Thursday, January 29, 2015

Follow-Up and Checking In on Grief - Part 2

Some additional thoughts I shared with staff via an email earlier today as we continue to follow-up and check on our students, staff, and community.


Thanks for your continued professionalism and support of our students, community, JJ's family, and all of the people impacted by Tuesday's event. I feel the need to provide our staff with the bulleted points below as we move forward.

* Again, "grief specialists" highly recommend "normalcy" for schedules and routines for our kids. Therefore, we will have school on Monday. Any student or staff member that wants to attend the funeral may certainly do so. Please work with your building principal on such arrangements. Some of you will not want to go, some of you will only want to go to the church service, some of you will want to go to everything....we get that. We support that.

* Our wrestlers chose to carry on and they will be in Fairbury tomorrow competing. I will be there with them as will many others.

* We've been asked by numerous media outlets for statements on this situation, our policy on cyber bullying, why we do "this," why we don't do "that," etc. Out of respect for the family, we are simply being very brief in our responses. This isn't about the school district. This isn't about what assemblies we have on bullying, or what we've tried to do about Yik-Yak or anything else. This is about the family and the young people hurting. We're not going to engage in "press releases" or interviews during this difficult time. We just want people to know that we have counselors available in all buildings and that if we need to, we will bring in extra people. We will do what we need to do to help people with their wide range of emotions over the coming weeks/months.

* Another factor weighing hard on us is that this isn't our first suicide. We've lost other students the same way. All communities have at some point. We use the same protocol for each suicide but they all take on their own direction due to the individuals involved, family ties, personality, involvements, etc. As much as I am praying for the Vanderheidens, I'm also praying for Hannah Short's family and the others left to deal with suicide as each new occurrence re-opens their still healing scars too.

* The painful and ridiculous rumor mill is in full force. Out of respect for the family, we are not going to confront that at this time either. It's just not the time. This is a time of grieving and moving forward the best we can as individuals and as a team. This isn't about YPS or any of the ridiculous accusations/rumors that uninformed folks want to make on Facebook. This is about the horrific loss of another young person. This is about being there in a family and community's time of need.

* As your superintendent, I hurt just like you do. I am here for you if you need anything. My cell is 402-366-6491 and any of you can call or text any time of any day for anything. I am proud of what YPS does, has done, and will do. We've worked extremely hard on trying to partner with our families and communities on important initiatives that we all need to be aware of and we will continue to do so.

Thoughts and Prayers,



I don't really feel like blogging today so I'm just going to share the email I sent to the YPS staff around 1:00 AM on Wednesday morning.

YPS Staff:

Tuesday was obviously a horribly tragic and sad day with the death of JJ Vanderheiden. I want to thank the Crisis Committee for how they handled things. Mitch, Aaron, and the entire high school staff held things together in as positive of a fashion as possible.

Thanks to Seward and Centennial for sending over counselors as well. The experts say our young people need as much "normalcy" as possible in times like this even though normalcy is the farthest thing from our mind.

Let's keep an eye out for one another, for kids and adults that might be struggling, and for the family. We will provide whatever guidance and assistance we need to in any of our buildings. We lost Hannah at the Enrichment Center this past fall in the same manner. We've endured other suicides over the years as well. It is always devastating and sad.

Let us help if you need to visit with someone. We will all deal with this differently and none of us are right or wrong. Thank you for what you do and how you do it. Our staff is loved and supported by many, and in return, we can love and support others in times of need.

We will stay together and we will be there for our students and community.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Blue Valley Community Action Partnership Needs our Help

Blue Valley Community Action Partnership needs our help. Their facility in York caught fire this past weekend and they lost most of the food and items they had. A quick visit to their website shows just how important this organization is.

Their mission is to help people overcome poverty by improving lives and strengthening communities.

Their vision is that communities are safe and supportive, differences and traditions are respected, individuals and families are financially secure, and everyone has opportunities to develop their potential.

Another excerpt from their website shows their passion and commitment; "Community Action changes people's lives, embodies the spirit of hope, improves communities, and makes America a better place to live. We care about the entire community and we are dedicated to helping people help themselves and each other."

The YHS basketball teams will be hosting Fairbury on Friday, January 23rd. We hope all attendees bring some canned food and household items to donate to Blue Valley so we can help re-stock their lost merchandise. We hope to fill multiple, large containers. Please help!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hub Foster Press Box - One Final Push

Here is one final update and request for assistance as the East Hill Home Field Advantage Committee looks to wrap things up. To review, we remain very appreciative of the support we’ve received and extremely proud of the facility that has been created and revamped for York High School football.

The Hub Foster Press Box is a beautiful, updated facility that is a great tribute to a wonderful man who meant so much to so many in this great community. The handicapped accessible bleachers have made Friday night ballgames much more enjoyable. The locker rooms will be completed and ready for use in August. These provide a safe place for student-athletes, coaches, trainers, and officials to go during inclement weather. York Youth Football, York College soccer, and Cornerstone Legion baseball are other entities that could also use the locker rooms when the need arises.

The original estimated cost of this project was $600,000, and we’ve received approximately $413,000 in cash plus $135,000 in pledges to date for a total of $548,000. The updated estimated cost of the entire project is now over $800,000, which has created the need for $300,000+ to pay off the line of credit. The successful passing of the ½% sales tax this past November 4th will go into effect on April 1st and that will help pay off whatever is left on the line of credit debt.

It is so exciting to report that in some form or fashion, over 1,000 people have contributed to this project and nearly 200 will be recognized on the donor recognition board that will be erected this summer. Donations are being taken through March 31st with any donation of $250 or more earning recognition board status.

We are making this one final request for donations so that all those interested will be recognized and associated with the project, thus allowing more taxpayers’ monies to be used within York for the numerous other needs expressed during the ½% sales tax campaign.

If you are interested in donating to the project, contact Mike Lucas at 402-362-6655 ext. 4 or via email at by March 31st.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Taxes and School District Budgets

York Public Schools has been working with other school districts and various organizations on various ideas for property tax relief, additional revenue streams for schools, etc.

I personally feel that school districts are wearing a huge bulls-eye right now with lots of lawmakers yelling for reduced spending, less taxes, etc. but they don't see the whole picture; which is "total revenue" that school districts have to work with.

Using YPS as a small example, our total state revenue totaled $5,356,167 in 2008-09 and declined to $3,551,808 in 2013-14. Our total federal revenue dipped from $1,380,076 to $819,172 at the same time. All in all, over that five year span, our state and federal revenue dropped by a combined total of $2,365,263.

During that same time span, our property taxes skyrocketed 34.6% from $6,472,903 to $8,717,649 for an increase of $2,244,746 which is still over $120,000 LESS than what we lost in state and federal revenue.

Many see school districts as "out of control spenders" and that couldn't be farther from the truth from what I see. In fact, my oldest daughter and I studied annual financial report data of over 55 schools last month and found out that a little over 75% of them grew their annual budgets over the last 5-year span by LESS than an average of 1.8% each year. York, and several others actually averaged LESS than 1% spending growth each year.

We take property taxes very seriously and we're trying to do our part to come up with potential resolutions. If you have any ideas, please share them.

Go Dukes!