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By Luke Nichols/Daily Sun sports editor 

Tri County's Cole Siems (right) handles the ball during the C2-7 District Final against Yutan Monday night at Norris Middle School.

Local schools celebrate Read Across America

One school, two schools, Stoddard School, Lincoln School. This week, both elementary schools are celebrating Read Across America and Dr. Seuss’ birthday with different themed days and activities.

On Tuesday, Lincoln students did “Put me in the Zoo” by bringing a favorite stuffed animal to school, and Stoddard students did “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins” by wearing hats.

Kevin Janssen, the principal for both schools, said the different themes were chosen between the schools to accommodate for the different grade levels.

“The staff got together and they collaborated to come up with what they thought would be fun activities for the students to do,” Janssen said. “The kids seem to be really enjoying it.”

On Friday, both schools will have a birthday celebration for Dr. Seuss by wearing something red or white, like Huskers apparel.

Janssen said surprise guests will be coming to read to students throughout the week.

“I know a lot of teachers are reading a lot of Dr. Seuss books amongst others,” Janssen said. “The kids always enjoy when adults come in.”

Janssen said the schools celebrate Read Across America because Dr. Seuss is an important part of the nation’s literary history.

 “What a great week to celebrate it,” Janssen said. “It’s just a great time to remember that literacy is such an important part of our society. We just want to celebrate it and make a great experience for all kids.”

School resource officer bill advances

The Legislature's Judiciary Committee voted Friday to forward a bill governing school resource officers to the full Legislature on a 6-0 vote.

Sen. Tom Brandt of Plymouth was present not voting at the executive session and Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers was absent.

The bill (LB390), introduced by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, would mandate memorandums of understanding that delineate the role of the officers and require training and data collection to evaluate the program. It would require a minimum of 20 hours of training for law enforcement officers and at least one administrator and teacher at each school.

The training would cover school law, student rights, understanding special-needs students, conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques, ethics for school resource officers, teenage brain development, adolescent behavior, diversity and cultural awareness, implicit bias, trauma-informed responses and preventing violence in school settings.

The memorandums also would require that records be kept on student referrals for prosecution, broken down by federally identified characteristics such as race, gender and disabilities, specify that noncriminal matters should be handled by school administrators, dictate when parents should be notified and at what point students should be advised of their constitutional rights.

It would also allow for a complaint process for parents if they have concerns about what happened with their students involving school resource officers.

Chambers introduced a bill (LB589) that would keep resource officers out of schools, and Pansing Brooks said she understands his view, but in reality, the school resource officer train has left the station.

And the state has to have laws that tell the schools they are in charge of disciplinary matters and law enforcement is in charge of legal matters, Pansing Brooks said.

"The schools can no longer give the disciplinary matters to the police and then put kids in the school-to-prison pipeline," Pansing Brooks said.

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Norris board hires new superintendent

The Norris School District announced this week it has hired a new superintendent for the next school year.

Current Papillion LaVista assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction Dr. John Schwartz has been tapped by the Norris Board to serve as the next Norris superintendent.

According to a press release, Schwartz is an educational leader who has served as a classroom teacher and building principal prior to his current leadership role at Papillion LaVista.

“We are very excited to welcome Dr. Schwartz as our next Norris Superintendent,” Norris School Board President Patty Bentzinger said in the press release. “He brings excellent experience as a former teacher and principal, and current assistant superintendent in Papillion LaVista. His character and commitment to serving Norris will help provide the vision for our future. We are thrilled to have John and his family join the Titans family.”

Schwartz will begin his new role in July 1. His hiring follows an announcement that current Norris Superintendent John Skretta is leaving to become the ESU6 Administrator following Dan Shoemake’s retirement at the end of June.

Schwartz has been in his current role at Papillion La Vista Community Schools since July 2015. Prior to that, he served as a high school principal, assistant principal, director of secondary education, and social studies teacher for the Papillion La Vista, Bellevue, and Seward school districts.

“I’m honored and humbled to have the opportunity to serve the Norris Public Schools,” Schwartz said. “I look forward to working alongside the board, staff, students, parents, and patrons to continue the tradition of excellence that has been established. Our family is excited to join the community.”

In addition to his work with public schools, Schwartz is an adjunct undergraduate and graduate professor for Doane University.

Schwartz was named the Nebraska School Counseling Association Administrator of the Year in 2014 and the Doane University Alumni Educator of the Year in 2015. He currently serves as the Metropolitan Omaha Educational Consortium Curriculum and Assessment Task Force chair, as well as the Nebraska Association for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Legislative Liaison.

He is involved in a wide array of committees, associations, and service organizations within the Omaha Metro area, the press release stated.

Schwartz holds a bachelors, two masters, education specialist, and a doctoral degrees from Doane University.

The Norris School Board interviewed four finalists on Friday before extending an offer to Schwartz.

The other finalists were Mike Hart of Norfolk, Brian Maschmann of Norris and Tiffanie Welte of Ralston. NASB Leadership Search Services facilitated the superintendent search process for the district.

Former guard accused of smuggling gets probation

TECUMSEH — A former guard accused of smuggling synthetic marijuana into a Nebraska prison has been sentenced to probation.

Johnson County District Court records say 54-year-old Richard Fries of Lincoln was given five years of probation at his sentencing Monday in Tecumseh. He'd pleaded guilty to attempted delivery of a controlled substance. Prosecutors lowered the charge and dropped a second charge in return.

Authorities say Fries and another guard, Ryan Tokar, were charged after Tokar took K2 into the Tecumseh prison in October last year but couldn't deliver it because he no longer had access to the inmate customer's housing unit. A court document says Fries and Tokar discussed the situation and later Fries, who had the necessary access, took the K2 and left it for the inmate in a trash can in the inmate's unit.

Tokar has pleaded not guilty to a conspiracy charge and is awaiting trial.