February 19, 2021: Vaccines and New Principal

Don gets a pandemic update on staff vaccinations from Associate Superintendent for HR, Eric Weber. Also, Don talks with the newly named principal for the new high school in northwest Lincoln, Cedric Cooper.

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Video Transcript

Mindy Burbach 0:17
Hello, and welcome to LPS Board Update. I’m communications director, Mindy Burbach.

Don Mayhew 0:22
And I’m Don Mayhew, Lincoln Board of Education member. This is an opportunity for us to learn more about what’s happening around Lincoln Public Schools and for you, our community, to ask questions.

Mindy Burbach 0:32
If you do have any questions, type them into the chat and we will respond during our live show on Tuesday. Don, we’ve had several big announcements this last week. Let’s start with our pandemic update.

Don Mayhew 0:42
The Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department announced on Tuesday, a new registration website for all school staff in Lancaster County. This registration portal will provide the health department with the information necessary to plan for the vaccination of school staff when the vaccine doses become available. Dr. Eric Weber, associate superintendent for Human Resources has been meeting with the health department and he joins us today to help us understand the process. Welcome, Dr. Weber.

Eric Weber 1:10
Thank you, Don.

Don Mayhew 1:12
Eric, earlier this week, the Health Department announced this portal for LPS staff to register for the vaccines. What does this mean? Are we getting close to having the vaccine for our staff?

Eric Weber 1:24
Yeah, well, thank you, Don, it definitely is a step in the right direction. As part of the phase 1-B process, the health department is asking that school staff complete this special online registration. And the employees will go in and they’ll fill out information about themselves, information about their age, their roles, health conditions. And this will help the Lancaster County Health Department to begin to prioritize vaccinations as the vaccinations become available. So this is definitely a step in the right direction. And we were able to share that information with our staff this week. And I know that our staff has been in and and is starting to, you know, fulfill that process of filling out those registrations. Eric once vaccinations start, what is the timeline for getting those shots into the arms of our staff? Yeah, we don’t know the exact timeline, much of that will be dependent upon how many vaccine doses are available. And that is dependent upon how many vaccines come to the county and actually come to the state. So that is a big factor on how fast this timeline will move. But it is the the county will need to follow the Department of Health and Human Services, vaccine order in their prioritization. And so as they go as they work through that, we know that age has been a factor. And so the health department, the state health department has allocated a certain amount that needs to go to you know, 75 and older, 70 and older, 65 and older. And then there’s a separate amount of about 10% that is being allocated for the other groups in phase one B, and that’s first responders, utilities, correction staff… educators are in that group, that other section of phase 1-B, so about 10% is being allocated for those purposes. And it really will depend on how many vaccines are actually going into that 10% right now,

Don Mayhew 3:19
One of the things that’s been suggested is that Pat Lopez and the county health department should be doing more or doing a better job of prioritizing educators for getting the vaccination. What’s your take on that?

Eric Weber 3:31
I’ve found in my in my meetings and discussions and planning with them, that they’re they’re doing an awesome job of getting vaccine into these groups as fast as they can. And we meet with the county health department every week, and plan and try to work ahead and think ahead in terms of next steps. They’ve been really, really good at communicating with us about what they think is coming. And it really just depends on how many vaccine are coming into the state and then and then flowing to the counties. I think that they’re getting through them quickly. You probably have seen in the news. They have these vaccination clinics down at the Pinnacle Bank. And I’ve talked to a few people that have gone through that process. It’s very slick and smooth, they get them in and out of there fast. So my experience has been that the county health department has been outstanding at getting these vaccines out as quick as they can. The main issue right now is just how many vaccines are getting to the state and then getting out to getting down to the counties.

Don Mayhew 4:28
Do they have the power to readjust the prioritization? If they wanted to, could they bump teachers up to the top of the list right now?

Eric Weber 4:37
No. The county health department has to follow the statewide vaccination prioritization order. So that prioritization order is developed by the Department of Health and Human Services. And then the the individual county districts, health districts have have to follow that state priortization order, and so they really don’t have have any way to to alter that. And that’s kind of that’s what’s impacting some of the distribution.

Don Mayhew 5:06
So for our staff, how will they be prioritized to get the vaccine? Do we get to decide that?

Eric Weber 5:13
No, we do not, we do not have any control over who will receive the vaccine and in what order. The way that the process has been set up is that our staff individuals will go in and they will complete this registration. And again, it’s going to ask them some questions about about them, their any health conditions, they may have, their age, their role with the district. And then the county health department has an algorithm that they use within their system that will prioritize those individuals, and then the distribution of the vaccine will be will will flow in that order of their top prioritization and move down. So we really don’t have a say in that process. Our job was just to get them names of our staff so that we could get people registered, and then the county health department takes over from there.

Don Mayhew 6:02
And I think we’ve talked about this, but just to be clear, does LPS get to decide when the vaccine is distributed to our staff?

Eric Weber 6:08
No, we do not. That is that is completely dependent upon the available vac, vaccine that is here. And that can be allocated to our phase 1-B tier.

Don Mayhew 6:20
Okay, so why are we advocating for staff to get the vaccine as soon as possible?

Eric Weber 6:24
Yeah, I mean, the evidence is really strong that that this vaccine is, is effective. And we know that we know there can be some hesitancy about vaccines, we completely understand that. And we recognize that, but we also know and the data is supporting that these vaccines are effective against this virus and for us to get back to normal as a school district back to normal as a community, really, as a society. We believe in we think the more people that are vaccinated, the faster that’s going to happen. And so we are encouraging it. We certainly are not requiring it as a district, but we are certainly encouraging it of our staff.

Don Mayhew 7:04
Okay, so getting back to this portal that the health department has announced for, for educators. Is that for LPS staff only, or what all is included in that?

Eric Weber 7:14
Yeah, it’s for any educators in the Lincoln Lancaster County area that are in education. So any employees in education is who that that tier applies to. And so that’s private that’s parochial, that’s higher ed. Anybody that works in the education sector.

Don Mayhew 7:33
I think this has been one of the hardest years ever for our staff. And we’ve they it has been clear that they are essential workers. And so thank you very much for your work and continuing to fight for them and to advocate for them and working with the county health department to get vaccinations for our staff. Thank you for that, Eric.

Eric Weber 7:53
You bet. Thanks, Don.

Don Mayhew 7:54
Construction continues to progress on the new high school located in northwest Lincoln. And just this week, LPS announced who will be the lucky principal to open the new high school. I am very excited to introduce our next guest, Cedric Cooper, the newest high school principal for LPS. Cedric, welcome, and congratulations.

Cedric Cooper 8:14
Thank you, Mr. Mayhew, I definitely appreciate the congratulations and I’m excited for this opportunity.

Don Mayhew 8:21
Call me Don. And you joined LPS in 2018, as the principal of Schoo Middle School, tell us a little bit about your educational journey.

Cedric Cooper 8:31
Okay, my journey started at Northwest high school. I was a PE and a health teacher for 11 years in the Omaha Public School system. And I really enjoyed my tenure there as a PE teacher. That’s what I desired to do coming out of high school and went to college and continued on and I wanted to coach and I wanted to teach. So that’s what I did, I did quite a bit of health and also with the PE and then there was times in that I was in the gym and I would talk to students in a one on one basis. And there was this program called Avenue Scholars. So I said, You know, I wanted to find more out about this program. And when I learned about the program, it was a program that gave me the opportunity to really work one on one with students and to help prepare them for what college would be like. And these were students that were in the 2.5 and below GPA average. So that really excited me. And I took that on for four years and I was placed at Benson High School. Avenue Scholars is a nonprofit organization. So but we were still in the high school and I really enjoyed that work, had the opportunity to work with 25, juniors and 25 seniors and to really work to get them to some type of career or get them into college. So that was really exciting. And during my time at Avenue Scholars, I spent some time getting back into school my wife really encouraged Me. And she told me she said, Are you gonna retire in the gym? And I said, Well, you know what’s wrong with that? I didn’t have a problem with that at all. That’s why I went to school, right? And so I looked into the Doane program, I was given a nudge by our current principal at Northwest High School, Herman Colvin, he said, you might want to think about the Doane program. It’s a program that I went through, it’s a really good leadership program. So I decided to take that leap of faith got involved in to the Doane program, and just really fell in love with leadership as I finished that program. And during that program, I told myself that if I’m going to get into leadership, let’s start to look and seek some leadership opportunities right away. So when I finished up the program, I was very fortunate to land a position in Torrington, Wyoming. And a lot of people say, Wow, Torrington, Wyoming, what led you to Torrington, Wyoming. And I’m a very mission driven leader. And I looked at their vision and the mission of the district as I was seeking opportunities and it was something that really excited me. There was quite a bit of poverty in the town, and I really wanted to work and help students. And so I took that leap of faith, my family, and I moved out to Torrington, Wyoming. I was the middle school assistant principal for two years. And the superintendent knew that I had a high school background. And she thought that I would do well in a high school setting. And there was an opportunity that came available. And I took the leap of faith and I went over to the high school. And at that point, I really got excited, because I had an opportunity to help students graduate from high school. The goal of high school is to graduate and what better than to be in a position to help students do that. So that was my journey up until the point where, after four years in Wyoming, my wife and I said let’s reevaluate. And let’s take a look and see, you know, what our next opportunities may be. So we decided to look and of course, I’m from Omaha. So we looked here in Omaha, we looked in Lincoln, because Lincoln’s close. And then there were some other opportunities around the country that we had went on, we had some interviews and just really landed a place here in LPS. It was just an excellent opportunity. So that’s my leadership journey.

Don Mayhew 12:19
That is fantastic. Tell me, was there somebody early on who inspired you to get involved in education?

Cedric Cooper 12:26
Early on, when I was in elementary school, I loved my teachers. And there was a PE teacher by the name of Mr. Frank Catania. The things that we did in PE were so exciting to me. I was able to still use my athletic ability and learn in the process. So that’s where I decided early on that I want to be a PE teacher, and there was nothing that was going to stop me. And my third grade teacher, she was in the same building in my elementary school, and she really believed in me, and she saw something in me at a very young age and I knew that education was the way for me to get out of my current situation, which I lived in poverty. So it was my elementary teachers, Frank and Annie Catania. They were very instrumental in me really thinking about education. And then also, I had a first grade teacher by the name of Mrs. It was Mrs. Horn at the time, but she ended up marrying our principal at the school who was Mr. James Freeman. So they were very instrumental in me wanting to be in education. I just absolutely loved my teachers and I knew that this was a journey for me to really take a look at.

Don Mayhew 13:37
So a lot of a lot of neat people inspiring you and now you’re passing that on to to other kids. That is fantastic. Let me let me ask you talked about when you were coming back, you looked at Omaha, you looked at Lincoln and other areas, what was it that made you decide on LPS?

Cedric Cooper 13:53
The I went on quite a few interviews before my last interview here in Lincoln. And I knew that it was a really special place. The moment that I interview because of the process was different. It was very well organized. And it was serious business. And I really appreciated that. And I knew that this was a district that was all about excellence. And that really, really inspired me to want to be a part of it.

Don Mayhew 14:21
Well, I’m glad that you did. And let me tell you that when you are taking over a new high school, it’s not just becoming the principal of the high school, you’re also going to be helping to shape the culture, the traditions, it feels like this is going to be a huge undertaking. Why did you sign up for the challenge of being the principal at a brand new high school?

Cedric Cooper 14:43
Well, you know, I think about mission and vision. And when I think about culture, that’s something that really excites me. And I know that when there’s a healthy culture, then there’s an absolute opportunity for students to be able to excel in an environment that they feel Welcome, and they feel valued and that excites me to say, Okay, this is something that with the community and with our district, we’re going to build this from the ground up and we’re really going to make it a special place for students.

Don Mayhew 15:12
What do you think are going to be some of your biggest challenges in a brand new high school?

Cedric Cooper 15:17
Well, I always have this in mind. I always start with 100% graduation rate. And that’s pretty high. I know that the district goal is 90%. But I think of it this way. What 10% are we saying that won’t make it. And to me, that’s not acceptable, acceptable. And I say, 100%, if you are going to come through the doors of Northwest High School, then you will graduate. That’s the goal. So we we will set our standards high and that’s a challenge in itself, because there’s a lot of different supports that will have to be put in place. But we will accomplish that goal. And

Don Mayhew 15:56
I really appreciate you, I appreciate you saying that. And when you were telling your story earlier to you were talking about how you were reaching out to the kids who might have been having some challenges and might have been underperforming. And you’re right in Lincoln, a high graduation rate is very important to us having kids graduate with the tools and the knowledge to be able to go on to whatever their next challenge is. And so having, having that high graduation rate, this is what we have to do, we have to reach out to the kids who are struggling and find ways to help them through. So I really appreciate you talking about that. We’ve talked about the challenges a little bit what some of the opportunities that you’re excited about

Cedric Cooper 16:36
just the opportunity to be able to form a bond with Bryan Health, that’s really exciting to have students be able to have the opportunity to do a lot of hands on learning and just seeing what the field has to offer. Just the opportunity to also build with the community and to make this a really special place in the northwest part of town. That special. And that’s just an opportunity that I wouldn’t dare miss.

Don Mayhew 17:02
One of our expectations of our principals is that they get to know their community, they get to know the needs of their kids. And it sounds like you are very much up to the task for that. Let me ask you, you’ve talked about this a little bit. But what what drives you? What is your Why?

Cedric Cooper 17:19
Well, it’s really simple. When I get the opportunity to see students and staff accomplish their goals, that drives me, it’s the reason why I get out of bed every day. So just to see people be successful. Because I know what it’s like when you have someone to believe in you. So I want to be that person for not only our students, but our staff as well. And you know, I like to look at myself as a servant leader, and I come with an attitude of service. So that’s my why that’s what drives me every day that I come to serve. And what better to do it in a newer part of the of the town and with the new high school.

Don Mayhew 18:00
That is really neat. I think you’re going to do incredibly well out of out at Northwest and I think that they’re they’re going to be very lucky to have you. Thank you so much for your time. I know you’ve got a lot of work to do. And I can tell you’re very edgy, very dedicated to your students. And I think that this is going to be a great fit for us. Thanks. And Barry, good luck on the on the coming year and the work we have to do.

Cedric Cooper 18:24
Thank you, Don, I definitely appreciate the opportunity and I will definitely get back here to the middle school students and continue to serve them for the rest of today.

Don Mayhew 18:34
You know, Monday, this is pretty exciting. We don’t open a new high school very often. And I think we’ve got a great principal at Northwest in Cedric. I think that that was very exciting. And I know that there’s been a lot of community interest in naming the high schools as well.

Mindy Burbach 18:49
Yes, and that process is still going on. So from now until February 28. If you have an idea on what we should name our new high school located in northwest Lincoln, or our new high school in South Lincoln on Saltillo road, or we have yet an elementary school out on 102nd and Holdridge, you can go to our website lps.org. And you can click on the “name our schools” link and submit your ideas. We are taking those suggestions until February 28.

Don Mayhew 19:14
All right, and that’s all the time we have for today.

Mindy Burbach 19:16
Our next Board, LPS board update will be live on Facebook Tuesday, February 23, at 5pm. Just a reminder, if you have any questions about what you’ve seen or heard today, you can type them into our chat here on Facebook, or you can submit it by going to our website lps.org. Click on the blue contact us button. And with that, thank you for joining us