partnering with minority-based community centers, the LGBTQA community, low-income advocacy agencies, and new American groups to have public dialogues at locations where marginalized communities feel comfortable. Continuing to monitor academic progress, graduation rates and juvenile justice referrals for disparities will be critical.
The district recently reallocated money to continue the expanded school resource officer program, despite concerns from some that it will increase the school-to-prison pipeline. Do you support the program? Why or why not?
I appreciate Lincoln’s law enforcement. The SRO program has gathered data, indicating disparities in referrals to juvenile justice among African Americans, Native Americans, students with disabilities and the low-income. Marginalized communities have cited this data and national studies, indicating SROs do not enhance security, but rather increase the likelihood minority children will be referred to juvenile justice. Studies report school security is improved through investments in mental health and other supports. LPS resources should be spent on proven interventions.
What, if anything, should the district have done differently to address the pandemic?
Within weeks of the lockdown, LPS reinvented itself to provide remote learning, meals to hungry children and more. During the summer, LPS district office continued working 12- to 16-hour days to develop remote learning options, meeting academic standards. Our plan aimed to provide the community with the most educational options possible. Decisions were made in consultation with local and national epidemiology and education experts. I’m proud of LPS, its teachers, and staff for doing their best during unprecedented situation.