June 2022
A portrait of Omaha Public Schools superintendent Dr. Cheryl Logan
Dear Omaha Public Schools Community,

We are thrilled to be serving more than 13,500 young people in Next Level Learning, our district’s summer school program. Eligible students and families could choose between sessions in June, July or both.

It stands out to me that in Nebraska, 13,500 students would make for a large school district on a regular school day. Omaha Public Schools is serving 13,500 students in the summer. It is just one of the many great things about being Nebraska’s largest school district: the opportunities for students are unparalleled. We feature a look inside Next Level Learning classrooms in this edition of Inside OPS.

Recently, we communicated with all staff and families about our plans for the 2022-23 school year. As we lead the nation in recruitment and staffing pipelines, we know our current staff have to lift more. That is why our district is investing in one-time staff stipends for both the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years. It takes every person to make our system go. Earlier this month, we also announced that some certificated positions will remain unfilled as we build schedules for next year. Our Human Resources team is working collaboratively with school leadership to make sure students and staff have the support they need. We are committed to high-quality in-person learning for young people. If you would like to be part of our staff community, accomplishing essential and life-changing work for children, visit our website to learn more and apply.

During the summer recess, I love to see photos of our students reading. This year, each elementary student received 10 new books to take home for the summer. We enjoyed a fantastic afternoon launching our Summer Reading Challenge in May. Families, make sure you log those reading minutes on our website! The winning school enjoys a special celebration this fall.

We are tackling many important priorities for August and beyond. There is no doubt the year ahead will present new challenges. Our staff, families and community are key to our success and we will move forward together.

Cordially yours,

Cheryl Logan, Ed.D.

Next Level Learning Summer Program
Offers Enrichment and Joy
Summertime at the Omaha Public Schools provides a valuable opportunity for students to continue learning. Aside from core subjects, students participating in Next Level Learning are doing everything from flying drones to performing in musicals.

“Reading and math – we are definitely going to focus on that,” said Elijah Simmons, Fontenelle Elementary’s Next Level Learning principal. “But our project-based learning, our enrichment in the afternoon, our student experiences are some things that will make Next Level Learning amazing.”

This year, more than 13,500 students will benefit from Next Level Learning. Our summer programming takes place in June and July at 34 sites districtwide.

“It’s like running a small school district for two or three months of the year,” said Susanne Cramer, Omaha Public Schools executive director of academic recovery.

Cramer played a significant role in organizing this year’s Next Level Learning. Our district took steps early to allocate Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding for enhancements to the programming aligned with differentiated student needs and a high-quality curriculum.

“We are thinking about ways to have these [educational] experiences be hyper-engaging and immersive for students,” said Cramer.
Next Level Learning sessions offer a camp-like experience with themes of science, nature, sports and art. The summer programming is designed to address academic recovery and improve student outcomes. It’s also about enrichment and joy for students.

“[Students] are so inquisitive. They’re so curious. They just have bright eyes, and they want to know everything,” said Lillian Nero, a Next Level Learning student intern who recently graduated from North High.

Nero is part of the Omaha Public Schools paid student internship program, one of several opportunities developed in recent years to help build a pipeline of future educators.

“I’ve had so many teachers that have impacted my life in ways that I really can’t explain,” Nero shared, saying she enjoys the chance to work with students one-on-one and see how education affects each differently.
“They need more teachers and more people who are willing to help, and I’m down to help,” she said.

Student interns, like Nero, assist with literacy. They received training in specific reading interventions and will also tutor elementary school students.

“We recommend that all children are engaged all summer in something,” said Omaha Public Schools Superintendent Cheryl Logan, Ed.D. “Learning loss in the summer is significant. It is more significant for students who struggled during the academic year.”

Those leading the work to provide this opportunity for students are encouraged by the level of interest from families and our district looks forward to enhancing programming further in the future.
Opening Celebrations Bring Excitement
Buena Vista High and Westview High welcomed hundreds for ceremonies and tours
No matter which direction you looked, there was something new to see. Vibrant paint colors, shiny floors, modern furniture and fixtures – everything you would expect when touring a new school for the first time.

“I’m so happy I’m here,” said Brooklyn Freeman, who will be one of the first to attend Westview High this August. “I’m grateful. I love it.”

Freeman and another future Westview Wolverine, Stella Williams, received a ceremonial key to the school during the celebration, where they also unveiled the dedication plaque.

“It’s a really nice building, and I’m excited to come here,” said Williams, an incoming freshman at Westview.

The energy Freeman felt earlier this month was multiplied as she joined hundreds for an opening celebration at Westview High, one of the Omaha Public Schools two new high schools.

“It feels amazing,” Freeman exclaimed. “I’m so blessed. I can’t say this enough. I’m so blessed.”

Just days before, Buena Vista High opened its doors to a crowd of guests excited to be part of history.

“We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” said Carrie Carr, Ed.D., Buena Vista’s first principal. “Our community is very excited [about] this, and they’re very proud of it.”
This August, Buena Vista and Westview open alongside Forest Station Elementary and Pine Elementary. A new middle school, Bluestem, opens in August 2023. Each school is an investment from the Omaha Public Schools bond program. The $409.9 million bond, approved by voters in 2018, allowed our district to build new schools and improve many others.

“We are grateful for your trust in our board and our district leadership to provide this important investment for the students that we serve,” Board of Education President Shavonna Holman, Ed.D., told the crowd at Westview. “Thank you to our community for making all of this possible.”

The bond projects include many new and improved spaces that directly benefit the families of Omaha Public Schools and our community.

“Building schools is not what today is about; rather, it is a legacy for those not yet known to us,” Omaha Public Schools Superintendent Cheryl Logan, Ed.D., shared during her remarks at Buena Vista’s opening celebration. “All of the work here – from welding to electrical – has been done for our young people. It has always been about them. So, while we may enjoy the bricks and mortar, it is just that until the kids get here.”

Though work remains to prepare each new school for the year ahead, the opening celebrations marked an important milestone in the bond program.

“We want to show everyone in the community that the Omaha Public Schools is strong, well, and alive and doing good things,” said Westview Principal Thomas Lee.

Lee is excited about the opportunities available for students throughout our district and the resources offered by community partners, like the YMCA of Greater Omaha and OneWorld Community Health Centers.

“We’re going to carry each other, we’re going to help each other, we’re going to support each other,” said Lee. “It is going to be about ‘how can we work together for our community to get ample opportunities for our kids to get involved and to learn?’”

Opening celebrations for the Omaha Public Schools new elementary schools will take place later this summer. A comprehensive list of other bond program projects is updated regularly on our website.
First-Year High School Students Find Balance through Freshman Academy
Omaha Public Schools first-year students have new tools to tackle the first day – and first year of high school – jitters. Our district debuted Freshman Academy for all incoming ninth graders in the fall of 2021, and students and staff say it’s made a big difference in what can often be a difficult transition.

“The transition from eighth grade to ninth grade is a tough one,” said Stacia Weaver, Northwest High’s Freshman Academy director. She says it has been especially hard for the class of 2025 because three school years were disrupted by the pandemic.

Northwest High freshman Syriana Antonetty experienced the new program first-hand after two years of disrupted learning.

“I haven’t been in school and changing classes until this year. I wasn’t ready for the chaos, all the work, how much it would be and how hard it would be,” Antonetty said. “It’s not that difficult but balancing it all is.”

Antonetty and her peers could ease into their new high school experience while gaining skills and knowledge to explore various careers and fields of study before they pick an academy and pathway to follow.

“So often, school can happen to someone. We want our students to be participants and advocates for themselves,” said Susan Christopherson, chief academic officer for Omaha Public Schools. “The Freshman Academy provides services and support for every student to adapt to high school - to ensure they are supported and prepared academically and socially.”

Freshman Academy places students in groups that take classes together with a shared team of teachers, allowing more opportunities to bond with each other. Working with the smaller cohort groups also helped teachers support their students socially, emotionally and academically while building a stronger school community.

“That’s one thing I’ve really enjoyed about Freshman Academy,” Weaver said. “The students are starting to come to me with some of their issues that get to other problems like attendance. So, we take the time to ask how they’re feeling in the hallway, how they feel in class.”

The extra care and attention provided through the Freshman Academy helped build Antonetty’s confidence to try new things and explore possibilities she had never thought of before. Now she is learning Chinese and participating in JROTC, which has helped guide her plans.

Now, she hopes to attend Colorado State University to study public health and join the University’s ROTC program. Northwest’s public health pathway will better prepare her for her studies in college.
Bryan High has also seen a significant impact on its students in the Freshman Academy. Building close relationships with friends and staff at school helped students improve attendance, which is a key indicator of whether a student will graduate on time. Addressing more minor issues first, like attendance, helps staff focus on other opportunities to support students.

“We have time to look at grades, progress and any changes happening inside or outside the classroom. It’s real-time intervention,” Emily Murphy, Bryan High’s instructional facilitator, said.

Many of Murphy’s first-year students improved their reading skills during their freshman year of high school. Some even tested out of their sophomore-level literacy classes, and nearly 90 percent of Bryan High’s freshman class is on track to graduate on time.

Edgar Estrada Hernandez thought Freshman Academy would be all assignments and reading but was surprised to find something of interest in all his seminar lectures. Hernandez said he learned what to expect for the rest of high school and was given tools to prepare for life after school.

“It’s not an easy world. Of course, there’s going to be lots of bumps and challenges in the way,” Hernandez said. “But, if you’re strong enough and can get past it, nothing can stand in your way.”

“Freshman academies are set up to help create and grow a stronger Omaha community based on the youth of the Omaha Public Schools – to be ready for a high skill, high wage, in-demand career,” Christopherson said. “I think that’s the beauty of it, giving that opportunity to give back to the community and then be ready for what they want to pursue.”
Omaha Public Schools Proposes Update to ESSER Plan

The Omaha Public Schools Board of Education approved a proposed amendment to our district's Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) plan on June 6.

The amendment allocates a shift of $82.6 million. The new spending initiatives are:
  • Retention stipend - $72.2 million
  • Teacher home visits - $5.2 Million
  • Hybrid class instruction - $0.2 million
  • Loss of plan time - $5 million

Changes were made to the following categories to allow for the shifts in spending:
  • Internet Connectivity (Pillar I) – reduce by $9 million
  • Lower cost contract starting in 2022-23; no reduction in service or coverage
  • Technology Refresh (Pillar I) – reduce by $10 million
  • Change the anticipated iPad replacement cycle from 3 years to 4 years
  • Tutoring (Pillar I) – reduce by $3.2 million
  • Excess money in the current budget is not needed to deliver the solution
  • Curriculum Adoptions (Pillar I) – reduce by $3 million
  • Small reduction to the $24m original budget for adoptions over 2 years
  • Employee Wellness (Pillar II) – reduce by $3 million
  • Reduce coverage for initiatives in Pillar II
  • Infrastructure Projects (Pillar III) – reduce by $54.4 million
  • Reduce coverage for projects in Pillar III

The proposal will now go to our labor partners, who need to accept the stipends for their members. The Nebraska Department of Education would also need to endorse the ESSER amendment before final approval by federal education authorities.
Schools, Offices will Close in Observance of Juneteenth

In June 2021, Juneteenth (June 19) became recognized as a federal holiday. In observance of the holiday, Omaha Public Schools will be closed on Monday, June 20. This is a district-wide holiday observance, so no schools or offices will be open. Students enrolled in June Next Level Learning will not have class. There will be no summer meal service on June 20. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause your family.

The scheduled Board of Education meeting will move to Thursday, June 23.

Schools and district offices will also be closed on July 4 in observance of Independence Day. There will be no additional impacts on the Next Level Learning schedule.
Summer Food Service Program Available to Families

Children need good food all year long, even when they're not in school. Omaha Public Schools proudly sponsors the Summer Food Service Program, providing over 300,000 healthy meals to children 1-18 years old only, free of charge each summer.

Thanks to the federally funded program (SFSP), children get the nutrition they need to learn, play and grow during vacation when they do not eat at school. Summer meals act as an extra magnet to draw children to activities, and activities draw children to nutritional meals.

Summer meal locations are listed on our website with dates and times. Families may also text FOOD or COMIDA to 304-304, call 2-1-1 or use an interactive map at www.nokidhungry.org.

June STEM Learning

Julie Sigmon, Omaha STEM Ecosystem Director
Summer break is here! Do not miss out on any STEM programs this summer. Search our comprehensive catalog for current and upcoming offerings for students, educators and professionals. Here are some of our top picks for June:

  • AIM Summer Code Camp: Join AIM institute this summer as they introduce sophomores, juniors and seniors in Omaha to practical web development techniques. This summer-long camp is offered free by the AIM Institute.
  • Education Events at the Wildlife Safari Park: This summer, enjoy the great outdoors at the Wildlife Safari Park. All education events are held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., open to all ages and included with admission or Wildlife Safari Park membership.

To register for these opportunities or to find more STEM programs, visit the STEM Community Platform Portal.
… to Anne Rogers of North High for achieving a top score of 36 on the ACT college entrance exam.

… to the Bryan High boys’ soccer team for reaching the semifinals at the state soccer championship.

… to the Omaha Public Schools NSAA State Track & Field champions.
  • Jaylen Lloyd of Central High in the 100m dash, long jump and triple jump.
  • Andrew Brown of Central High in the 300m hurdle.

… to the Central High boys’ track and field team for finishing 2nd place at the state track and field championship.

… to the Burke High girls’ track and field team for finishing 8th at the state track and field championship.

… to all the Omaha Public Schools medalists at the NSAA State Track & Field Championships.
  • Burke High
  • Zakeirah Johnson: 2nd in 100m dash, 3rd in 200m dash
  • Makayla Thompson: 2nd in 300m hurdles
  • Alyssa Peoples: 3rd in high jump
  • Reed Emsick: 7th in 800m run
  • Aaliya Franklin, Zakeirah Johnson, Makayla Thompson and Alexis Carbonell-Smith: 5th in 4x100m relay
  • Central High
  • Bianca Martinez: 2nd in high jump
  • Malcolm Tonje: 2nd in high jump
  • Jaylen Lloyd: 4th in 200m dash
  • Ian Young: 4th in 300m hurdles
  • Andrew Brown, Ian Young, Quinell Smith and Ahmed Muse: 4th in 4x400m relay
  • Alahna Davis: 6th in 100m dash
  • Cory Vaughan: 6th in triple jump
  • Ahmed Muse: 8th in 800m dash
  • North High
  • Zyon Knox: 3rd in 200m dash, 3rd in 400m dash
  • Jessica Wynne, Teriana Taylor, Ny’Asia Thomas and Kashae’ Harbour

… to Burke High’s theater program for earning the Outstanding Musical Theater Production award from the Nebraska High School Theater Academy for their production of Disney’s Freaky Friday.

… to Briana Nash of Burke High for earning the Outstanding Performance in a Lead Role Award from the Nebraska High School Theater Academy.

… to Toby Rischling of Central High for earning the Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role from the Nebraska High School Theater Academy.
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Omaha Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy), marital status, sexual orientation, disability, age, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression, citizenship status, veteran status, political affiliation or economic status in its programs, activities and employment and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. The following individual has been designated to accept allegations regarding non-discrimination policies: Superintendent of Schools, 3215 Cuming Street, Omaha, NE 68131 (531) 299-9822. The following persons have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Director for the Office of Equity and Diversity, 3215 Cuming St, Omaha, NE 68131 (531) 299-0307.