Thursday, November 1, 2018

Expectations

Sometimes in education, we get too caught up in labels. We are beginning to work on our "annual report" that we publish for our patrons every December. We list out many things from how many miles our buses drive a year to how many breakfasts we serve to how our students are doing on state and national assessments.

We also include demographic info on our students to include what percentage of our students are enrolled in special education, how many qualify for free/reduced meals, and how many are classified as "mobile" by being in two or more school districts in a year. It is here that we need to be careful about our expectations and actions.

School districts today have access to more student achievement data than ever before. We can tell on a monthly basis what kind of progress students are making in all kinds of areas. We disaggregate data to compare this subgroup to that one. We analyze results through a myriad of factors. Are they on grade level? Are they showing ample growth? How do they compare to the state and national average? Are they just "meeting" or are they "exceeding" standards? It's all good if used the right way.

It's important to crunch the numbers and see how different groups of students are doing, don't get me wrong. Do you have a gap in math achievement between males and females? Are special education students showing the same yearly growth as their non-SPED peers? These are all extremely important! Analyzing achievement data helps us make important curriculum adjustments. It helps mold our instructional initiatives.

It's just that I want all educators to be careful with their "expectations" when it comes to disaggregated group labels. The most obvious one to me is those students that qualify for free or reduced school meals. Right at 45% of the state's students do qualify for free or reduced school meals. In York, the percentage is over 46%.

I'm here to tell you that students in this category should not be limited in their achievement. They should not have lower expectations. There are numerous factors that go into whether or not students qualify for free/reduced meals. Many of the bet students I've ever had in Kansas or West Point or Franklin or York were on free/reduced meals. Many earned an ACT score of 29 or higher. Many were on the honor roll.

We need to have high expectations for all students. We need to have high expectations for all faculty and staff. We simply cannot put a ceiling on a kid's potential because of a label. Kids will more often than not rise to the level of expectations we have in them. We need to believe in them and support them....one and all.

Friday, October 12, 2018

School Safety Update from YPS

School Safety is something we spend a lot of time and resources on throughout each year. Events across the country the past few years have shown this is a topic that must be continually addressed and enhanced on a regular basis.

• In September, all YPS classroom and office staff earned ALICE certification after an on-line training program. ALICE stands for Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate.
• All YPS buildings have determined two “rallying points” in case they need to evacuate their facilities. By having two different rallying points in totally different directions, we can select which one is best for the uniqueness of a given situation.
• All YPS classrooms have received “Emergency Go Buckets.” These buckets include some basic emergency kit items that would help us in a lockdown or evacuation drill.
• Over the next few weeks, all YPS classroom and office staff will have participated in “Stop the Bleed” training with staff from York General. This would be useful if we were ever in a lockdown situation and had to wait on medical care to arrive on site.
• On Tuesday, October 30th, it is our intent to conduct basic lock-down and evacuation drills in each YPS building. We will NOT use practice intruders or fake guns or do anything that will be alarming, loud, intrusive, or upsetting to our students. We will simply practice some intercom announcements, conduct our lock-down drills, discuss movement throughout the buildings, review our protocol with emergency buckets, staying away from doors, etc. We will then perform an evacuation drill where we walk off campus to one of our rally points. We want to see the flow of our students out of our buildings, on sidewalks, etc. to better prepare for any adjustments we need to make. We want to practice keeping track of our students as we move from campus in an urgent but efficient and organized manner. We are working to collaborate with local law enforcement and first responders so they can participate in the drills to see our procedures and offer up any suggestions from their professional points of view.

We are sending out this information to simply let everyone know the steps we are taking to maximize the safety and well-being of our students and staff. Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions or concerns at 402-366-6491 or mike.lucas@yorkdukes.org. Thank you for your support.

Mike Lucas
Superintendent of Schools

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

BE KIND

I love seeing all of the "BE KIND" info on social media, on shirts, and seemingly all over the place in Nebraska. It's obviously a tremendous message. BE KIND. It should go without saying. I'm proud of the important work Dr. Mark Adler and his beautiful wife, Joni, share about BEING KIND as they tell Reid's story. Dr. Jim Sutfin in Millard is doing a great job as an unwavering supporter of the BE KIND initiative as well. It's all awesome!

I haven't been super vocal about it but that doesn't mean it's not important to me. BEING KIND is one of my main goals every single day. I love to talk to people that others don't often acknowledge. I'm that guy that chats up the stressed out sandwich maker at Subway and tries with all of my power to make them smile and relax a little bit even though the line behind is growing. I literally try to go out of my way to help others every day. Not because I want attention or praise but because it's the right thing to do. For everyone. Every day.

I love to see students lead the way with BEING KIND. My favorite students are the ones that make sure no students sit alone in the lunchroom or on the bus. The best students are the ones that can find a way to include everyone.

We all need a little more KINDNESS in our lives. The world can be an unkind place at times.

Each and every day we are faced with thousands of decisions and situations. BEING KIND should be the easiest decision we make.

Don't be afraid to extend a helping hand to others. We've all felt isolated and alone before. It's a horrible feeling. Be the reason today that someone feels included and accepted.

Don't get me wrong....I love the attention that the "BE KIND MOVEMENT" is receiving....I just wish it wasn't needed and was a no-brainer like it should be.

BE KIND today. BE KIND tomorrow. BE KIND next week. BE KIND when nobody else is paying attention. BE KIND always.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Dealing with Grief

My sister-in-law, Molly, passed away on Saturday, August 18th. It's been a brutally tough time for my family. Molly was "fine" before Thursday, July 19th when she went to the doctor with a headache and some back pain. The next thing we know, after some tests were conducted, is that she has tumors all over her brain and lung cancer. By that Sunday, July 22nd she was pretty much bed-ridden. Shortly after that, she had seizures and lost sight in one of her eyes and never left the hospital again. She passed away on August 18th holding hands with my wife and her parents. Jeb, Bo, and I were en route at the Utica exit on I-80 to say our goodbyes as she died.

It's been tough to deal with the sadness. Molly was only 56 years old. This all happened so fast. She leaves behind Kate, her 18-year old daughter, who graduated from Skutt this past May.

Personally, I'm as sad as I've ever been. I loved Molly. She was a sister to me. She was an amazing and kind person that everyone felt good around. She was special. She really was. When you factor in how hard it is to see how devastated my wife is it gets even harder. Liesl and Molly were close. They were eachother's only sisters. Molly was always there for Liesl. She isn't anymore.

It's hard to wake up each day knowing Molly isn't there. It's harder to wake up each day and see your wife dealing with the fact Molly isn't there anymore either. Then, you throw in how much my kids miss Molly and it's hard to process at times. It's tough to see the toll it takes on my mother and father-in-law, my sister-in-law, and brothers-in-law, my nieces and nephew, and especially Kate.

I know our grief isn't unique. Way too many families lose loved ones every day. To cancer. To suicide. To accidents. We're not special. We know that. This feeling of loss is too common for too many.

I've lost loved ones before. All four of my grand-parents have died since 1995. They all lived well into their 70's to 90's so it was easier to process than losing Molly at 56 within a month of being diagnosed. Molly's death just feels different.

I would give anything if Molly was still with us.

Speaking at her Rosary on August 22nd was the most difficult thing I've ever done. I've given thousands of speeches and talks but not that meant as much as that one. I wanted to be anywhere else in the world doing anything else than saying goodbye to Molly.

Molly is gone. I know that. The holidays will be brutal without her. We will do our best to wrap Kate in love and support and that makes us all feel a little better about "helping out" and having a sense of "purpose" in the memory of Molly.

We are trying to be normal. We are trying to be happy. We are staying busy. We will get back to normal at some point, whatever normal is anymore. Thanks for all of the support.



Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Blog Full of Random Thoughts

I have gotten out of the routine of blogging each week so I'm trying to re-create the habit with this blog full of random, miscellaneous musings.

* I love the "Golden Question" assignment that Chris Holder requires this time of year from the YHS Language Arts Department. This assignment forces our students to ask a tough question that often invokes passionate responses on both ends of the spectrum. Our students must ask multiple people this "golden question," conduct their own research, and write a paper about the process and findings. It's a wonderful assignment and I'm lucky to be asked several tough questions by our students each year.

Some of this year's questions include the following...

1) Are high school sports taken too seriously? (My answer was HECK YES. Way too many people lose perspective with every win or loss earned by 15-18 year olds. Enjoy the ride and appreciate the process. Us adults had our time to win or lose....now, we need to support our kids and they learn a lot of life lessons with wins and losses.)

2) Does social media isolate people? (My answer was HECK YES. Social media can often lead you to believe that everyone else in the world is happy and perfect and you're not.)

3) Is the value of education declining? (My answer was HECK NO. Education remains extremely important today. It's just changing, and that's a good thing. However, the value of a 4-year education might be on the decline. There are wonderful 2-year programs that do a tremendous job of preparing people for good paying careers.)

4) Should high school students be required to take a Fine Arts class before graduation? (My answer was HECK YES. The Fine Arts are an important aspect of education and society. We all need to be exposed as much as possible to what Fine Arts have to offer.)

* I am excited to see the YHS One-Act rendition of "The Great Gatsby" this year. It should be another outstanding show.

* Our 2018-19 budget and tax request has received approval from our board of education and have been sent in to county and state officials. We have a 3-year average of just a 0.97% annual increase in local property taxes and a 10-year average of only 1.6% annual increase in spending. We are doing our best to "control what we can control."

* The York Wolves Special Olympics Organization is adding Flag Football and Track & Field to our offerings this year. I get to coach the flag football team on Wednesday evenings and it is the best part of my week! York will again be hosting the Special Olympics Nebraska State Flag Football Tournament on October 27-28.

* John Skretta and I had a great meeting with Senator LouAnn Linehan yesterday in Lincoln. We were able to discuss and share ideas on school funding, school choice, and a variety of topics. I appreciate Senator Linehan's willingness to listen to points-of-view that differ from her own.

* Don't forget that Wednesday, September 26th is now a 1:00 dismissal. We will not have after-school programming or afternoon daycare on September 26th.

GO DUKES!



Friday, August 17, 2018

Appreciation for YCDC

Consider me a BIG fan of YCDC, otherwise known as the York County Development Corporation. I've seen firsthand what this important organization does over and over and over to make the City of York and all of York County a better place to live, work, and raise a family.

York Public Schools is lucky to be able to partner with YCDC on several projects. We help co-host an annual "Manufacturing Day for Educators" every October where education professionals and school board members tour various manufacturers in York County and learn what we can do to better support the manufacturing industry that is so important to us here in York, Nebraska. YCDC was the key reason we were able to secure a Youth Talent Initiative grant in 2017 to begin our wildly innovative Manufacturing & Entrepreneurship class at York Middle School. In fact, YCDC did most of the heavy lifting connecting YPS and Cyclonaire together on this worthwhile endeavor!

YCDC helps to put on an amazing career and job fair each spring. They are always looking for ways to better promote York.

With the Chamber of Commerce and YCDC, we are extremely fortunate to have two organizations that work so well together to help York look for ways to improve and prosper. I've lived in towns without active Chambers and organizations like YCDC and I can't stress enough how fortunate we are to have both right here in Y-Town.

YCDC has been a tremendous resource in helping YPS and the Chamber of Commerce enhance our ESI - Entrepreneurship Academy each summer that benefits students from our town's public and parochial schools. YCDC is constantly working to enhance connections with places like Southeast Community College to bring a stronger presence to York to benefit our businesses and citizens.

I've been lucky enough to sit in on several presentations that Lisa Hurley and other YCDC leaders have put on to try and persuade businesses to move to York. They do a tremendous job of representing our community in a very positive fashion.

YCDC and York Public Schools have some very exciting news to share later this fall. Unfortunately, we aren't allowed to let the cat out of the bag right now; but when we do, it will bring a lot of positive recognition to this wonderful community.

The York County Development Corporation works hard for York, Nebraska. They've been caught in some of the crossfire of what is going on with the City of York's budget issues right now, and that's unfortunate. YCDC is a tremendous asset in trying to help make York even better and more stable than it already is.

I tip my hat to Lisa Hurley and the other tireless leaders of YCDC, as well as Madonna Mogul and our Chamber of Commerce staff. YPS is fortunate to also work hand-in-hand with our local Chamber of Commerce on numerous projects and we appreciate all they do for our community as well.

We are lucky to have these hard-working organizations pushing and promoting York.









Friday, August 10, 2018

A Personal and Professional Challenge

I have a personal and professional challenge for whoever reads this blog. Tell the ones you love and admire how much they mean to you without taking it for granted there will be plenty of time for that later.

Make sure your family, friends, former friends, colleagues, and teammates know that you love them, miss them, appreciate them, or whatever the case may be.

I have a sister-in-law fighting for her life right now as brain tumors and cancer are ravaging her body and it's just unbelievably sad to see her and the family going through this. Molly is the kindest person you'd ever want to meet. She is sweet and always friendly to everyone. She's the kind of aunt, sister, and sister-in-law that will drive 5+ hours to watch her nieces in a dance recital....that would drive 2 hours to see her nephews play football and basketball. Molly always puts others first. She is selfless.

She's a wonderful mother of Katie, who just graduated from Omaha Skutt. She's a loving sister that works hard to be there for all five of her siblings. She's a caring daughter that will help her parents at a moment's notice. She makes the world a better place with her kindness.

I have had some great times with Molly and I want some more. When I've been lucky enough to have some one-on-one conversations with her or go shopping with her, it was always a lot of fun. Molly just makes you feel better. Her kindness resonates with you. Most of the times I've been around my sister-in-law, Molly, there were always lots of others around as well. The in-law's house fills up pretty good at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and special family celebrations. I always got to spend time with Molly but it was 4-minutes here and 12-minutes there. On many a trip back home over the years, I would often tell myself, "Gosh, I didn't get to spend a lot of time with Molly but I will make a point to visit more with her at Christmas, or Easter, or over the summer."

I should've done a better job of making sure Molly knows how much I love her, admire, and appreciate her. I will be sure to do that tomorrow in the hospital but I should have done it years ago when she welcomed me into the family with open arms. I should have done it each Christmas.

So, as we embark on another school year and our lives are super busy and the challenges pile up, don't lose sight of the people you love, admire, and respect. Don't get too busy to let them know. Don't be afraid to reach out to family or friends and re-connect in a way that fills your heart. Life can be cruel and short.

God bless Molly and you and your loved ones as well.