Lincoln Public Schools Board of Education candidate profile: Piyush Srivastav
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Even numbered districts are on the ballot this year for Lincoln Public Schools Board of Education. There are two candidates running in each district (2, 4, 6) so all candidates will advance to the May 2 general election.
10/11 NOW sent a questionnaire to all candidates and we did not edit responses. Read Piyush Srivastav’s responses below and view other candidate profiles here.
Name: Piyush Srivastav
Political Party: Democrat
Occupation: Founder and president of NAQS – Environmental Experts, a Lincoln-based environmental consulting firm serving national and international companies.
Why are you running for the Lincoln Public Schools Board of Education? The following are the main reasons for me seeking a seat on the Lincoln Board of Education: (1) I want to ensure that all students, teachers, and parents have the resources needed for a world class education in Lincoln. (2) I would like to work with LPS to continue expanding our focus programs to provide real-life experiences for students, which is a great tool for workforce development. (3) I strongly believe that we must create an environment in schools that fosters enthusiasm for learning. We must do everything that we can to boost students’ engagement in their learning because we know that engaged students have higher achievement. (4) I want to continue to ensure transparency and parental involvement in LPS. (5) I want to continue to ensure that schools are safe for children, teachers and staff. (6) I want to continue to ensure policy of fiscal transparency. (7) I want to ensure that the curriculum is fact based and age appropriate.
List a few positive achievements accomplished by the district. Where would you like to see improvement? One of the most outstanding achievements of Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) is its commitment to serve all students. LPS adopted the All Means All Action Plan and is committed to equity for students, staff, and stakeholders of the LPS. Equity in education intentionally provides what each student needs to reach their individual potential. LPS provides the appropriate levels of resources and support that result in equitable and measurable outcomes for all students regardless of their socio-economic status, race, national origin, ethnic background, culture, religion, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition, sexual orientation, gender, transgender, age, disability, mental, physical or linguistic ability or other protected status. Other recent achievements would be the addition of the new schools, which also helps keep our classroom sizes small and the recent addition of focus programs at Northwest- Health Sciences (partnership with Bryan Health) and the Northstar- Aviation and Technical Education (partnership with Duncan Aviation).
Improvements – I was very happy to see the achievements of the All Means All Action Plan that was implemented from 2017 through 2022 and the district has a board committee starting the work on a new one. This is a board goal for Dr. Gausman this year. Other areas for LPS to focus on are graduation rate, positive behavior, honors course enrollment, and having diverse staff. The two main areas of improvement that I would like LPS to work on in the immediate future are addressing staffing shortages and creating a school environment that fosters student enthusiasm. We must realize that LPS is a people business with nearly 90% of its budget going toward staffing. When schools are inadequately staffed, class sizes and teacher workloads increase. Neither of those results are good for students and their families and we need to do better. The pandemic also disrupted student engagement in school and students are struggling academically and behaviorally. We need to reengage students by expanding focus programs and providing them experiences that foster their enthusiasm for learning. If we do these things, it will indirectly have a very positive impact on our teachers too and will result in alleviating the challenges that they are facing.
What should be done to recruit and retain teachers and staff? We need to ensure that we are giving competitive compensation package. The teachers should be made part of the decision-making process, they must feel that their voices are heard, they must feel that they are supported and valued; their workload must be managed so they can focus on instruction. LPS needs to ensure class sizes remain small. We need to have a robust system in place dedicated to support new teachers, especially in Title schools. There are already coaches, but they are pulled in different directions and thus are not able to coach teachers effectively. Finally, we should grow our own, i.e., encourage students to consider a career in education. Through the Career Academy and the Educational Pathway program we are “growing our own” teachers at LPS. Lincoln High School has a program where those interested in Education partner with University of Nebraska – Lincon Education Department to learn more about the college classes and what it takes to be a teacher. We also need to broaden the definition of educator-not just think teacher, but one could be an instructional coach, speech pathologist or a specialist in a specific area.
How should a board member weigh funding education with the cost to Lincoln property owners? We are certainly in a unique situation with the windfall resulting from the revaluation of homes that just occurred and Governor’s emphasis on education of kids that have been put forth via proposed LB 583 and LB 681. LB 583 and 681 are encouraging, but the devil is in the details and thus I will watch the progress on the bills closely because they will have a big impact on school funding. However, generally speaking, if after all the federal and state mandated programs have been implemented, I will be in favor of a property tax levy reduction if it does not negatively impact the quality of education being imparted to the students and it does not negatively impact the teachers. I will make sure that any cuts made are kept away from the classroom/students. As an example, we never want to increase student class size and we never want to cut teacher pay. I will review the various programs that are in place and make sure that we keep the programs that have demonstrated a successful pattern of helping with the students’ learning and their ability to graduate. We need to look at which programs have the highest return on investment and focus on retaining and strengthening the ones that contribute to student learning and graduations rates, which I believe are two very important outcomes for students. I will not eliminate any programs that enable all students to succeed in life and become valuable part of their communities and become prosperous to make our community vibrant and their families flourish. Property taxes are high and as a homeowner I understand and I will support sensible reductions as mentioned above. Again, generally speaking, a lower levy will result in lower revenue. The question, at that point is, “what do we reduce?” It is clear to me that there are passionate advocates for every dollar currently being spent. While this makes reducing the budget difficult, it does not make it impossible. It is something that as a community we need to research and make a collective decision. Final point that I would like to make is that we don’t have other sources for funding education like other states – such as tourism, marijuana money, etc.; property tax valuation is what is supporting the growth in our school district. I would want to review future needs of the school district and make sure that sustainability is kept in mind before any decisions are made about the levy. So, we would need to keep an eye on the state aid and make sure that we have a robust discussion about a good and sustainable long-range plan.
School boards across the country are facing increased political polarization. How should a member navigate policy tension with regard to a child’s education? This is a difficult time to be on a school board. However, this is also the most important time to be on the school board because the focus needs to be kept on the priorities that are truly relevant for preparing our students to succeed in life. It is very important for LPS to continue its focus on ensuring that we educate all children. We can’t pick who we want to educate. My hope is that all elected officials could work together and come to the table together more often. I also hope that the parents and public focus on the relevant issues as opposed to focusing on things that are happening in other cities but not happening in Lincoln. We must stick with the facts as opposed to the untrue messages being spread via social media and by people that believe that in those untrue messages. At the end of the day, it is about children. I believe that people and the board must think about that first and keep their personal views out of politics and out of school board. We need to consider all viewpoints in our community and work together. I have talked about how impressed I have been seeing the collaborative nature amongst the current LPS board members and their collective passion for creating policies that foster the best learning environment for all students. I want to continue that collaborative nature and ensure that our focus is laser-sharp towards what is good for all our students, teachers and parents.
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