The Unique Good Life

Matthew L. Blomstedt, PH.D.
Nebraska Commissioner of Education

I want to welcome you to one of the many efforts underway at the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) to better connect and communicate happenings across the Department through this new NDE Leadership Blog.  I’ve asked the NDE Communications and Outreach team to identify potential ways to improve our flow of information and I am very pleased to launch this first blog effort.  I look forward to NDE Leadership team members posts and to see how they creatively share stories, news, and team and program information.

Let’s Be Different

The Nebraska Department of Education is a unique mix of programs and services as well as a diverse blend of structures and governance.  The Lincoln children’s musical group, The String Beans, have a song about Nebraska that says, “as Governments go, we’re a freak of nature because we have the country’s only one-house legislature.”

[Hear the whole song here]

Well, NDE has some of those “freak of nature” characteristics that are relatively unique to Nebraska.  We have an elected State Board of Education and only five other states have that structure.  We have the unique honor to have Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and the Disability Determinations Section (DDS) in addition to the more traditional education side of the equation.  We have taken a great deal of responsibility for early childhood providers that might be left to other agencies in other places. We have adult education, veterans education, private post-secondary education, and several areas of responsibility that make us a “freak of nature.”

What I love about the Nebraska song, and The String Beans, is the pride they take in quirkiness, childhood, and Nebraska.  Sure it’s goofy for adults (like myself) to get into the fun but like a lot of kids and families NDE is unique and has it’s own set of unique responsibilities and quirks.  This is great because we might just have to be different to make a difference!


The NDE mission is different.  OK, you got me!  It is actually the same as it has been for a long time (20 years or so) but the State Board took time to build a new strategic plan in 2016 and they realized that the agency mission and the State Board mission should be the same.  We did consider changing it.  But I’m really glad we embraced it because, “to lead and support the preparation of ALL Nebraskans for learning, earning, and living” is a great mission for everyone.  “All” means something to me. Not one person is excluded from our mission.  When you think of each of our roles it seems like our “freak of nature” status is our natural strength.  We have a chance to work with Nebraskans of all ages and across the whole state.  We have so many opportunities to leverage our time and talents and so many ways we can accomplish our goals.

Our Roles

During the strategic planning process, our consultants spoke with many internal and external stakeholders about the agency.  Among the greatest contributions to the effort was to define who we think we are and what we think our roles are.   The following five roles seem to capture important themes of not only what we are, but also what we think we want to be for our students, teachers, administrators, clients, and stakeholders.

  1. Champion
  2. Regulator
  3. Capacity Builder
  4. Connector
  5. Change Agent

You can see these described in more detail at Here you will also find the full copy of the State Board’s Strategic Vision and Direction.

As we prepare to launch the “new school year” at Administrators’ Days – NDE Day in Kearney on July 26, we have embraced these roles in our theme Bridging Connections: Taking Charge of Our Roles and Responsibilities.   I will be presenting at the opening general session about how we can move the state system of education by really working on these five roles together.

So, let’s embrace our “freak of nature” status and be a little different.  Let’s take a few risks and take charge of our roles and responsibilities.  Let’s make a difference for ALL Nebraskans in their learning, earning, and living.

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