Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The end of the school year has arrived

We’ve made it! The end of the 2018-19 school year is at hand. The winter weather was certainly interesting, but taken on balance, it’s been a terrific school year. The month of May is an incredibly busy time in the Rikli home with retirement celebrations, end-of-year events, open houses, and senior send-offs. But perhaps the most special event is Commencement.

This year, over 800 students from PLHS and PLSHS participated in graduation. Baxter Arena has hosted the event the last five years, and it’s a showcase event for our schools and community. Our high school logos are displayed prominently on the ribbon boards, our graduates’ names are featured on the main video screen as they cross the stage, and the whole event simply says “class”. The look of pride on our graduates’ faces—and their families!—as they accept their diploma is simply amazing. Commencement is truly one of the highlights of the year for our seniors, our families, and our high school staff members who work to support them.

The District too has much to celebrate. Several bond projects are either completed or currently underway including controlled access entryways at several elementary buildings, an expanded parking lot at Foundation Field, and building expansions at Anderson Grove, G. Stanley Hall, and PLSHS.

Papillion La Vista High School was named the second high school in Nebraska—along with PLSHS—as a National Unified Champion School by the U.S. Special Olympics Committee. 

Lastly, the District was awarded a prestigious Gold Medallion Award by the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) in recognition of the bond campaign organized by our Communications Office. 2018-19 was a great year indeed!

Thanks to our staff and families who made this such a successful year. I hope everyone has a great end to the year and congratulations to our recent Monarch and Titan grads.

Here’s wishing everyone a safe and restful summer break. And as always, #BeKind!

Check out some highlights of graduation here:

Monday, April 29, 2019

Living the #BeKind message

In the last several weeks, we’ve seen several examples of our staff and students showing what #BeKind is all about. From the Wear Red event which raised dollars to support flood relief efforts to our recent committee meeting with PLV Cares, our community has again shown why Papillion La Vista is one of the very best places to live and raise families.

The recent flooding across Nebraska and the region was a heartbreaking tragedy. But there are many examples of individuals who pitched in to help their neighbors get back on their feet. In addition to numerous building-level fundraisers, the District hosted a “Make A Difference, Wear Red” Day on Thursday, April 4. In just a few days, over $8,400 was raised by District staff and families    with all proceeds going to the American Red Cross for flood relief efforts. It was an incredible effort and outpouring of support for a very worthy cause.

Our #BeKind efforts haven’t ended with the flood relief efforts. The District hosted its first-ever “Attire to Inspire” event at PLSHS. This event is part of the District’s Unified Sports program for students with disabilities and their non-disabled peers. The Attire to Inspire event drew well over 200 community members and included students from both PLHS and PLSHS who modeled fashions from area business partner ReRUNS. This event was generously supported by several area businesses including the PLV Schools Foundation, Hy Vee, and ReRUNS. Attire to Inspire was a truly unforgettable event for our students and their families.

Lastly, the District hosted PLV Cares. PLV Cares is a collaboration between the school district, the Cities of Papillion and La Vista, and other community partners. Mental health is one of the most pressing needs facing our community today. PLV Cares is intended to be a model of support, outreach, and communications focusing on mental health needs for our students, their families, and our community. The group has a standing committee of approximately 25 members and has helped raised awareness about mental health issues through community events, parent training sessions, and legislative action.

There are always things we can do to make our schools and community more inclusive and welcoming places for all families. But much progress has been made in several important areas. I am proud to say the #BeKind movement is alive and well in the Papillion La Vista Community Schools.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Be Known for Caring

Welcome to the final stretch of the school year, PLCS! It was a difficult winter by any measure, and if you’re like the Rikli family, you’re thrilled to see the snow melting and experience the warmth of spring. Unfortunately, the warmer weather and rain have brought their own challenges in the form of widespread flooding across the State and region. We are blessed. Our schools and most of our staff and families have avoided the worst of the damage. But we don’t need to go very far to find displaced staff, homeless students, and homes devastated by the recent floods.

The PLCS Family has committed to an all-staff jeans day to support flood relief efforts across the metro and State. Furthermore, many individual PLCS schools have launched benefits to support our fellow Nebraskans, many of whom have lost everything to flood damage. 

At Tara Heights Elementary, students launched a “Kids Helping Kids” campaign to support families in Fremont. Students and staff at La Vista Middle School are collecting items ranging from cleaning supplies to food items for the Salvation Army. Papillion La Vista South is accepting donations for area homeless shelters. Trumble Park students are raising money for the Red Cross. At Prairie Queen, Anderson Grove, Rumsey, and G. Stanley Hall, students and teachers are putting together care packages and packing supplies for families in need. These are just a few of the examples of how our schools and families are rallying support.

Moments like these remind me what a special place we live in and call home. Martin Luther King, Jr. once reminded us that “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” Nebraska is sometimes derided for being flyover country. We don’t have beaches or mountains or oceanfront views. But what we do have is tough, strong, resilient people who care deeply about their community and their neighbors. I have never been prouder to be a Nebraskan and a Papillion La Vista resident. Thanks for everything all of you do to make this a great place and #BeKind!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Winter in Nebraska

It has been a long winter in Nebraska! The bad news is, winter is not quite done yet with cold temperatures and possible snow the next week or two. The good news is, spring is just around the corner with its promise of warmer temperatures, April showers, and May flowers. The question on everyone’s mind is, how will we make up our snow days?

A bit of history might be helpful. The State of Nebraska requires that students attend 1,080 instructional hours at the middle school and high school and 1,032 hours at the elementary level. PLCS typically schedules 175 instructional days per year, so if we have three or fewer snow days, we are well above the state requirement. To be safe, we typically build extra days into the calendar at the end of the year and designate them as make-up days if four or more snow days are used.  We put these dates on the calendar a year in advance so parents and staff can plan accordingly.

This year, of course, was unusual. In my previous five years as Superintendent, we had three or fewer cancellations every year. As of today, we have canceled school six times. Following the calendar adopted by our Board of Education, that means our last day of school will be pushed back from Thursday, May 23 to Wednesday, May 29. The 29th will be an early release day. Seniors last day will be pushed back from Thursday, May 9 to Friday, May 10. Bringing back students and staff after Memorial Day isn’t ideal, but the alternatives are equally challenging.

We considered adding minutes to the school day, but this solution has many drawbacks. We would likely need to add at least 25-30 minutes per day until the end of the year to make up the three extra snow days. This would create issues for parents at pickup/drop off, create challenges for our busing schedule, and would push back evening activities. Likewise, we discussed taking back days that were scheduled for break, including Spring Break. However, we know many families schedule vacations during this time and holding school on these dates would create hardships for many.  We did not want to suddenly change a calendar that was published a year in advance with designated snow days.

If your family is like mine, everyone is getting cabin fever and looking forward to being outside. We understand that coming back for 2-3 days after Memorial Day will create some issues for staff and families, but we believe it is the best way to make up lost teaching time while also satisfying our state requirements. Thank you for all you do to support our students and our schools. Stay warm and #Be Kind!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Be Known For Kindness

We are past the mid-way point in the school year, and Winter Break is but a distant memory. January and February can be difficult months even for hardy Midwesterners accustomed to Nebraska winters. A combination of the post-winter break blues, cabin fever, short days, and bone-chilling weather can test even the most optimistic among us. A recent article published in USA Today even declared that January 21 is the most depressing day of the year. For these reasons, the Be Kind movement has never been more important.

The Be Kind movement has generated positive momentum across the entire metro area. Every public school district has adopted the “Be Kind” theme for the 2018-19 school year and significant progress has been made highlighting the importance of kindness and compassion. At PLCS, we started the year with our keynote speaker discussing the importance of kindness. We followed this up with “Kindness notes” and many schools have put up “Be Kind” bulletin boards to highlight the acts of kindness by staff and students. We have accomplished much, but we don’t want to lose the positive energy we’ve created.

Thanks to the efforts of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, some terrific ideas have been generated to keep the movement alive. This Advisory Council, which consists of 8 PLHS and 8 PLSHS students, meets with me once a month over lunch (Raising Canes is always a favorite!). The students create the agenda, and we discuss issues ranging from school safety to class rank. Meeting with this group is always one of the highlights of my month.

The students suggested that we hold a “Be Kind” week from February 11-15 and designed Monarch Maroon and Titan Blue “Be Kind” t-shirts for sale. Hopefully you were able to purchase one! We will celebrate the importance of kindness at the boys and girls basketball games on Friday, February 15. Most exciting of all, our students suggested we use the proceeds from the shirt sales to benefit the Student Emergency Fund through the PLV Schools Foundation. This is truly kindness in action.

Thank you for your support, don’t forget to wear your Monarch or Titan “Be Kind” t-shirts, and we’ll see you on Friday, February 15. As always, #BeKind!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Be Known for Vision

Happy 2019, PLCS staff and families! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and restful Winter Break. The Rikli’s hosted my side of the family the weekend before Christmas. Hosting is a lot of work, but it’s always fun to catch up with family. Presents were opened on Christmas morning, and then we traveled to Grand Island to spend some time with Amy’s parents. It was a fun break, but I’m always excited to get back to work.

I try to spend a bit of time around the holidays reflecting on the past year and looking forward to what the new year will bring. I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I have set several personal and professional goals for myself for 2019. In my personal life, I would like to spend more time with my wife and family. I would also like to spend more time reading for pleasure. Work demands for all of us can be challenging at times, so I resolve to do a better job balancing my personal and professional obligations.

Likewise, the Papillion La Vista Community Schools will also have new goals for 2019. The District started a new Strategic Plan shortly after I was hired in 2013. A community advisory group was formed, and five long-range planning goals were developed. Through our Strategic Plan, we have made great progress in several key areas including adding World Language to our middle schools, expanding our Early Childhood Program, and increasing supports for mental health needs. But much work remains. 
School districts typically develop new Strategic Plans every 4-5 years, so it is time for us to restart the process. In the past, we have intentionally focused on a small number of goals. We can do anything we want, but we can’t do everything we want! The plan will serve as the District’s road map, and any future goals will be discussed with our staff, community and Board of Education so that everyone’s voice is heard. Please watch our newsletters and website for information about how you can stay informed.

Here’s wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and productive 2019. Let’s make it the Kindest year ever! #BeKind