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The Day After: What LPS Should Learn

May 12, 2011 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Yesterday morning the phone rang at 6:01a.m. That’s never good. I picked up to hear the voice of Huntington Elementary Principal Rick Devney. The message was:

“Good Morning Huntington Families and Staff,

“This is Mr. Devney calling to inform you that we have been advised by the Lincoln Police Department to close school today for all students and staff. The police are in the Huntington neighborhood dealing with an unsafe person at 46th and Knox street. This situation is currently unsafe for us to gather for school. Our before and after school CLC will be closed as well. We will plan to resume school tomorrow.

Thank you for your support.”

The news was certainly unexpected, but I quickly guessed it had something to do with shots fired near the Capitol the day before. It turns out I was wrong. In fact, there was an unrelated standoff at 48th and Knox. It must be that time of year.

Being interested in happenings around Lincoln, I quickly scrambled to find out more information. At that time of the morning only 10/11 and KLIN seemed interested in the story. Confusingly, both media outlets were reporting that contrary to the message conveyed to us by phone, the start of school was merely delayed. Odd. Perhaps they had made a mistake. I checked LPS’s website where I discovered that LPS, too, was talking about a delay rather than an all-out cancellation. In addition, they used the word “delayed” in a tweet at 6:17am. I asked LPS for a clarification at 6:29am. They replied at 7:30am confirming the “delay” rather than cancellation. Finally LPS made the cancellation official just before 10:00am.

Let’s start with what LPS did right. They sent out a communication to families and media early, and they made it available via as many sources at that sort of message can reasonably be expected to be distributed. That was good.

Unfortunately, they sent out two conflicting messages. That was bad. LPS’s emergency communications plan failed somewhere. The school and the district should not be giving out different information. The message should not be different depending on the media used to distribute it.

Furthermore, LPS failed to take responsibility for the confusion. The district eventually declared the “delay” message to be correct, but they didn’t take the additional step of formally voiding the “cancelled” message. They allowed the two messages to coexist. In this case no harm was done, but it’s not difficult to imagine circumstances in which contrasting messages could be harmful or even dangerous.

In response, first LPS needs to figure out why an incorrect message was delivered by telephone. Why was Mr. Devney’s script wrong? The cause might be something as simple as the fog of sleep clouding the responsible parties’ judgement. In any case, safeguards should be put in place. Second, LPS should review how it deals with this sort of hiccup when it does happen. They should not permit two different messages to coexist. Firmly assert “THIS is the official message; any earlier contradicting message is wrong”. Perhaps even put a timestamp on the message (“As of 7:33am…”). I’m torn on whether LPS should have sent out a follow-up phone message to families to say “Hey, we goofed. School is just delayed, not cancelled.” On the one hand that would have made the messages consistent. On the other hand, if the follow-up call didn’t go out very soon after the first it may have been even more confusing. I know I would have appreciated the follow-up, but I’m not sure that’s true for everyone.

I didn’t write all this to pile on LPS. I’m not angry with them, although I was pretty annoyed at the confusion yesterday morning. The fact is, this situation wasn’t a very big deal. Sure it meant families had to figure out what to do with their kids for the day, but in the big scheme of things that’s not so bad. But imagine more complex or more dangerous scenarios. If LPS isn’t getting their emergency communication plans correct in a simple situation like this, how can we have confidence they’ll do things correctly when all hell breaks loose?

LPS slipped up. No big deal ... as long as they learn from it.

North 48th Closed; Huntington Elementary Closed

May 11, 2011 at 11:17am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Huntington Elementary is closed today, thanks to LPD activity in the neighborhood. This I know thanks to a 6:00am phone call from Rick Devney, the school’s principal. Apparently LPD is dealing with “a bad dude”—those might not have been Dr. Devney’s exact words—and shots have been fired. Portions of North 48th Street are closed off, so be sure to check for the latest updates before you head off to work. 10/11 is following the action; no updates yet from Channel 8 or the Journal Star.

So ... I guess I need to go figure out what to do with an 8 year-old today. Suggestions?

UPDATE: LPS now says school is “delayed” until further notice. I could’ve sworn the message said no school. I must have still been asleep. Goodrich@Dawes is also out for now. Stay tuned.

UPDATE 2: Here’s a transcript of the phone call we received:

This is Mr. Devney calling to inform you that we have been advised by the Lincoln Police Department to close school today for all students and staff. The police are in the Huntington neighborhood dealing with an unsafe person at 46th and Knox street. This situation is currently unsafe for us to gather for school. Our before and after school CLC will be closed as well. We will plan to resume school tomorrow.

LPS’s website isn’t in agreement with the message going out by phone.

UPDATE 3: LPS has confirmed that this is a delay, not a closure. For now.

When is a Creek a Slough?

May 10, 2011 at 12:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’ve long wondered how Beal Slough got its name. Both parts of the name are a mystery to me. Who (or what) was Beal? And why “slough”, as opposed to creek or stream?

I still haven’t figured out the Beal part. There are a couple Beals out there in Lancaster County’s history but it’s not clear if any of them lent their name to the Slough. I’m sure the answer is out there but I have yet to stumble across it. Perhaps one of my research-oriented readers can take on the task.

As for its designation as a slough, that seems to be an oddity. The word slough can refer to a small creek, but it doesn’t seem to be very common. Actually, “slough” is used for different types of water features in different parts of the country. The word can refer to a marsh, a swamp, a portion of a river delta, an alkaline pond, or just a regular ol’ stream.

So that wasn’t too exciting. What about Dead Man’s Run? Surely there’s a great story there. Unfortunately my google-fu turns up nothing. I figure Jim McKee has answered the question somewhere, but I came up with nothing. If he hasn’t already covered the topic, perhaps one of his upcoming columns can discuss the history of Lincoln’s waterways.

Anyway, do any of you have any idea who Beal is or who died at Dead Man’s Run?

Where in Lincoln is this?

May 9, 2011 at 12:17pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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EDIT: Solved!

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Going to State

May 6, 2011 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Several Lincoln soccer teams are headed to the State Tournament next week. The brackets aren’t available yet, but they should show up later today. Assuming I’m determining wildcard slots correctly, Lincoln’s teams in the tournament should include:

  • Lincoln East boys
  • Lincoln Southeast girls
  • Lincoln Southwest boys
  • Lincoln Southwest girls (wildcard)
  • Lincoln Lutheran boys
  • Pius X boys (wildcard)
  • Pius X girls

Overall the State Tournament field appears extremely balanced this year. And I really mean that. Nearly all the match-ups fall squarely into the “it could go either way” category.

I will be officiating at the State Tournament but I won’t announce my game assignments here. I will be at several of the matches (even if I’m not reffing), so if you’re at Morrison Stadium let me know and I’ll try to find you to say hi. I may even have a free pass or two to hand out.

You’re Going to Need a Bigger Trunk

May 5, 2011 at 12:50pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

It’s kind of news that Sam’s Club plans to build a second store near Walmart at 87th and Highway 2. We’ve actually seen hints of that for a while, but we can consider it official now.

In addition to that, it seems we can consider it official that Costco is coming to Lincoln. The Developer of Appian Way confirmed that both Sam’s and Costco were vying to be Walmart’s neighbor. That jives with what the rumor mill has been saying for some time. That begs the question, where will Costco build? I have to think that either South 27th or North 84th (in Colleen Seng’s favorite shopping center) are the most likely candidates. There’s also that big patch near 52nd and O that needs some lovin’. Does that area match Costco’s target market, though?

Holler if you’ve heard more recent scuttlebutt. I’m always up for a good rumor.

Meet the New Mayor, Same As the Old Mayor

May 4, 2011 at 12:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Mayor Chris Beutler is back for four more years after yesterday’s election victory. He pulled in just under 65% of the vote, while Republican Tammy Buffington managed 35%.

When you look at Buffington’s campaign, 35% is a huge and depressing figure. Poor Ms. Buffington was out-funded, out-prepared, and out-classed at every step of the way. Her campaign was, to put it bluntly, embarrassing. That over one-third of voting Lincolnites think she should lead this city is horrifying. That she was the best candidate local Republicans could come up with is unfortunate. To be clear, I don’t intend to pick on Tammy Buffington as a person. She could be delightful and brilliant for all I know. But she sure didn’t show any of that during her campaign.

Congratulations to Mr. Beutler. Lincolnites have a generally positive attitude these days in part to his leadership on a variety of exciting projects and activities around town. But be aware: there are some rocky times ahead. Beutler faces some nasty budget problems and it’s all but certain that we will have to deal with a tax increase, a drastic cut in services, or both. We’ll hear more about that reality soon. Prepare for it.

Vote Today

May 3, 2011 at 12:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I typically don’t give endorsements to political candidates and today is no different. But I do strongly encourage everybody to get out and vote. Today is election day, so go do your thing. Pretty please?

Where in Lincoln is this?

May 2, 2011 at 1:27pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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EDIT: Solved!

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A Perfect Day for a Run (or Walk)

May 2, 2011 at 1:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Yesterday was darn near perfect for the Lincoln Marathon and Half-Marathon. It has been said many times but I’ll say it again anyway: there were ten thousand participants. Ten thousand! That’s crazy, and by crazy I mean really awesome.

My mother and sister walked the half-marathon. But to be honest I have a hard time calling their 13:01 pace “walking”. I dread the next time I go hiking with those two. They finished in 2:50.

Our very own Fletch clocked in at just under 1:52. Good work, Fletch! What do you say about doubling that distance next year?

As for me, I was but a mere spectator. I grabbed my donut at Lamar’s and watched most of the field go by. Then I hopped on my bike and rode Downtown to see my mom and sister finish. On the way I ran across a bit of a motorist revolt at 10th and K. A woman got out of her car and yelled about her frustrations. A nearby police officer then ... well, “put her in her place” is probably the polite way to describe what happened next. It was a beautiful moment. I tried to snap the woman’s photo so that I could shame her here, but she dove back into her car. Most drivers seemed to take the delay in stride. I’m not sure why folks try to drive through the marathon route. It just plain can’t be done for much of the morning. And given the amount of press coverage and the electronic warning signs around town nobody can plead ignorance. A friend of mine had the right idea: he went to work two hours early so he would avoid the traffic. That means he was at work at 6am on a Sunday, but you do what you’ve gotta do.

Now then, many folks have been asking me if I’ll ever participate in the marathon or half-marathon. I’m about 90% certain I will run the half next year. I would love to run the full but ... well, without going into the oddities of my body I’ll just say that I don’t think I would live through the experience. The half, though, is doable. I’m normally more of a half-mile kind of guy than a half-marathon so the challenge will be fun. I look forward to training for it. I’ll probably run on behalf of a cause so look for me to come begging about eleven months from now.

But back to yesterday. Good work to all the participants, and a huge thank you to the event organizers. The Lincoln Marathon is an event we can all be proud of.

Hot Wok, a Quickie Overview

May 2, 2011 at 12:40pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

On Friday I ate lunch with my father at Hot Wok, a new restaurant at Clocktower Shopping Center at 70th and A. Going off of nothing more than the sign out front—despite repeated queries across several media, I couldn’t find anybody who knew anything about the place—we were eager to see what was in store. Was this a unique or unusual concept? Or is Hot Wok just another Chinese restaurant?

Hot Wok

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