Don Mayhew

District 7: Elected May 2001

What high school(s) did you attend/graduate from?
I went to Thomas Jefferson High School in Auburn, Wash., and graduated in 1986.  I appreciate the education I received, but I’ve often thought I would have enjoyed attending an LPS high school.

What college did you attend/graduate from and your degrees?
I have an Associate’s Degree in Computer Science from Highline Community College in Washington state.

What is your profession?
I’m a Senior Database Administrator with Upland Software. My job is to ensure consistent, high quality support across all of our software product lines.  

How would you describe yourself?
I’m a nerd, both by profession and by personality. I’m very interested in figuring out systems and I love solving problems. Combined with my driving concerns for families and children, my school board service has seemed like a natural calling. Those who know me would also say I’m a devoted husband, father, and now grandfather.

What school memory from when you were a student still impacts you today?
When I was in high school, my English teacher gave me a C on a paper. My classroom neighbor had written, by my estimation, a roughly equivalent quality paper and had received an A. I was very grade conscious and I took my paper to my teacher after class to complain about the grade. I pointed out that I had met all the requirements of the assignment and felt that I deserved an A. My teacher then explained to me that although I had completed the requirements, he also knew that I was capable of a much higher quality of work than what I had turned in. It was a long conversation, but it got me thinking about things that are still part of my value system.  It’s important to me to do high quality work – to do a job well rather than just doing the minimum required. Also, when I’m self evaluating, I tend to measure against what I think I’m capable of rather than against averages or what my neighbors may be doing.

What was your favorite class/subject in school and why?
In general, I was very drawn to math, science, and music classes. But one of my favorite experiences was in 10th grade Chemistry. Learning about the periodic table and realizing that elements were different from other elements based on the number of subatomic particles made me feel like I was learning cosmic secrets of reality. I remember a sense of wonder, excitement, and power at knowing chemical formulas.

What are the biggest challenges facing our schools today?
Public schools are under attack right now like never before. There are people in our community who are interested in charters or vouchers and they’re making their case by building false narratives of failing public schools. There is a lot of room for honest conversation about ways to improve educational outcomes for children. But those honest conversations are being drowned out by politics and special interests. I think we’re very lucky to live in Lincoln where most people are very supportive of our public schools. It remains to be seen if changes will be made at the Legislature that end up hurting public education in Nebraska.

What do you hope for the children in our community?
Children don’t all start life in the same place. Kids come to our schools with a large number of challenges. To my mind, a high quality education system is a great equalizer. It’s a message to our kids that no matter where they come from or what challenges they face, if they work hard enough and dream big enough they can achieve anything they want. My hope is that every single child in Lincoln’s public schools gets the tools they need to pursue life-long learning and to build a successful, happy life.

What legacy do you hope to leave at LPS when your service on the board is finished?
In my 16 years on the school board, our district has addressed some pretty big challenges and achieved several impressive accomplishments. We’ve dealt with incredible growth in our student population, growing numbers of special needs, sometimes inconsistent funding from the state, a devastating fire that destroyed the district office, and many state and federal mandates, including an exorbitant amount of testing. In that time, we’ve increased graduation rates and student achievement, opened several new schools, maintained our existing schools, opened The Career Academy, and lowered our property tax levy rate to the lowest it has been in over 40 years. The work that we have done has made Lincoln a very high performing district that is well regarded and supported by the community. When my board service is done, I hope to see LPS well positioned to continue to innovate, improve, and stay in touch with the needs of the community.