Tuesday, June 20, 2017

An Entire Week of Reflection

My third child and oldest son, Jeb, will turn 17 this Friday, June 23rd. His is a story worth telling.

On Sunday, June 18, 2000 my wife and I traveled back to our home in Parsons, Kansas from attending some College World Series games in Omaha. We were going to get some sleep, wake up on Monday, June 19th, and pack up our house as we were getting ready to move to West Point, Nebraska to serve as their elementary principal. That's when all hell broke loose.

Around 7:00 AM that Monday, Liesl woke up and told me she thought she was going into labor, that her water broke, etc. Her initial reaction was excitement. Mine was fear. This was just over 7-weeks before Jeb's due date. This was too early. Having had an adopted brother die when I was in 5th grade from under-developed heart issues when he was just 21-days old, I knew all too well about premature birth concerns.

I rushed Liesl to the hospital in Parsons and they said they weren't equipped to meet her needs. She was transported by ambulance to Joplin, Missouri (about an hour away) while I followed behind in our mini-van. The rest of the day was kind of a blur but I remember the doctor telling us that he was able to delay Liesl's contractions and was confident he could buy us another week to ten days before Jeb would be born. They began to give steroid shots to enhance his development, etc. By the time we went to sleep Monday night in the hospital, we were feeling a little better about things but still scared.

On Tuesday, the doctor came back in for an evaluation and said that Liesl would definitely hold off for at least a week. He told me to go ahead and get our house in Parsons cleaned out (we were closing the sale that week) and get our stuff up to West Point and then come back. He was thinking Monday, June 26th at the earliest. He said we had plenty of time.

With Liesl's permission, I left on Wednesday morning to go back to Parsons to get us moved. I was going to pack up our house on Wednesday and unload it on Thursday and get back to Joplin on Friday. The plan was put into place.

Wednesday, June 21st was horrible....it rained all day....my dad had flown out from Florida to help me and we had one of my buddies and three adults with intellectual disabilities that he supervised help us load up everything. I really stunk at driving a UHAUL truck and a trailer. I couldn't back up....I couldn't see anything....it was a long day.

Thursday, June 22nd was a long day in West Point unloading all of our belongings. It took all day and I remember getting back to Omaha around 10:00 PM to sleep a little and leave for Joplin at 8:00 AM on Friday.

Around 5:00 AM on Friday, Liesl called me and told me she was going into labor. She said she knew she was going to have Jeb that morning even though the nurses kept telling her she wouldn't. I was terrified....I was 5.5 hours away and wanted to be there for her and Jeb. I took off and literally drove 100 mph the whole way...I really did....never saw a police officer either....I was driving a 1995 F-150 that luckily had two gas tanks....I can't explain the fear and helplessness I felt...I pulled over about 8:30 AM and called the hospital from a pay phone and was told that Jeb Jarrod Lucas was born at 7:49 AM and that he wasn't doing very well....they didn't provide lots of info....

I got back in the truck and drove faster and got to the hospital around 9:50 AM, right as the "low fuel" light came on in my second gas tank. I ran faster than I'd ever run before to see Liesl. Jeb had been taken to Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) and I couldn't see him yet. Liesl was a champ...so strong...so brave...so amazing.

Around 10:30 AM, I washed up, put on sterilized gloves, etc. and got to go in and see Jeb for the first time. He was little...less than 5 pounds but he looked big compared to other babies in there. I felt so bad for not being there when he was born. I felt so bad he was struggling. He had under-developed lungs, heart issues, and severe apnea. He already had cords and wires all over him.

The next few days are a blur...we moved into the Ronald McDonald house across the street from the hospital...we met some amazing and strong people....we would go see Jeb as much as we could every day and night and go back to our room and cry and cry and try to sleep. Jeb would quit breathing and have sever apnea episodes all of the time. On July 4th, we were told that Jeb was strong enough to go home and Liesl and I went through infant CPR training and learned how to work his apnea monitor, cords, etc.

Scared out of our minds, we loaded Jeb and everything up that afternoon and drove to Omaha to stay at Nan and Papa's, my in-laws. It was the most scared I've ever been. Every little sound made us think Jeb wasn't breathing. We got to Omaha and Jeb had over 20 apnea episodes that night...he had to taken to Children's Hospital as he took a turn for the worse....it was so scary.

Jeb stayed in Children's for about 10 days as I recall. He came home for good on/around July 16th. Liesl was unbelievable as she never put him down, hardly ever slept, and did whatever needed to be done to ensure he was safe. Jeb had the heart and apnea monitor for the first 12-15 months of his life. I can still hear that gosh-awful shrill sound of the alarm that sounded when he quit breathing. By the fall of 2001, Jeb was growing and getting stronger and healthier. He made it. He made it thanks to my wife. He made it thanks to God. He made it.

By the time Jeb was two, you would never have known what a rough start he got off to. He was ornery. He was fun. He was becoming one of my best friends, along with Taylor and Micah.

I'm lucky that I still get to call Jeb one of my best friends. I'm proud of the young man he is becoming. I'm thankful that he overcame such a rough beginning. I know there are way too many families that lose children and as I say my prayers every night, I always say "thanks" for allowing Jeb to stay with us.

As the calendar lined up this week and June 23rd was a Friday in 2017 like it was in 2000, it forced me to re-think how that week and summer played out. It has caused me to be thankful all over again. Liesl and I are so thankful for the Ronald McDonald House and the nurses and doctors that cared for Jeb.

I won't let Jeb see me, but I'm sure I will shed a thankful tear on Friday like I do every June 23rd.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Miscellaneous Thoughts

My blog this week will simply be a compilation of random and miscellaneous thoughts on a wide variety of topics.

* York Public Schools will celebrate its 146th birthday on June 14th. We became an official school district way back on June 14, 1871. We're proud of our rich history and excited about our promising future.

* I've begun some preliminary work on our 2017-18 budget. It seems to get more difficult each year. Our total revenue will go down again. The budget is something I think about 365 days a year and it gets exhausting to think of new ways to make things work with declining revenue. However, the York Dukes don't give up and we will always find a way to make things work to maximize opportunities for our students.

* I'm excited about our district-wide theme for 2017-18 as we work to "Be One." This theme has many different meanings. Being a unified team where we all focus on YPS as opposed to our individual jobs at YES, YMS, YHS, PLAY, the Enrichment Center, the district office, or the bus barn, is about being "one" with the one being York Public Schools. We are all on ONE TEAM that just happens to have different settings, job descriptions, and needs. YPS is our one umbrella that encompasses all of the other facilities. We all serve YPS.

"Be One" also gives us, regardless of our job title, something to strive for. We all need to work to be one that is admired for strong character and integrity. We all need to be one that gives our best effort at work each day. We all need to be one that our kids admire and want to be around. We all need to be one that is positive and enthusiastic and motivates others. We can be one that helps make YPS better every day. We all need to be one that does whatever we can to help every single one of our students get better. We need to be one that is unselfish and service-minded. You get the idea. We want to "be one" that makes a difference!

* We are very excited to add our 13th and 14th career academies to the mix at YHS for 2017-18. We will now be able to offer Intro to Professional Education and Instructional Technology for students that are interested in these outstanding opportunities.

* I was able to spend some quality time with Mammy, my soon-to-be 97 year old grandmother, this past weekend. It is always so wonderful to see her, talk about the good ol' days, and share laughs about family members. I'm so lucky to be 44 years old and still able to interact with a grandparent that made my childhood so much better.

* Our FREE summer breakfast and lunch program for 1-18 year olds is going well. We are serving over 130 meals each day.

* Acceptance of criticism and deflection of praise is an important trait for leaders, in my opinion. You shouldn't care who gets the credit as long as your organization is getting better.

* I can retire in 12 years and 17 days....not that I'm counting....I probably won't....but I will be eligible.

* I'm excited to speak to some aspiring school leaders in the Doane Cadre this weekend. I get to visit with them on Saturday afternoon about the importance of public relations and messaging. Should be fun!

* Only 64 days until our students return! We will be ready for a wonderful 2017-18 year!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

What the Heck do we do All Summer?

The 2016-17 school year ended for students on May 17th and for teachers on May 19th. Students will begin the 2017-18 school year on August 16th. Many people often wonder what goes on within our school district over the 90 days or so of summer break. Well, summer "break" isn't like it used to be. Our schools and staff remain very busy as there is always plenty to do.

Below is a brief rundown of just some of the activities that happen over "summer break."

* We run our credit recovery summer school program at the Enrichment Center
* BOOST and ALL-STARS programming at YES and YMS works with 100+ students each day for six weeks over the summer
* Driver's Education takes place for dozens of students as they get classroom instruction and driving experiences
* Several of our identified high ability learners from YES and YMS will participate in "Bright Lights" programming in Lincoln
* We run an "Entrepreneurship Academy" for 20+ students with the help of the York Chamber of Commerce, YCDC, and other partners
* We are hosting an Ag Bio Tech Science Camp and a Space Camp in two different weeks in June
* Many of our teachers will participate in "Wired on Wednesday" training sessions offered by our technology department that are designed to give teachers more ideas and ways to enhance student engagement during the school year
* Our YHS athletic teams will host youth camps to help prepare the next wave of York Dukes
* We host summer league contests for YHS wrestling, girls' basketball, and boys' basketball
* 100+ students will work out in our weight room all summer
* Teachers and school administrators will attend various workshops and training sessions as they prepare for 2017-18
* YMS is hosting the Nebraska Art Clubs State Conference this month
* Multiple facility upkeep projects will take place to include concrete replacements on each campus, an amazing sound system being installed in the YHS Theater, door replacements, energy efficient lighting upgrades, additional security cameras being installed, and roof work
* All school district vehicles are tuned up, cleaned, and triple-checked to make sure they're ready for the upcoming year
* We offer six weeks of FREE student breakfasts and lunches thanks to a grant from the USDA. We typically serve over 130 meals a day through this program.

Within the district office, the first few weeks of June and spent on "state reporting" and wrapping up the 2016-17 school year. By June 15th, the attention turns full-steam ahead towards 2017-18 and budget preparation, health insurance renewal, ordering and receiving supplies, preparation for grant renewals, and lots and lots and lots of paperwork, etc.

Go Dukes!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

It was Just Yesterday....

In 11 days, I will proudly walk my oldest daughter down the aisle as she gets married. This will be a brand new experience so I'm not sure what my emotions will be like on June 10th. As the big day rapidly approaches, it has forced me to spend lots of time strolling down "Memory Lane" and wondering where all the time went.

It was just "yesterday" that Taylor Jordan Lucas was born on July 15, 1993 at 1:01 PM EST in Ocala, Florida weighing in at 7 pounds and 6 ounces while stretching out at 20.5 inches long. She had beautiful and wide eyes and no hair and was perfect in our eyes. My life changed for the better in an instant. I remember showing her off to my grandparents. I remember my cheeks hurting from smiling so much. I remember the unbelievable amount of pride and love that overtook my body.

I remember the sense of responsibility that overran my emotions. I remember trying to sleep thinking how lucky I was to be her dad. I remember what a great luck charm she was as my Braves rattled off 15-wins in a row after she was born and then FSU won their first national title that fall. I couldn't wait to get home each day to hug her. She used to take naps on my chest each day. Those were memories I will never forget!

It was just yesterday that we dressed her up as a nun for her 1st Halloween. It was just yesterday that we celebrated her 1st birthday at my grandparent's cabin in Bryson City, NC. It was just yesterday that she went to pre-school and colored all of her pumpkins black because she didn't "want to use the Gators color (orange) since we're Seminole fans." Yes, that was a proud moment for me but not so much for her mama!

It was just yesterday that I took her to school when I taught 3rd grade and she stayed under my desk playing with her little dinosaurs and coloring all day. It was just yesterday that she rode the bus with my football and basketball teams and sat on the bench with me when I coached.

It was just yesterday that she and I rode to Bartlett Grade School every day together as she was in 1st grade and I was a first-time school principal. It was just yesterday that we took Taylor and Micah to Disney World for the first time. That's my favorite all-time picture as Micah is hugging her big sister right inside the gates as they both seem to be saying, "we finally made it to Disney!"

It was just yesterday that I coached her in little league softball and basketball. It was just yesterday I saw her on stage at numerous dance recitals. It was just yesterday we moved to Franklin.

It was just yesterday that she nailed eight 3-pointers at Superior on her brother's birthday. It was just yesterday that she and I had a long heart-to-heart about whether or not to move to York. It was just yesterday that she got her driver's license. It was just yesterday that she and her sister qualified for state track with gutsy performances out in the district meet at Lexington. It was just yesterday she and Micah got me into Black Friday shopping!

She just graduated high school "yesterday." Her mama and I just dropped her off at Doane yesterday where we waited until she got inside her dorm before we balled like babies. We just saw here first collegiate race yesterday. She just passed her CPA exam "yesterday."

I'm proud of all of her great report cards and accomplishments but she is way more than "stuff." No race, report card, dance recital, game, or single event clouds my memory. Taylor is so much more than that.

Taylor makes me a better person. She makes me proud every single day. She is someone I admire and respect. I love her work ethic and her competitiveness. I love her sense of "family" as she is an amazing "big sister." I love her compassionate heart. I love her willingness to tackle tough tasks. I love her discipline. I love her sense of humor. I love her loyalty. I love her sense of purpose. I love her bright future.

Taylor, Micah, Jeb, Bo, and Liesl are my "why." They are the reason I choose to get out of bed each day. They are who I look forward to spending time with. I'm now proud to add Garrett to that mix. He and Taylor make a great couple and we are so excited for their future together.

I am sure I will shed some tears on June 10th but they will be tears of happiness and excitement. Taylor Lucas will become Taylor Borcher and we are so thankful she found a great husband from an awesome family. Walking her down the aisle will be a surreal experience but one that I'm happy to do.

I want to thank Taylor for making my life better.

As I stumble through my "father of the bride" speech on June 10th, I know I will leave lots of things out but I also know it is impossible to tell her and everyone else how much she means to me and how proud of her we are.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Importance of Support Staff

Amazing school districts have amazing school teachers. That's a given. What our teachers do within the four walls of their classrooms each and every hour of each and every school day is of the utmost importance. You simply can't be a winning organization without winners in key roles.

However, another extremely important group of school employees, that often gets overlooked, is what we call support staff. These are our paras, secretaries, drivers, custodians, nurses, cooks, and all of the groups that often work "behind the scenes" but are so vitally important. York Public Schools is a winning team because of our support staff. We can't do what we do without them!

Our support staff doesn't always get the attention that administrators, coaches, and teachers get but that doesn't mean they aren't just as important. They often do the "little things" that get taken for granted by many. They often work with students that need it the most. They often deal with adults that are upset. They deal with tough driving conditions. They deal with large crowds and big messes. They deal with deadlines and to-do lists just like their certified counterparts.

My hat is off to all support staff employees. THANK YOU for being important in the development of our students. THANK YOU for being part of our TEAM. THANK YOU for your commitment to YPS. THANK YOU.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I Messed Up Yesterday

Let's face it, I make mistakes every day. Yesterday at Kindergarten Graduation was no different. I was lucky to be able to address the large crowd for about two minutes. I thanked our teachers, staff, and administrators. That was a no-brainer. They're awesome! I thanked the parents of our students for sharing their children with us. That was easy.

I messed up by not hitting hard enough a couple of points I wanted to really emphasize. I told the parents and grandparents in attendance that even though our teachers and staff are amazing that parents and grandparents will ALWAYS be their children's most important teachers and advocates. I then kind of tailed off instead of hitting that again and again and again.

Parents and Grandparents are the most important people in the lives of young people. Being a parent is the toughest job in the world. Parents simply need to spend TIME with their children. Read with your kids. Let your kids help you cook. Go fishing together. Sit on the front porch and talk to each other. Play cards. PUT YOUR CELL PHONES AWAY. Watch a movie together. Go on a walk.

Too often, we think our love for our kids is measured in how much money we spend on them. It's not. The most important thing you can do with children is spend your TIME. Play catch. Work on a crossword puzzle together. Just be together.

A school year consists of about 13% of the hours in a 365-day year. That's not a typo. Do the math. A typical school year is about 1,125 hours of time in our classrooms. There are 8,760 hours in a year. Our students/kids are OUT of our classrooms for 87% of the year. Parents, grandparents, and family are the ultimate role models of their children.

To all parents and grandparents...embrace the opportunities and challenges you have to help your child each and every day.

Our kids grow up too fast....it seems like just yesterday I attended Kindergarten Graduation of my oldest daughter. On June 10th, I will walk her down the aisle as she gets married. Time flies. Enjoy your children!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


York Public Schools is extremely proud to be part of "Project Search," which is an internship program designed to transition young adults with disabilities from the high school setting into employment within the workplace. This rewarding program provides real-life work experience combined with training in employability and independent living skills to help young adults with disabilities make successful transitions from school to productive adult life.

Thanks to Beth Ericson, ESU 6, Nichole Wetjen, York General, and others for their commitment to this vital program. I just left Project Search Graduation where we honored Katlyn and Cody, two more YHS graduates. It is one of my favorite days of the year. The pride and enthusiasm that our Project Search students display as they learn various work skills is inspiring. Their work ethic and desire to work hard should be examples for us all!

I choked up a little as I listened to Nichole Wetjen passionately and tearfully reminiscing about the gains each of this year's graduates made. I smiled like a kid in a candy shop as I looked around the room and saw so much happiness and joy from the families of each graduate. Today was a tremendous accomplishment for Katlyn and Cody and a young man from Milford High. They earned their high school diplomas and completed work internships in multiple areas. All three have employment already lined up.

As I told the crowd before I proudly presented diplomas, Project Search is one of the best things we get to be involved with. It is refreshing to be around those that are so humble, thankful, and enthusiastic about working and learning. My hat is off to everyone involved with Project Search.

We are proud of you!