The Learning Community is the law, so it's important to have members on its governing council who will look to operate it prudently and efficiently.
This fall there is one contested race for the Learning Community, in Achievement Subcouncil District 6. The boot-shaped district — by the far the largest geographically of the six Learning Community districts — stretches from the Douglas County West and Elkhorn districts down to the Gretna schools, then over to Springfield-Platteview and up to Papillion-La Vista.
Two seats are up for District 6, and three candidates are competing. We found Mike Avery (an incumbent) and Blaine McCulloh to offer the most to voters.
Avery is a general contractor who previously has served on the Gretna school board, the Gretna City Council, in the Nebraska Legislature and as Gretna's mayor. He was first elected to the Learning Community in 2009. He has shown the ability to work effectively on boards.
Members of the Learning Community council, Avery says, need to oversee the budget and programs in a practical, reasonable way. The Learning Community, he says, needs to pursue two important aims: working collaboratively to help the area's disadvantaged young people become better prepared for academic success, and making sure that the needs of the rest of the region's students also are met.
The Learning Community, Avery notes, received great public input in developing its learning center in South Omaha to help families. The process is similar for a planned learning center in north Omaha. Good opportunities to help low-income children through early childhood programs are being explored with local nonprofits, he says.
The Learning Community should not dictate to school districts, Avery says, but instead should serve as a vehicle that promotes the sharing of ideas among school districts.
McCulloh is a retired electrical lighting designer. He demonstrates an impressive and wide-ranging knowledge of local school issues, school districts and Learning Community specifics. He attended many of the Learning Community council meetings to become better informed.
We do not agree with McCulloh that charter schools are something the Learning Community should consider for this area. That debate properly lies with the State Legislature. But we find him a capable and thoughtful candidate.
In this fall's Learning Community election, voters in District 6 would be well served by electing Mike Avery and Blaine McCulloh.