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Washtenaw United: Lincoln Consolidated Schools superintendent reflects on the district's achievements as it approaches its centennial

Lincoln Consolidated Schools superintendent Robert Jansen with his students.
Lincoln Consolidated Schools
Lincoln Consolidated Schools superintendent Robert Jansen with his students.
Lincoln Consolidated Schools Superintendent Robert Jansen
Lincoln Consolidated Schools
Lincoln Consolidated Schools Superintendent Robert Jansen


Robert Jansen is the superintendent of Lincoln Consolidated Schools.


Lincoln Consolidated Schools

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David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and I'm David Fair. And this is Washtenaw United. It is our weekly dive into issues of equity and opportunity in our community. Now, when major anniversaries roll around, it's a time we often take stock. We reflect on where we've been and where we are and then look ahead to where we're going. We saw that play out in 2023, when the City of Ypsilanti celebrated its 200th anniversary. Ann Arbor is doing that now as it marks its bicentennial this year. And when a new academic year begins in the fall, the Lincoln Consolidated Schools will launch a series of endeavors to mark its 100th anniversary. Here to reflect and look ahead with us today is Robert Jansen. He is superintendent of the Lincoln Consolidated Schools. Thank you so much for making time today.

Robert Jansen: Thank you, David. It's truly a privilege to be able to speak with you this morning.

David Fair: I wanted to spend a moment looking back with you. You first came to the district as a principal at Bishop Elementary School in 2016 before being hired as superintendent in 2023. Do you recall your early impressions of the Lincoln schools?

Robert Jansen: You know, Lincoln Consolidated Schools has a great reputation as a place that, throughout my career, I've just been able to do here about connect with and a place, obviously, that I aspire to work for and be part of.

David Fair: So, seven years in the district, I'm sure sometimes it feels like a very long time. But when put in perspective, a 100-year district history, it's almost brand new. As you prepare for a 100-year anniversary, have you had to do some kind of crash course studying into the district's history?

Robert Jansen: David, our district truly is remarkable, and it has a very robust history. And it has been something I've been fascinated with. And as I joined, it's been part of this community, just listening to the elders of the community, people that have been lifelong members of this community and just trying to learn and to respect and to honor those that have come before us. And we truly are excited. This year, on October 31st, we'll be celebrating 100 years as a district.

David Fair: The district gets its start with 13 one-room schools and an initial graduating class of exactly three back in 1925. Now, regardless of time or number of buildings, schools are meant to be a centerpiece of any community. How is that being fostered? And how has that been fostered over the last century?

Robert Jansen: Well, obviously, we look at schooling as a partnership. You know, obviously, our amazing staff that we have here, it's important for us to foster partnerships with the families that we look at as a true honor to be able to work alongside these families to help reach their full potential. You know, Lincoln is a unique district in that we see ourselves as kind of the center of the community. We don't have, necessarily, a distinct downtown. We see ourselves as a partner and really work alongside our parents. We, I believe, have the best kids anywhere in the world to help foster each and every one of them as individuals, so we can help them meet their full potential.

David Fair: Our Washtenaw United conversation with Lincoln Consolidated Schools Superintendent Robert Jansen continues on WEMU's Washtenaw United. Now, no district is without its challenges. Many of them systemic and many significant. What do you view as the biggest barriers today to further progress in the Lincoln Schools?

Robert Jansen: Well, great question, David. I think, like a lot of districts, funding being an aspect that we're constantly looking for creative ways to maximize opportunities for our kids and staff and really, making sure that we're fiscally responsible and making the most out of those opportunities. We are here for all kids. And I think within our society right now, there's a lot of division. And what we see ourselves is at that place where we need to come together as a community to do what's best for all of our children. And that is something I'm very proud of here in Lincoln is that when times are tough, this is a special place where people truly come together to support each other and to support the kids.

David Fair: There have been inequities in education, not only financial, but in other aspects of academic life. And that can have, certainly, adverse impacts on life outcomes. With the resources available, what measures are the Lincoln schools taking to not only increase education equity, but academic and life equality?

Robert Jansen: Well, again, that's a great question. Making sure that first we get a good pulse on understanding what the needs are: listening to families, to the community. You know, one of the things that we recently have done is we've created a new strategic plan. And part of that was doing some extensive data gathering where we reached out to the community to find out what priorities they have. This district is the community for us--to spend an extensive amount of time serving, spending time having numerous conversations and putting together a robust strategic plan that we envision helping us move forward as a district and, obviously, equity being kind of the umbrella of everything that we're about. And our hope and vision is to make sure that every child that comes to Lincoln Consolidated Schools feels a connection to somebody. Everybody needs to feel a sense of belonging, truly cared for and loved. And then, really breaking down our educational process, we can individualize and help every child see themselves not only in the classrooms, but also as individuals and find out what their skills and talents and interests are, so they're able to maximize their potential.

David Fair: So, as you implement and then integrate this more inclusive strategic plan, what are you going to use as benchmarks of success?

Robert Jansen: We felt it was important to look at where it is that we want to be: five, ten, 20, 25 years. And our community came together, and we created our "Portrait of the Graduate," where we established six competencies that we feel like if we all work collectively towards these competencies, our kids will be prepared to face the ever-changing world--high-paced, changing world--that's in front of them. So, I'm starting with our Portrait of The Graduate, kind of working backwards and making sure that through our strategic plan, which is a work in progress. When I talk about our Portrait of The Graduate--you know, the competencies, things like critical thinking, adaptability, communication, empathy, global citizenship, those types of skills to make sure that they progress in their life.

David Fair: This is Washtenaw United on 89 one WEMU. Again, we're talking with Lincoln Consolidated Schools Superintendent Robert Jansen in advance of the district's 100-year anniversary. Now, there are about 3500 students in the district. And the last figures I saw show a little over 50% are white, 27% Black or African-American, about 11% bi or multiracial and under 2% Asian or Asian Pacific. How are today's Lincoln students being taught about the matters of diversity, equity, inclusion in specific.

Robert Jansen: You know, relationships are the foundation and truly getting to know our kids. And that is something that we put a lot of emphasis on around relationships and getting to know the kids and families, understanding what their backgrounds and what their interests are. We feel it's important that can see themselves when they come to school. So, within our classrooms, we have diverse classroom libraries that when we look at the classrooms that kids see themselves. And then, when we look at curriculum, making sure that our curriculum connects to the world around us when I look at our Portrait of the Graduate, going back to our global citizenship. So, understanding that, our planet is very diverse. And the way the world is changing so quickly that it's important for all of our kids to really understand and to have a background of the different cultures that are out there. And so, we have a cultural understanding of one another, but also that through the relationships for all of our kids to be able to to see themselves and be able to be connected and create opportunities--cultural opportunities--for all of our kids to feel connected--again, going back to that sense of belonging and being connected to somebody and seeing themselves within our school community.

David Fair: The Centennial Committee, already hard at work, and there are big plans for the 100th anniversary that takes place next fall. What are some of the highlights that the Lincoln Schools community can expect?

Robert Jansen: We have a wonderful group of people that have been meeting that, obviously, are spending a lot of time looking back and highlighting some of the great traditions. We're going to have some events where we're going to be inviting alumni to come in, and we got some great alumnus. Alumni opportunities are going to be built in. We have a homecoming event that's going to be spectacular. There's going to be some opportunities to get involved--you know, some pre planning. We have various events that are being planned to kind of look back and to celebrate. We have some amazing artwork, especially in our Brick Elementary building. There's a beautiful art display that going up, that, oftentimes, a lot of the community don't get to see. We have a part of our community is doing some fundraising to be able to take that artwork and make sure it'sprominently displayed in our performing arts center, so other folks can enjoy a great history. But the committee is working hard, and we are, obviously, gathering feedback from a variety of stakeholders and putting together a very robust plan to celebrate the 100 years. And I share this with you, David. As we are so excited and proud for our past, we are also working hard to innovate and to plan for the next hundred years at the same time. So, there's a lot of excitement where you'll see a lot of us coming together as a community, but we're also very excited for the next hundred years as a district.

David Fair: I want to wish you happy planning, and we will all look forward to the 100-years celebration and all that it brings. Thank you so much.

Robert Jansen: David, I appreciate the time. And I want to extend an invitation to you to all of our events that are coming up. I'd love to have you down here at Lincoln Consolidated Schools. I'd love to have you come visit sometime, David. So, thanks for the opportunity to speak with you today.

David Fair: I will make it a point. And that is Lincoln Consolidated Schools Superintendent Robert Jansen. The 2024-2025 school year will mark the district's 100th anniversary. You can find out more by paying a visit to our website at wemu.org. We'll get you everywhere you need to go. Washtenaw United is produced in partnership with United Way for Southeastern Michigan. And you hear it every Monday. I'm David Fair, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM Ypsilanti.


During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Lincoln Consolidated School District was a recipient of United Way’s COVID-19 Community Recovery Fund— an operating support to local human service nonprofits and community groups who met the needs of communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This funding was also part of the State of Michigan’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Initiative through the Michigan Public Health Institute (MPHI).

With this $15,000 investment, LCS facilitated distanced learning for K-12 students by purchasing Chromebooks, headsets, and Wi-Fi hotspots.

WEMU has partnered with the United Way for Southeastern Michigan to explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area. And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services. It is a community voice. It is 'Washtenaw United.'

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Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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