LPS Superintendent Steve Joel reflects on education career

After 12 years with the Lincoln Public School District, Dr. Steve Joel has one month left on the job.
Published: May. 26, 2022 at 6:48 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - After 12 years with the Lincoln Public School district, Dr. Steve Joel has one month left on the job. He’s got triple that in total superintendent experience, a majority of that in Nebraska after being born and raised in New York.

Steve Joel came to Nebraska back in the 1970s to play college football at Doane. During his first semester he said he was so homesick he wanted to transfer back home. His father wouldn’t let him quit. Now, this is his home.

“One thing I won’t miss are snow days,” Joel joked. “Lincoln takes snow days more seriously than any district I’ve been in my entire life. So I’m glad to be rid of that.”

Joel started his teaching career student teaching at Norris Public Schools. He said he applied for a job in LPS decades ago and didn’t even get an interview.

“I vowed when I got my rejection letter in 1976 that someday I’d come back as superintendent and prove them wrong,” Joel said.

Joel finishes his career with 37 years of superintendent experience which includes 12 in Lincoln, 10 in grand island, eight in Beatrice and seven in Kansas. He credits the work of the Lincoln School Board and district staff for creating and implementing two five year strategic plans, plus the growth of the district which includes two new high schools and new grade schools. However, there have been challenges, like navigating a pandemic and school safety measures.

“When I look around the district and think about Career Academy, focus programs, technology plan, bond issues, you look at the things we’ve been able to accomplish and this community has high expectations for student success,” Joel said.

The superintendent didn’t expect Lincoln to be his last stop. He thought he might move to an urban area back in New York.

“The longer you stay in Lincoln, the less you want to leave Lincoln,” Joel said. “If I have one regret it’s that I wish I came to Lincoln when I was 45 instead of 55, so it would have given me 10 years to be a part of this incredible community.”

Wednesday was the last day of school for LPS, but Joel’s contract goes through the end of June. The community is invited to an open house honoring Joel on Wednesday, June 1, from 4-6 p.m. at Southeast High School in the commons area. There will be brief remarks given at 4:30 p.m.

The Lincoln Board of Education voted 7-0 at its meeting on Feb. 22, to appoint Paul Gausman as the next superintendent for Lincoln Public Schools.

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