2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Omaha Public School Board, District 7

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Jane Erdenberger (D):
Website: erdenberger4ops@.com
Occupation: Retired OPS high school teacher and lawyer
Current Public Office, dates held: None
Past Public Office, dates held: None
Education: University of Nebraska – Lincoln BA {1975]; George Washington Law School JD [1978]; University of Nebraska – Omaha BS [2000]
Military Experience: None
Volunteer Experience: Nebraska Education Finance Authority Board [two terms]; Omaha Education Association Board [three terms]; OPS One City One School District Task Force; CASA; Belle Ryan PTO; Jackson Elementary PTO; Aksarben and Leavenworth Neighborhood Associations

Flint Harkness (D):

Website: www.harkness4ops.com
Occupation: Special Education Teacher
Current Public Office, dates held: NA
Past Public Office, dates held: NA
Education: Bachelors of Science in Secondary Education Masters of Science in Secondary Education Completing course work for a Masters of Special Education and Education Leadership
Military Experience: None
Volunteer Experience: I have worked with Team in Training with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society to raise money for cancer research.

Keegan Korf (D):

Website: www.KeeganForOPS.com
Occupation: Metro Smart Cities Coordinator at Omaha by Design
Current Public Office, dates held: N/A
Past Public Office, dates held: N/A
Education: Bachelor of Science in Communications – Journalism; PR/Advertising – University of Nebraska at Omaha Master of Arts in Teaching – College of Saint Mary Master of Education in Teacher Leadership and Learning – Midland University
Military Experience: N/A
Volunteer Experience: Mayoral Appoint Board Trustee (Secretary/Treasurer) for the Omaha Public Library, Founding Board Member (Vice President) of Felius Cat Café, Mentor with Girls Inc. of Omaha, Member of the Hanscom Park Neighborhood Association

Grant Sorrell (D):

Website: www.grantsorrell.com
Occupation: United Way of the Midlands
Current Public Office, dates held: N/A
Past Public Office, dates held: N/A
Education: University of Nebraska-Omaha Bachelor of Art, Political Science Masters of Science, Political Science
Military Experience: N/A
Volunteer Experience: Mentor, Partnership 4 Kids Child Advocate, CASA for Douglas County Emerging Leader, United Way of the Midlands Engagement Council, Greater Chamber of Omaha

Candidate Responses

How can schools use technology to foster better equity and educational outcomes?

Jane Erdenberger: Better equity and educational outcomes require curriculum meeting each student’s abilities and goals. Computers and a list of websites are insufficient. Certified teachers create lesson plans reflecting state standards, assess individual needs and identify websites for lab demonstrations, research projects, unique lectures, virtual field trips, graphic design and current events individualized to stimulate each student and prepare him/her for today’s workforce and to responsibly use technology.

Flint Harkness: Technology if the great equalizer. It allows students to overcome their weaknesses so that they can highlight their strengths. I am someone that has benefited from technology personally. I have struggled with my spelling and grammar my entire life and technology has allowed me to earn advance degrees in education even though the writing of what seemed like an endless amount of papers was required. The key to good technology use in the classroom though is innovative lesson design.

Keegan Korf: Technology resources should be an embedded part of any school budget and we should be shifting to digital resources and away from expensive and antiquated textbooks. We do know that not every students has access to take-home devices or in-home Internet, but while they are in school, the technology resources need to be available to them. Effective technology use means supporting students in growing their critical thinking and collaboration skills using new tools for learning.

Grant Sorrell: As we move towards more technological-based learning, it is imperative that we elect leaders who believe in the advancement of technology and believe it can help improve student outcomes. We must ensure – however – that these technology opportunities are available to all students, not just some. We need to elect leaders who can work with teachers and administrators to develop technology-based curriculum that can help us improve student learning for all students across our Omaha Public Schools.

What can be done to ensure the safety of students and teachers in our schools?

Jane Erdenberger: District policy limiting building access to students and staff and monitoring guests must be regularly updated and consistently applied. But safety also requires that daily interactions of students and staff are based on mutual respect that is modeled by every staff member, frequently discussed in the classroom and consistently expected in the building and at school events. This helps the school community address bullying, identify at-risk students and create a positive learning environment.

Flint Harkness: The safety of all is key to creating a productive learning environment. Chaos and fear creat anxiety. Quality teachers, clear guidelines for discipline, trauma-informed teaching, and access to mental health professionals can greatly improve safety for all in the classroom.

Keegan Korf: School boards who work broadly with state and federal legislation to impact gun laws in addition to using funds to increase support staff for mental health services in schools as opposed to additional police officers are ways to start. Tackling student trauma and mental health is critical. Finally, the most direct impact to school safety is a positive culture through strong administrative leadership which enables teachers to thrive and to build trusting relationships with their students

Grant Sorrell: We must take every measure possible to ensure the safety of our students and teachers. As a parent, I know how important it is to send our children to school where we feel they are safe. I do agree that there should be procedures and grounds for the removal of a student from class in response to disruptive student behavior either directed at the teacher or another student. I believe that there should be a written plan of action that is to be followed aimed at protecting the students and staff.

What role, if any, should charter schools have in the Nebraska educational system?

Jane Erdenberger: Nebraska’s public schools are among the best in the nation. Research shows that charter schools usually do not perform better than public schools with comparable student populations and testing requirements and may increase segregation.

Charter schools that receive public funds create a resource shortfall for public schools that are required to meet educational mandates. Problems theoretically addressed by charter schools can be best solved with innovative public education.

Flint Harkness: Honestly, I am a strong believer that charter schools do more harm than good. With that in mind, I would say they have no place in the Nebraska Educational system.

Keegan Korf: Charter schools and vouchers don’t belong in Nebraska. Period. Our public schools are the lifeblood of our state and we intend to keep it that way.

Grant Sorrell: I would continue to oppose all legislation that provides vouchers or tax credits for families to attend private schools, along with strong opposition to the formation of charter schools within our state. Nebraska has a rich history of proudly supporting public schools, and as a board member I would continue that best practice. It is my belief that taxpayer money should be used to improve public education, not used for vouchers or for the opening of charter schools.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.