2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Nebraska State Board of Education, District 2

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

Robert Anthony (R): No response received.

Lisa Fricke (D):

Website: www.lisafricke.com
Occupation: Retired teacher
Current Public Office, dates held: State Board of Education Member Incumbent-Elected in 2016
Past Public Office, dates held: NE State Board of Education is my first public office
Education: Graduate of Bellevue East, BAE from Wayne State College, Earned five additional teaching endorsements, Taught English 6-12, Geography 7- 9, Speech 7-12, Language Arts 6-8, and Reading 8
Military Experience: My father served in the US Air Force for 30 years. Being a member of a military family gave me a global perspective that still guides many of my decisions today.
Volunteer Experience: I have served as a volunteer for the Red Cross, Salvation Army, an Intergenerational & TeamMates Mentor, helped with NeSA Assessments for Reading and Writing, and was also a gubernatorial appointee to the Special Education Accountability Commission.

Candidate Responses

Do you see this board as being an elected or appointed body? Please explain your reasoning.

Lisa Fricke: I see the Board as an elected constitutional body. According to the NE Constitution Article VII, Section 3: “The State Board of Education shall be composed of eight members, who shall be elected from eight districts of substantially equal population as provided by the Legislature.” One state senator unsuccessfully tried to eliminate the State Board, and the legislature’s majority vote demonstrated their support for the Board’s work to ensure quality education for ALL students.

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

Lisa Fricke: School personnel, students, communities, and the state must work as a team to ensure school safety. School districts must have an up-to-date safety plan that utilizes best practices. Schools should have a process that allows students to report safety concerns. Several schools have weekly safety advisory meetings to assess potential safety issues–being proactive averts danger. Effective safety communication among all stakeholders is essential.

How can the continuing education of teachers be supported?

Lisa Fricke: Continuing education is important, but professional development meets immediate needs: Teachers should have input in this process. PD training improves teacher effectiveness which in turn improves student learning. Right now, mental health is a concern, but any training should start with districts ascertaining teacher needs. Then, the district can seek input from ESUs and the NE Dept. of Ed. that could provide trainers and best practice resources to support what teachers need to be successful.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Bennington Board of Education

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

Terri Calabro (R):  No response received.

Tim Dreessen (R):  No response received.

Joshuwa Hannum (R): No response received.

Darren Siekman (R):
Website: www.facebook.com/dsiekman1
Occupation: Vice President, Valmont Global Irrigation
Current Public Office, dates held: 2002 to Present, Bennington Public School Board District #59
Education: Bachelor of Science, Agriculture; University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Volunteer experience: Maplewood Methodist Preschool Board; Bennington Public Schools Foundation Board; YMCA Coach, Bennington Athletic League Coach

Allyson Crossman Slobotski (R):
Occupation: Tax Attorney
Current Public Office, dates held: None
Past Public Office, dates held: None
Education: University of Nebraska – Lincoln – Juris Doctorate; Texas Christian University – Master of Accounting; Texas Christian University – BBA Accounting & Finance; Omaha Central High School
Military experience: None
Volunteer experience: Women’s Center for Advancement – first Guild President; Midlands Mentoring Partnership – Treasurer; Bennington Elementary PTO Board Member; Newport Landing Homeowner’s Association – Treasurer; University of Nebraska – Omaha Sorority Academic Advisor

Candidate Responses

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

Darren Siekman: During my time on the board, we have invested to become a “1 to 1” school system.  In grades 7-12 students are issued a chromebook and in the elementary schools we have combinations of computer labs and iPads which provide a device for every student.  However, the best thing schools can do to foster equity is investing in early childhood education.  Making sure that each child begins their educational journey with a strong foundation is the best predictor of future success.

Allyson Crossman Slobotski: Technology should be used to ensure students receive individualized education that meets their needs and evaluates their successes.  Using technology to provide training for our teachers and administrators enhances the educational experience for all. As technology becomes more and more critical to life after high school, we need to make sure all students have the tools to be successful and starts in the district.

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

Darren Siekman: Common sense and vigilance are the best tools we have.  We are very fortunate in Bennington to have a highly engaged community of parents and community members who “watch out” for each other.  The addition of a school resource officer has already proven effective in key situations, Deputy Baker is awesome.  Last but not least, being prepared with a comprehensive safety plan that regularly gets reviewed and tested is a key initiative in place.

Allyson Crossman Slobotski: Ensuring the safety of students, teachers,  and all staff employed by the School District begins with leadership from the Board of Education.  I would commit to working together, collaboratively, to ensure proper planning and adequate training is in place.  I would emphasize the importance of communication, technology, and employing best practices in the area to do what is necessary to ensure safety for all.  It is important everyone believes in the plan and truly feels safe at work everyday.

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

Darren Siekman: While I have not done much research on charter schools, I would ask which students are we trying to serve and what is the desired educational outcome from a charter?  The strength of public schools is the ability of local constituents to make decisions which are best for their kids and community.  Would a charter school still allow that input?  School funding and property taxes are always a challenge in Nebraska, could a charter school be funded in a way that is not detrimental?

Allyson Crossman Slobotski:  As a graduate of Omaha Public Schools and with children in Bennington Public Schools, I’m a huge public school supporter.  Nebraska is very lucky to have a fantastic public educational system well known for its diversity and quality education.  While Charter Schools may be a helpful tool in other states with struggling public school systems, I do not believe adding charter schools in Nebraska will enhance the existing system in such a way that it warrants a role.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Papio-Missouri River NRD, Subdistrict 9

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

Tyler Berzina (D):

Website: www.tylerberzina.com
Occupation: Physics Teacher.
Education: Millard South High School (1993); University of Nebraska-Lincoln Bachelors (1998) and Masters (2004) in Secondary Science Education; UNL Assessment Endorsement (2006); UNL Graduate Science Courses (2008+).
Volunteer experience: American Legion Post 216; Assistance League of Omaha.

Patrick Bonnett (R):

Website: www.patbonnettfornrd.com
Occupation: Tax Accountant and Insurance Agent.
Current Public Office, dates held: I do not currently serve in public office.  However, I am the current Vice-President for the Walnut Grove Condominium Association Regime 1 formerly an S.I.D.
Past Public Office, dates held: I have previously served on the Papio-Missouri Natural Resource District Board in Millard from 2012 – 2016.  My main priority was getting Dam site 15A done which is now Fr. Flannigan Lake.
Education: I attended the Univ. of Nebraska and graduated with a BGSGA – Real Estate Finance & Land Use Economics.  My Minors were in Sociology and Military Science. I hold multiple professional licenses and have several post-graduate professional designations.
Military experience: I served as a Multiple Rocket and Deep Attack Missile Systems Specialist in the US Army Field Artillery from 1993 to 1996. Then as a Unit Legal NCO in the US Army Reserve from 1996 to 2003.
Volunteer experience: I volunteer from time to time for the Red Cross, for my Catholic church St. John Vianney, and for youth sports programs. I have also served on the Millard Business Assoc Board, Future Omaha’s Board and co-founded the Millard Alumni Association.

James Houlihan (R):

Website: www.Votehoulihan.com
Occupation: Accountant
Education: Bachelors degree from UNO BSBA emphasis in Accounting.

Candidate Responses

What steps will you take to prepare for changes in climate trends that affect natural resource district management?

Tyler Berzina: We must prepare for a new normal with an ever-changing climate. Prevention is much cheaper and prudent than cleanup and rebuilding, and we still have far to go from our current vulnerable position. As a NRD board member, I will support the building of flood mitigation measures which will create robust protections against climate change as long as each best course of action is supported by evidence and is fiscally responsible within our limited taxpayer resources.

Patrick Bonnett: To prepare for potential changes in climate and specifically drought, I would investigate opportunities for Water Banking in Nebraska where needed and where it might make sense.  Certain climate trends also appear to have impact on our Nebraska managed pollinator colonies and I would advocate for the restoration of the Honey Bee population which has seen a 50% decline in recent years.  I also support the President’s advocacy to plant 1 Trillion trees and intend to expand the NRD’s tree program.

James Houlihan: In order to be the best steward of our financial resources. I will vote to protect our lives, natural property and personal property. Following scientific data will help determine if our part of Nebraska will have future flooding issues or future droughts. Using these best estimates. I will vote to ensure our safety and our children’s future.

How do you address the concerns of citizens and developers who want access to NRD projects?

Tyler Berzina: As a forward-thinking physics teacher, I encourage, listen to, and support my students to be creative, objective, and innovative while making decisions based on evidence. I want to bring this same spirit to the NRD table when listening to the concerns of citizens and developers as they pertain to NRD projects. I look forward to hearing the pros and cons for specific projects, how developers can enhance project development, and am open to innovative efficiencies which can save taxpayer dollars.

Patrick Bonnett:  I support the practice of allowing all NRD projects to be generally open to the public unless there is a potential health hazard as may be the case with certain marsh or water quality basins.  Developers or other Municipalities sometimes target the acquisition of adjacent land and in those cases there may be certain opportunities for the taxpayer to realize a much greater return on their tax dollar.  I would seek out those opportunities.  I also intend to audit all Inter-Local Agreements.

James Houlihan: I want our citizens to have access to our natural resources. I want to help our younger generations have natural settings and stay here. Family is important. Creating natural settings will help to keep our children close to home.

If elected, what would be your first-year priorities?

Tyler Berzina:  Our community is in need of rebuilding damaged levees, enhancing and expanding flood control measures that were strategized many decades ago and have yet to be developed. Furthermore, urbanization, costs increased by waiting, current flood risks, and our need for recreation all necessitate completion of these projects sooner than later. I look forward to supporting flood mitigation and other needed projects that support the goals of the NRD, as these are well spent investments in our community.

Patrick Bonnett:  Once elected, I will focus my efforts on the following 7 priorities:  Flood Control; Air & Water Quality; Reduction of Soil Erosion and Stream-bed Sedimentation; Storm Water Runoff Control; Provide for High Quality Rural Water Supply; Improve Forrest, Fish & Wildlife Habitat; Provide Outdoor Recreation Facilities and Participation in Solid Waste Management and Recycling Efforts to help extend the Lifespan of our County Landfills which are an expensive burden to taxpayers.

James Houlihan:  Priorities. 1) Ensure levees are repaired and recertified. 2) Identify

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Nebraska Board of Regents

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

Viv Ewing (D):

Website: http://EwingForRegent.com
Occupation: Human Resources
Current Public Office, dates held: N/A.
Past Public Office, dates held: N/A
Education: Ph.D. University of Nebraska at Lincoln MS University of Nebraska at Omaha BS University of Nebraska at Omaha
Military experience: N/A
Volunteer experience: Salvation Army Tree of Lights Chair, UNMC Board of Councilors, UNO CPACS Board, UNO Alumni Board, Human Resources Assn of Midlands-Past President,  Salvation Army Advisory Board, Rotary Board, Opera Omaha Advisory Board, Sienna Francis House Board

 

Mike Kennedy (R):

Website: http://kennedyforregent.com
Occupation: Attorney
Current Public Office, dates held: Millard School Board Member 2003 to Present, Omaha Public Library Board Trustee 2015 to Present.
Past Public Office, dates held: Metro College Board Member 1999 to 2003, City of Omaha Charter Review Commission 2013, City of Omaha Naming Committee 2015 to 2017
Education: Juris Doctorate from Creighton University School of Law, Bachelors of Science from University of Nebraska-Omaha, High School Diploma from Creighton Preparatory High School.
Military experience: none.
Volunteer experience: I have volunteered at many community organizations over the years including the Boy Scouts of America, Millard Public Schools, and the Catholic Church.

 

Jack A. Stark (R): 

Website: http://StarkforRegent.com
Occupation: Performance Psychologist
Current Public Office, dates held: None.
Past Public Office, dates held: none.
Education: B.A. Philosophy- St. Francis Seminary. M.A. Counseling Psychology UNL Ph.D. Counseling Psychology. UNL.  Military experience: None.
Volunteer experience: Ak-Sar-Ben Award for thousands of hours of volunteer mental health counseling, UNL and Creighton sports teams, 1000 presentations to churches, schools and non profits, National President of Disability Association and Community Foundation assistance  

Candidate Responses

What role does the first amendment have on college campuses?

Viv Ewing:  The first amendment assures us of freedom of speech. This means that freedom of speech on college campuses should be allowed and supported.

Mike Kennedy: The 1st Amendment plays a vital role on our college campuses.  A college campus is designed for learning and the civil exchange of ideas.  As a person that has served on education boards for the past 22 years, including the Metro Community College Board, I believe a person serving on the Board of Regents needs to ensure that 1st amendment rights are not infringed upon and that the University has a campus climate that is civil and open to the exchange of differing opinions and ideas.

Jack A. Stark:  The more serious and pressing issue in higher Education today is the restrictions on free speech and debate on American Campuses. Free speech zones, dis-invitations of speakers and campus shutdowns undermine our most important defining mission of the search for truth. I support the first Amendment fully as written and will support that standard on College campuses.

How do you see the future of funding for Nebraska’s public universities?  

Viv Ewing:  Given the economic climate of the State, I see the future of funding for Nebraska’s public universities continuing to experience funding reductions due to budget cuts. I have been involved in efforts to advocate for less budget cuts. We have to create public private partnerships to increase the funding and continue to educate our students, retain talent, and be competitive economically.

Mike Kennedy:  The University receives 59% of its budget from state appropriations which amounts to almost 1 billion dollars.  That $1 billion investment by the Nebraska taxpayers has a $4.5 billion impact on Nebraska’s economy.  Nebraskan’s know a good value when they see it.  I believe the future for funding is bright if the Board of Regents continues to manage the budget wisely and invests in projects like UNMC’s “Next Project” which will have billions of dollars of impact on our local and state economy.

Jack A. Stark: Recent adjustments to admission requirements will help with enrollment. However the University will still be facing funding constraints as they have exhausted what they will receive from the state and other sources. As a member of the Board of Regents I will review programs and make the tough decisions on what programs need to evolve or be cut in an effort to control costs for students and increase the quality of their education.

With the rising costs of higher education, how will you help to ensure that all young Nebraskans have access to a college education?  

Viv Ewing:   I will help to ensure that all young Nebraskans have access to a college education by 1). supporting initiatives to reduce tuition cost.  2). Increase education accessibility in all parts of the state through expanded technology infrastructure. This would increase access to education, benefit agribusiness, and the economy.

Mike Kennedy:  I have successfully worked on college affordability for the past 22 years.  While serving on the Metro Board we worked to keep tuition low and expanded aid. While serving on the Millard School Board, I helped create Nebraska’s first Early College program where high school seniors graduate with their Associates Degree from Metro.  The University needs to work on securing more public and private funding for scholarships and continue its efforts in helping students obtain high paying internships

Jack A. Stark:   UNMC’S NExt Project is a 3 billion public/private partnership that will be transformational for future students. We need to find similar public/private partnerships for all of our state colleges to better match students with their talents and areas of job growth in exchange for tuition for years of service particularly in STEM fields. This will help reduce tuition costs and excessive student loan burdens for the students upon graduation.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Metropolitan Community College Board of Governors, District 4

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

Christopher C. Costello (R): No response received

Mark V. Holst (D):

Website: www.facebook.com/MarkHolst2020
Occupation: Insurance consultant
Education: Omaha Westside High School; Associate’s Degree, Metropolitan Community College; BA, University of Nebraska
Volunteer Experience: Septemberfest, Cathedral Young Adult Ministry, Nebraska Chinese Association, Latino Police Officers Association

Zach Reinhardt (D):

Website: www.zachreinhardt2020.com

Occupation: Real Estate Analyst & Broker
Current Public Office, dates held: None
Past Public Office, dates held: None
Education: Bachelors of Science in Business Administration, Real Estate and Land Use Economics, University of Nebraska at Omaha 2014
Military Experience: None
Volunteer Experience: MAPA Heartland 2050 Housing and Development Committee Co-Chair, 2018-Present; Citylight Arts Project Board, 2018-Present; Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals Council, 2019-Present; UNO Real Estate Program Advisory Board, 2016-Present

Evan Schmeits (D):

Website: www.evanschmeits.com
Occupation: AFL-CIO Labor Liaison, United Way of the Midland; Past: Aide to State Senator Mike McDonnell
Education: Metropolitan Community College; University of Nebraska-Omaha
Volunteer Experience: AFL-CIO Building Trades Chili Feed, St. Thomas More Knights of Columbus, Vice President of Working Families Caucus, CASA Advocate, Guitarist at Church, South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance, Apollon Art Space Board of Directors, South Omaha Clean-Up.

Candidate Responses

How should community colleges differentiate themselves from four-year universities?

Mark V. Holst: Our efforts are multi-faceted. First, we must actively prepare students with skills and knowledge essential for good jobs in our current and evolving workforce. For this reason, we need to recognize the Community College as a driver in our local economy. Second, the college is an invaluable partner in helping students transition from high school to 4-year college or trade programs. Third, Metro offers valuable opportunities for lifelong learning. These are distinctive missions.

Zach Reinhardt: Community colleges should differentiate themselves from four-year (often actually five-year) universities by focusing on providing affordable, real-world education that prepares students for good jobs without the crushing weight of student loan debt. By focusing on trade, technical, and job training education, and in doing so, community colleges can set themselves apart by providing instructors with real-world experience that students can learn from.

Evan Schmeits: Metropolitan Community College (MCC) is one of the prominent institutions in our community. MCC can be a stepping stone to a four-year degree, but it is so much more than that. It plays an important role in expanding Nebraska’s workforce. A four-year degree is not necessary to support a family: look at the salaries of skilled tradespeople like electricians & plumbers. The old mentality of “Work Smart, Not Hard” does not apply anymore in 2020. Beyond the trades, MCC has crucial medical programs.

What should be the qualifications of instructors at Metro?

Mark V. Holst: Instructors should have the necessary skills to be good communicators and classroom leaders. But ideally, MCC instructors also bring extensive real world experience and learned knowledge about the subject matter they are teaching. In the classroom, the instructors are on the front line in delivering student-centered education. This helps the college remain focused on that student learning goal, responding to community needs, and managing resources responsibly.

Zach Reinhardt: Because of its focus on real-world education, the qualifications of instructors at Metro should include real-world experience in the topic at hand, whenever possible. Industry involvement at Metro is key to providing students with real-world knowledge. An ability to translate the actual experience in each industry into the classroom should be a priority for any instructor at Metro. While an instructor’s educational background should be considered; actual industry experience is equally important.

Evan Schmeits: It is my understanding that Nebraska’s Department of Education ensures that educators of credit classes have, at a minimum, a master’s degree. Changing that would require a change in state policy or state law. Instructors of trade and/or vocational classes should be proficient in their area.

If elected, what would be your first-year priorities?

Mark V. Holst: To work with my fellow board members toward implementing the MCC strategic plan, for continued sustainable growth and progress at our College. As the only candidate in the race who graduated from Metropolitan Community College, I am committed to educational programs that sustain a robust economy and help attract new and better jobs to our community. Working together, we’ll find our most effective opportunities.

Zach Reinhardt: My first-year priorities will focus on supporting the important work Metro is already doing. Metro doesn’t need someone to come in and fix it. I will be a board member that works to promote all the good that Metro is doing in our community and more ways for the college to make a positive impact. I will be a champion for the students, providing guidance to ensures that Metro continues to fulfill its mission of delivering relevant, student-centered education to a diverse community of leaders.

Evan Schmeits: In my first year, I have a few priorities. They are: 1) Get more high school kids interested in the trades by expanding partnerships; 2) Push for MCC to offer reduced-price, on-campus child care for full-time students; 3) Keep tuition flat and make sure our taxpayer dollars are being used wisely; 4) Work with interested parties to make sure Metro Community College’s RN graduates can begin their career at Nebraska Medicine. Currently, Nebraska Medicine requires nurses to have a bachelor’s degree.

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.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Nebraska Unicameral, District 39

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

Allison Heimes (D):
Website: www.heimesforlegislature.org
Occupation: Attorney Education: JD, Creighton University School of Law MS, Creighton University BA, University of Nebraska at Omaha
Military Experience: Military Spouse
Volunteer Experience: Foodbank of the Heartland, Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Kim Foundation, Attorney of the Day for immigrant kids, etc.

Lou Ann Linehan (R):

Website: www.LinehanforLegislature.com
Occupation: State Senator
Current Public Office, dates held: State Senator, Legislative District 39 including Elkhorn, Valley, Waterloo and portions of Millard and West Omaha, elected 2016; chair, Legislature’s Revenue Committee, elected 2019
Past Public Office, dates held: none
Education: attended University of NebraskaLincoln and University of Nebraska at Omaha; Lewiston (Nebraska) High School
Military Experience: None/ While working for the U.S. Department of State, Lou Ann was assigned to Iraq several times between 2008 and 2012 where she worked closely with the U.S. Military.
Volunteer Experience: St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Elkhorn; Women’s Center for Advancement of Omaha, 2014 Distinguished Honoree; City Charter Review; Cable Television Board; past president, Meyer Board Auxiliary; treasurer, Parent Teacher Assoc; CCD education teacher

Candidate Responses

Does Nebraska need to change its method of redistricting? Why or why not?

Allison Heimes: We need to use algorithmically derived district remapping that optimizes the creation of new districts based on equal numbers of voters and compactness and avoid the anti-democratic practice of gerrymandering.

Lou Ann Linehan: Redistricting is a specific and clear duty of Nebraska’s non-partisan Unicameral Legislature. In fact, Article III Section 5 of Nebraska’s State Constitution explicitly places this authority with the Legislature with the following sentence: The Legislature shall redistrict the state after each federal decennial census. I do not support delegating this duty outside the Legislature where the State Constitution clearly and appropriately places this authority.

How should the problem of prison overcrowding be handled?

Allison Heimes: Is the primary function of prison to punish individuals for misdeeds or is it to rehabilitate people who have taken a wrong turn in life? I believe prison’s primary function is to rehabilitate individuals so that they can rejoin society. Thus, we need to create rehabilitative programs and provide mental health treatment to inmates. We can limit the amount of people in prison for nonviolent drug offense and offenses related to mental illness if we address the root causes of criminal behavior.

Lou Ann Linehan: The solution is more beds and adequate programming for inmates who will re-enter society after prison. In the last two years more beds have been added including a 100 bed dormitory and a 160-bed work-release facility for women. One hundred beds are under construction at the State Penitentiary, and work has begun on a 64-bed facility for elderly and mentally ill inmates. The Legislature has also approved 384 more beds at the Lincoln Correctional Center for the state’s worst-behaving inmates.

Do you feel there is a need for voter ID, if so why and how should it be implemented?

Allison Heimes: No, there should not be any barriers to voting. It is my opinion, that in addition to no voter ID laws, election day should be a national holiday so that everyone can participate in their civic duty.

Lou Ann Linehan: According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of December 31, 2019 a total of 36 states have laws requesting or requiring voters to show some form of identification. Voter identification laws are intended to prevent in-person voter impersonation and increase confidence in the election process, and I agree with those objectives. However, these laws cannot infringe on individual voter rights or serve as a discriminatory poll tax so they must be implemented carefully.

Should there be increased restrictions on money in politics? Why or why not and what specific restrictions would you support?

Allison Heimes: We need campaign finance reform. I have many ideas on this matter, but to keep my answer brief and to the point, we need to have a ceiling on how much money can be raised total. Ceilings would prevent incumbents from being able to out-raise challengers before it’s even an election year, they would prevent big companies and millionaires from being able to buy elections, and it would even the playing field for candidates who aren’t wealthy, but who truly want to advocate for their districts.

Lou Ann Linehan: Nebraska candidates disclose all contributions and expenses over $250 and non-individuals, including corporations, also report contributions in excess of $250. These requirements provide transparency for how campaigns are funded. Adding restrictions on campaign contributions increases the likelihood contributions will end up in dark money organizations which lack any transparency. Consequently, I oppose more restrictions which would increase unregulated, unaccountable campaign spending.

Does Nebraska need a paid family medical leave program? Why or why not? 

Allison Heimes: The healthcare system we currently have is not ideal. It is difficult to find affordable insurance, hospitals bill high amounts for basic treatments, and few employers offer paid sick leave, so when an individual gets sick it is catastrophic for a family. Medical emergencies bankrupt families. We need to offer a parachute for suffering families. If your reasons for running for office don’t include taking care of your constituents and their families, then you aren’t running for the right reasons

Lou Ann Linehan: Many large employers offer paid family medical leave and I applaud them for choosing to do so. What many employers have found is that in order to compete for employees they need to offer an attractive benefits package including things like paid family medical leave. However, many smaller employers can find it cost prohibitive to offer this benefit and I don’t support imposing a mandate that would hurt small businesses which are the backbone of our state’s economy.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Omaha Public Power District, Subdivision 1

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

Amanda Bogner (D):
Website: www.amandabogner.com
Occupation: Engineer
Current Public Office, dates held: OPPD Board of Directors, 2019 – 2020.
Past Public Office, dates held: N/A.
Education: B.S. Architectural Engineering, University of Kansas (2002).
Military experience: None.
Volunteer experience: UNL Architectural Engineering Industry Mentor Corp; The Big Garden; Lindenwood Homeowners Association; USGBC Flatwater Chapter; USGBC Energy and Atmosphere Technical Advisory Group; St. Vincent de Paul; Leadership Omaha Class #39.

Peter Sakaris (R):

Website: www.isssecuritysolutions.com
Occupation: Cyber Security Subject Matter Expert, Department of Defense
Current Public Office, dates held: None.
Past Public Office, dates held: None.
Education: MS Information Security-Graduated with Distinction/ BS Physics
Military experience: US Navy, Flight Deck Operations, Western Pacific deployments  US Army Advisor to the Commander 82nd Airborne Divison –Afghanistan Operations  Advisor to the US Army Mission Command Training Program FT Leavenworth, KS Member US Naval Institute.
Volunteer experience: Member- Downtown Omaha Rotary International Past Chairman- People with Disabilities Committee.

Mark E. Treinen (R):
Occupation: Retired
Current Public Office, dates held: none.
Past Public Office, dates held: OPPD director from November, 2017 through December, 2018.
Education: BSBA in accounting from Creighton University CPA.
Military experience: none.
Volunteer experience: served on boards of Catholic Charities (12 years), Marian High School (6 years), Youth Emergency Services (20 years), Sheltering Tree (1 year).

Candidate Responses

Is increasing the use of renewable energy a priority for you?  If so, what is your plan for this increase?  If not, why not?

Amanda Bogner:  Yes. As a current board member, I have been an advocate for increasing the use of renewable energy. I supported the Power with Purpose proposal which included 600 megawatts of solar. I also supported the revision of Strategic Directive 7 which set a goal for OPPD to achieve zero-carbon in all its operations by 2050. If I am re-elected, I will continue to support this transition and ensure that OPPD continues to provide affordable, reliable electricity.

Peter Sakaris:  Increasing access to innovative renewable energy solutions and supporting technologies that will deliver reliable power to homes and businesses at a reasonable cost will help the Omaha Metropolitan area continue to grow economically while maintaining our exceptional quality of life. A careful blending of such technologies will dovetail with current plans to attract new businesses to the Omaha area and help our current business sector grow while maintaining and improving the quality of our enviro

Mark E. Treinen:  Until significant advances are made in renewable technologies to reduce the impact of their intermittency issue, and significant developments are made in battery and other storage technologies (both from a cost and capacity standpoint) some use of fossil fuels will be necessary. OPPD is a very responsible utility from an environmental standpoint and takes it very seriously. They are constantly monitoring new and developing technologies for future generation needs and grid management.

How would you work to ensure transparency at OPPD?

Amanda Bogner:  I support the work done by the LWV to get OPPD Board meetings live-streamed and believe that we need to continue to strive for greater public engagement in everything we do. OPPD will need public engagement as it seeks to adjust rate structures, implement the zero-carbon goal, and encourage more electrified transportation. The Board needs to ensure that the public is heard. This means that we need to hold public stakeholder meetings and gather input from customers before creating policy.

Peter Sakaris:  I would seek to ensure that the public is aware of the issues that the Board will consider through the widest possible dissemination of information regarding the particular issues that the Board will consider. Such dissemination of information should be via print and social media at least two to three weeks before an upcoming meeting with a request from the public for input prior to a Board meeting.

Mark E. Treinen:  I believe in transparency vis-à-vis the public so long as it does not cause the release of sensitive proprietary and/or competitive data, or information subject to non-disclosure agreements. OPPD conducts business in a competitive national marketplace, and certain information has the potential to harm their position.

If elected, what would be your first-year priorities?

Amanda Bogner:  I will continue to prioritize safe, affordable, reliable electricity. I am currently working on a plan that would reduce bills for 85% of customers. As a mechanical engineer and small business owner, I have spent my career helping companies make smart energy decisions that lower costs and improve business efficiency. As an OPPD Board Member, I will continue to advocate for increasing energy efficiency throughout the district to help people and businesses lower their electricity bills.

Peter Sakaris:  My first year priorities will be to ensure that we are transparent as possible and that the public is well informed of the issues that will be discussed by the board. I will seek to support the great men and women of OPPD in their initiative to provide reliable power to homes and business at a reasonable cost while seeking new and innovative ways that make technological and economic sense to deliver power to homes and businesses. I will research ways to increase rate payer assistance programs.

Mark E. Treinen:  Top 3 priorities are: 1. Safety of the employees and the public. 2. Reliable power delivery. 3. Electric rates below the Midwest average by at least 20%.  I will define success as a SAIDI measurement of 90 and no general rate increases until that 20% cheaper rate is achieved.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Nebraska Unicameral, District 31

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

Mark B. Gruenewald (R):
Occupation: Licensed Insurance Advisor
Current Public Office, dates held: Director of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District
Education: B.S. Of Agricultural Economic with a Computer/Chemistry minor

Alexander J. Martin (D):
Occupation: Service Manager
Current Public Office, dates held: None.
Past Public Office, dates held: None.
Education: BBA
Military Experience: Navy
Volunteer Experience: Habitat for Humanity, UNICEF, UNAIDS.

Rich Pahls (R): No response received.

Tim Royers (D):
Website: www.royers2020.com
Occupation: Teacher
Education: Bachelor of Science in Social Science Education, Master of Arts in History, Master of Science in Educational Leadership and Administration
Volunteer Experience: YMCA, Volunteer Coach Teen Center, Volunteer Instructor

Melanie Williams (D):
Occupation: Executive Dir. Family Advocacy Movement
Current Public Office, dates held: Appointed Member of the Nebraska Children’s Commission (appointed in 2019 for 2 year term) / Current elected member of the Douglas County Democratic Party Central Committee (2016-present)
Past Public Office, dates held: Nebraska Democratic Party State Central Committee, 2016-2019
Education: Dundee Elementary School, Omaha Central High school, Omaha University of Nebraska at Omaha – Majored in English in 1978 / Returned to major in Communications/Journalism in 1988 and again in 2004. Focuses: Sociology, Women’s Studies, Black History
Military Experience: None.
Volunteer Experience: In early college years, I volunteered at the Omaha Children’s Museum. In 2009, I founded the Family Advocacy Movement (FAM) which has provided a decade of volunteer advocacy for families and children intertwined with child welfare & juvenile justice.

Candidate Responses

Does Nebraska need to change its method of redistricting? Why or why not?

Alexander J. Martin: For Sure. Let’s try to be fair

Tim Royers: Yes. We need an independent commission to draft any modifications to political boundaries for the Legislature to approve. The redistricting process should be designed to be as non-partisan as possible.

Melanie Williams: Yes. The only way to ensure democratic representation for citizens is by independent, non-partisan remapping that does not favor one party affiliation over another. Our current system is undemocratic, as it provides for partisan redistricting – first via legislative committee that is overwhelmingly comprised of Republican state senators, then via the full Unicameral, with a significant Republican majority, and finally our Republican governor, who can use his veto power, benefitting Republicans.

How should the problem of prison overcrowding be handled?

Mark B. Gruenewald: Over 40% of the inmates suffer in prison suffer from mental illness. Re-opening lock down mental health facilities in Norfolk and Hastings will solve prison overcrowding. So, will having ICE deport those who qualify. The Win/Win is Omaha no longer needs to waste more than $100M for a needless new prison. Out state communities familiar with dealing with mental health facilities are revitalized. The need for mental health is a growth industry. Nebraska was a leader. It can be again.

Alexander J. Martin: Stop incarcerating non violent drug offenders for one?

Tim Royers: Thoroughly examining sentencing guidelines, and assessing what we currently offer to assist people in completing their sentences so they can successfully return to the community and have gainful employment. Reducing recidivism is critical to addressing prison overcrowding.

Melanie Williams: First we must take back from private interests and ownerships the public responsibility of addressing incarceration & rehabilitation. We do not need to build more prisons in a country that already incarcerates more citizens per capita than any other country on earth, including China. Further, the systemic racism that is endemic to our country is also evident by the disproportionate minority populations of jails – far too many for victimless crimes, exacerbated by the devastating “War on Drugs.”

Do you feel there is a need for voter ID, if so why and how should it be implemented?

Mark B. Gruenewald: Yes, it makes no sense for illegal immigrants and others who game the system (vote early, vote often) to have the right. They vote for their self-interest. They, needlessly, gain the power to make hard-working taxpayers’ foot their bills. After meeting our social net responsibility for citizens, it is time to kick the rest out of the cart. Input is welcome.

Alexander J. Martin: I don’t feel the need for voter ID

Tim Royers: No, voter id is unnecessary. There is no evidence to indicate that there is any kind of voter fraud that would necessitate an ID requirement. More importantly, ID requirements have the potential to disenfranchise. And unless those IDs are provided free of cost, such a requirement could potentially violate the 24th amendment.

Melanie Williams: Absolutely not. We must work to expand and protect democracy, which includes tearing down barriers to voting, not building more. While this issue has been promoted, there has been no legitimate or significant evidence of voter fraud related to “voter imposters.” Voter ID laws undemocratically target impoverished, minority, and historically disenfranchised populations the most – those more likely to vote against unfair austerity & weakened civil liberties measures, favored by Republican policies.

Should there be increased restrictions on money in politics? Why or why not and what specific restrictions would you support? 

Mark B. Gruenewald: It is time for the electorate to demand that their votes or the right to vote on an item be respected. Too many times, local public boards and officials have gone to the legislature to have foolish senators override a vote by the people that they, purportedly, represent.

Alexander J. Martin: I say all money out of politics. I’ve spent zero dollars on my campaign.

Tim Royers: Yes. This would really necessitate work at the federal level to overturn the current precedent established by Citizens United v. FEC

Melanie Williams: Yes. I am in favor of overturning Citizens United and reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act. Democracy and public interests are not best served when big-money and the super wealthy are able to use their private money for campaign financing, influencing our elections, gaining unequal access to lawmakers, and unduly shaping public policy. We should move toward public financing of campaigns & public elections, and away from lobbyists peddling private money/support, in exchange for political favors.

Does Nebraska need a paid family medical leave program? Why or why not? 

Mark B. Gruenewald: Yes, this and the homestead exemption will free funds that help families and healthcare workers keep our elderly in their homes. Keeping the individual’s money in the right hands for their benefit and away from unscrupulous agencies and individuals is appropriate.

Alexander J. Martin: Yes. Why? Covid19.

Tim Royers: Yes. The current COVID-19 outbreak has exposed a significant vulnerability with the lack of family leave impacting the community. We need paid family leave to not only help with the health and economic security of those people that would use those days, but also for the benefit of everyone else in the community.

Melanie Williams: Working families are not disposable cogs, but people. Lives are complex and full of uncertainty. The wealthiest country on earth can certainly afford to treat people with dignity by offering sustainable, good-paying work, and by not allowing unplanned & important life events to upend and displace. There are many reasons why working people may need to take personal time away from their jobs, while still having the ability to pay all bills. For a more stable economy, this right must be guaranteed

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Learning Community Coordinating Council, District 4

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

Allen Hager (R):

Website: www.facebook.com/hagerforlc4
Occupation: Sr. Application Analyst
Current Public Office, dates held: Learning Community Coordinating Council 2012-current
Education: B.A, Louisiana State University M.B.A., Tiffin University
Military Experience: Air Force
Volunteer Experience: Former Treasurer, Youth Emergence Services, Former Vice-Chair, Omaha Metro Medical Response System (OMMRS) Medical Board

Lisa M. Schoenberger (D):
Occupation: Digital Marketing
Current Public Office, dates held: N/A
Past Public Office, dates held: N/A
Education: University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Universidad del Salvador (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Military Experience: N/A

Josh Wigginton (R):  No response received.

Candidate Responses

How do you envision the future of the Learning Community?

Allen Hager: I believe the Learning Community will continue to provide Early Childhood Education learning opportunities for families in poverty. The collaboration of school districts is vital to the Learning Community success. It’s a partnership that has changed since the origins of the body for the better. School Districts see the need for parental engagement and early childhood success that given children a chance to be successful.

Lisa M. Schoenberger: I think this is a really exciting time for the Learning Community. I am inspired by the possibilities that the formation of a foundation opens up to continue to deliver programs that are proven successful at a much larger scale. I think the Learning Community has really stepped up to the plate to respond to issues caused by COVID-19 for families in our community and I think that will go a long way in continuing to build positive public relations and showcase its important role.

In your own words, what is the mission of the Learning Community?

Allen Hager: The Learning Community empowers children and families to eliminate the achievement gap though early childhood education, family programs and programs that can help a family both in education and career.

Lisa M. Schoenberger: The Learning Community helps support our outstanding public education system by providing resources for programs that enhance the educational experience for students in Douglas and Sarpy counties. It enables districts to tap into and share resources to better address needs in early childhood education, staff enrichment and family involvement, which are all major contributors to the overall education achievement of all of our students.

How can the Learning Community improve outcomes for all students?

Allen Hager: Continue to offer high-quality programs that balance taxpayer resources with the needs of the at-risk community that we serve. The Learning Community is looking at a 3rd Center that would be located in an area where multiple districts could benefit. I look forward to hopefully work on that and continue to be a steward of our finite resources.

Lisa M. Schoenberger: The Learning Community has a connection with all 11 school districts, which gives it the unique opportunity to have a very broad impact. By helping connect a local philanthropic community with a single touchpoint that can impact all districts, with the formation of a non-profit, the Learning Community can now help level up educational opportunities at scale without an increased taxpayer burden. The Learning Community will continue to understand and adapt to the unique needs of each district.