The Lincoln Board of Education has finalized its new five-year strategic plan, a wide-ranging document with 11 goals and 29 action plans all aimed at raising the school district's on-time graduation rate to 90 percent.

The goals range from investigating the feasibility of additional focus programs and a dual-language program to expanding Community Learning Centers beyond high-poverty schools to deciding what to do about the need for a new high school.

Board President Lanny Boswell said the plan is more forward-looking than the previous one.

“It’s a recognition that what students need to be successful in college and career is rapidly changing, and public schools need to be dynamic, because it’s always a moving target,” he said.

The final document is the culmination of months of work that began last summer with meetings and an online survey about what Lincoln Public Schools should be doing to better educate students.

It involved 49 meetings with parents, staff and community members; staff and parent meetings at schools; and an online survey. All told, the effort involved 3,800 people.

Don Mayhew, board vice president, said such outreach is one of the reasons the community supports the schools.

"There's no way anyone can say 'Hey, wait, I haven’t had a chance to be heard,'" he said.

The questions asked in the meetings and surveys reflected two themes the board constantly juggles, he said: dreaming big and being fiscally responsible. 

The community responses went to a committee that came up with five themes, which were changed slightly by board members. They were: creating future-ready global citizens, supporting academic success, supporting educators, creating family and community partnerships, and addressing facilities and infrastructure needs.

"The five themes really say 'This is what our community needs and wants and expects us to be,'" said board member Annie Mumgaard. "Then our job is to decide how to get there. We won’t get there in five years because our community has some really high aspirations for us."

The board members took the ideas from the community and aligned them with the themes and their own priorities to come up with the plan.

Each theme has from one to four goals and each goal has up to three action steps.

John Neal, assistant to the superintendent, said the goals and themes overlap. 

“They shouldn’t be viewed in isolation,” he said. “There are connections throughout the system for all five themes.”

Hitting a 90 percent graduation rate — it was 85.6 percent in 2016 — was one of the goals in the first strategic plan, but this plan makes it an overriding vision.

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“It’s been such an integral part of our culture to strive to increase the graduation rate we decided it should ... be an integral part of all the themes,” Boswell said.

Work on some of the goals is already underway: A task force is researching solutions for high school enrollment growth and the board is reviewing all school boundaries as part of its work to update the 10-year plan (one of the goals).

As with the last strategic plan, this one includes hiring a more-diverse staff. It adds evaluating the impact of assessments on the classroom.

In addition to looking into additional focus programs, the plan calls for investigating a dual-language program — something a group of community members have lobbied for — or offering world languages in elementary school.

Other goals include: exploring flexible scheduling in schools, expanding student mental health services, exploring full-day early childhood programs (the district is piloting a full-day program now), promoting physical activity, and expanding Community Learning Centers.

If the board approves the plan Dec. 12, staff will work on the goals and action plans. But whether — or in what way — they are ultimately put into practice remains to be seen.

Superintendent Steve Joel said staff would continue to update the board on progress on what he called a "living, breathing document."

Because of that, Boswell said, there’s no way to put a price tag on the strategic plan.

“What this does do is allow us to explore innovative ideas that will help students be successful,” Boswell said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist.

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Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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