While most Nebraskans (the football-loving ones, anyway) are watching the season debut of Scott Frost and his Huskers on Saturday, a group of Lincoln Public Schools employees will be at work.

They’ll be eating Runzas (it is a football Saturday after all) and readying the district to switch from its 30-year-old “green screen” business software to something more 21st century.

This is the second — and by some measures even bigger — roll out of a new software system.

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Five years ago, the district began using a new student information system called Synergy. That directly affected more people — teachers who took attendance, parents who checked their kids’ grades, kids who looked up assignments, district administrators who collected demographic information.

The latest rollout — called CORE (Connecting Organizing Resourcing Employees) — handles all the business functions of the district: payroll, purchasing, accounting, inventory management, hiring and placement information.

Hourly employees will clock in on the system and use it to check their pay and benefits information. District purchasers will use it to buy every hamburger bun, Chromebook and desk. Human resources will use it to pay employees and track where everyone is working. 

Kirk Langer, the district’s chief technology officer, likens it to the foundation of a house.

“Nobody comes over to your house to see the foundation,” he said. “But if the foundation has issues it’s going to be more costly, make an even bigger mess.”

The new system will “go live” Tuesday, so the 50-some employees working over the three-day weekend want to make sure “there’s no mess.”

It’s been a long and expensive process. The district began looking for a new system four years ago. It will cost nearly $7 million to buy and implement it.

“The scope of what this reaches is really huge,” said Liz Standish, associate superintendent of business affairs.

Life-saving SROs

Having Lincoln’s 12 school resource officers carry Narcan, a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, is a way to extend the availability of the life-saving drug around the city.

The cost — $102 for a box of 2 nasal sprays — and the relatively short shelf life of 18-24 months makes it cost-prohibitive for all Lincoln Police Department officers to carry it, said Officer Angela Sands.

But having officers stationed in schools carry it increases the availability geographically, in addition to having it near kids, she said.

Officer Phillip Tran was thankful his new assignment as Lincoln High School’s resource officer coincided with his bosses’ decision to give it to SROs.

Police reported earlier this week that Tran administered the nasal spray to an 18-year-old man who was near the school but not on school property and clearly in distress. 

Tran said he found the man barely breathing, his pupils constricted. He was unconscious and foaming at the mouth. Tran administered Narcan and almost instantly he was awake and breathing.

“We’ve seen the real effects of what opioids can do to people,” Tran said Friday. “To see someone of that age go through that is distressing. To see the Narcan work almost instantaneously was a blessing, because before we would (only) have been able to provide CPR and hope for the best.”

A 16-year-old student and acquaintance of the man flagged down school staff, who notified Tran.

The man, who wasn’t a student, had taken about 10 unknown painkillers he’d found — a reminder to properly dispose of old medication so it doesn’t make it into the hands of teens, Tran said.

“Because they’ll take it just to see what it does to them,” he said.

Independence Academy

Here’s to one less educational acronym.

LPS’ longtime jobs training program for special-education students known as VOICE is getting a new name.

It will now be called the Independence Academy, and its mission won’t change: to help 18- to 21-year-old students with disabilities gain job and independent-living skills.

Families who use the program had suggested the change, said Special Education Director Jenny Fundus. They said they’d prefer a less confusing, more readily identifiable name.

Some people, apparently, thought the VOICE program was some kind of choral program, Fundus said. 

VOICE, for the record, stands for Vocational Opportunity in Community Experience, which is what Independence Academy will continue to offer.

It will just be easier to figure that out now. 

Focus program surveys

The latest step in an extensive process to decide whether to keep existing focus programs at LPS, add others, or configure them differently: ask students. 

Officials have visited specialized programs around the country and done an internal study of those at LPS. 

In recent years, they’ve added buses to take students to the science and arts and humanities programs. They’ve bused students to The Career Academy since it opened.

A task force looking into building needs of the district recently recommended adding focus programs within existing and new high schools, not at separate locations.

The survey will be given to students at school to gauge interest in both existing programs and starting new ones.

Among the potential programs LPS is gauging interest in: construction and manufacturing, international studies, performing arts, social services, world languages and a host of STEM subjects.





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