March 2023
A portrait of Omaha Public Schools superintendent Dr. Cheryl Logan
Dear Omaha Public Schools Community,

Schools depend upon the support of their community to succeed. Strong partnerships are essential. Families working with teachers to continue learning at home. Health professionals supporting the well-being of young people. Athletic and activities associations, faith and community groups building on each student’s interests and passion outside of the classroom.

As the Omaha Public Schools, we are incredibly lucky to have exceptional partners in the Omaha community.

For every one of our 52,000 students and nearly 9,000 staff, safety is paramount. Strong law enforcement partnerships are foundational. Together, we study best practices across the country, practice our standardized response and implement those protocols when called upon.

On Thursday, March 2, our South High community proved it was ready. More than 70 schools across the country faced fake reports of school violence to 911. As frustrating as it is that anyone would use school safety for a hoax, we’re thankful everyone is safe and deeply grateful for law enforcement support.

When dispatchers relayed the 911 call, South High’s Omaha Police Department School Resource Officer acted immediately to protect students and staff. Within minutes, dozens of officers, deputies and troopers were on-site to search the school. The response was swift and decisive, and additional crews stayed throughout the day. I appreciate Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer’s ongoing communication and coordination, demonstrating his care for the community we serve together.

The morning after such an emotional event, our staff were outside classrooms greeting students. Young people showed up ready to learn. South High’s OPD Resource Officer stood ready at his post. We’re here to do school – to teach and learn. Our partners are key to delivering that work.

With gratitude,

Cheryl Logan, Ed.D.
Omaha Public Schools
Learning From Our Students: An Interactive Family Experience
The Omaha Public Schools Welcome Center recently transformed into an interactive family learning experience. Posters with facts about the United States covered the walls as families entered the room. Inside, high school students offered a comprehensive lesson.

“I’m from Afghanistan, and I’m new to the United States,” said Wafa Mohsen, Benson High sophomore. “I want to learn the history of the United States because it’s important.”

Omaha Public Schools partnered with the University of Nebraska Omaha for this service-learning project. It’s called Citizenship: Learning from our Children. UNO students worked with Benson High students to research a U.S. president, write an essay and create a presentation to share with families in our English Learner (EL) parent program.
“We want our EL learners to not only be in the classroom but engage in activities outside the classroom,” said Benson High English as a Second Language teacher Rita Santiago-Garcia.
The event helps adult EL students with their citizenship journey. Attendees learn about U.S. history, observe models of civic citizenship questions and practice conversation.
“I find this to be very helpful for me, my children and my friends, and it’s important because we learned about the history of the United States, my new country,” said Sweety Naing, a parent who attended. “I can use this knowledge for my citizenship test.”
Santiago-Garcia says this program provides a jump start on studying for the citizenship test.
“One hundred questions sound really overwhelming, but if we can start with the first five questions, that will help them build the confidence to keep going,” said Santiago-Garcia.

Hassan Abdallah, a Benson High junior, moved to Omaha six months ago from Somalia. He presented, in English, facts about George Washington. He says he spent time researching in the library.

“It’s important to help me learn,” said Hassan. “To have freedom is beautiful, and in America, you’re free.”
Equity is a shared value in our Strategic Plan of Action, and Omaha Public Schools offers various services for families who speak a language other than English at home. The student-led presentation in February was the first time our EL Program hosted an event like this.

“It's a fantastic opportunity for our students to have a really authentic audience to practice producing academic language,” said Jaimie Cogua, coordinator of English Learner, Dual Language, Refugee and Migrant Education. “It’s this beautiful picture of bringing together our students with their families, learning from each other and highlighting the diversity within our district.”
Board Approves Interim Superintendent Contract
Omaha Public Schools Board of Education approved an agreement with Deputy Superintendent Mr. Matthew Ray to serve as interim superintendent of Omaha Public Schools. Mr. Ray will begin in the new role on July 1.
“I can't say how humbled I am about this,” said Ray. “I also want to thank Dr. Logan for her ongoing support as we work towards a successful transition. We know the work, and we are ready for the work.”
A career-long Omaha Public Schools staff member, Mr. Ray began teaching at Ashland Park-Robbins Elementary. From there, he served in Student Community Services and oversaw the districtwide implementation of a new student information system. Currently, Mr. Ray leads Omaha Public Schools as deputy superintendent and the Board of Education secretary. Mr. Ray recently served as the interim chief officer for the district’s Curriculum and School Improvement divisions. Mr. Ray’s three children all graduated from Omaha Public Schools.
At the next Board of Education meeting on March 20, our board plans to select a firm to facilitate the comprehensive superintendent search.

We are committed to keeping our community informed of the work to come. As staff from the selected search firm and our Board move forward, look for regular updates and opportunities to engage. The latest news and information will always be posted to
Celebrating the Arts at Omaha Public Schools
No matter where you go in Omaha Public Schools, you will see and hear how our students benefit from the arts in education. Whether developing fine motor skills while working with clay or improving social skills during a music concert, examples are everywhere.
During March, our district is incredibly proud to showcase our talented artists and musicians as we celebrate Youth Art Month and Music in Our Schools Month. Omaha Public Schools offers many opportunities for students at all levels. We are excited to highlight how this programming supports students in achieving the skills outlined in our Portrait of a Graduate.
South High Show Choir Leads with Bilingual Performance
South High’s Ambassadors Show Choir has filled the stage with high-energy singing and dancing for more than 60 years. 
Not only do they wow crowds with their choreographed performances, but they also do something no other high school show choir in Omaha does. They perform in English and Spanish.
“We wanted to be true to who we are by incorporating bilingual music in our performances,” said Tyler Gruttemeyer, South High’s vocal music teacher. 
From costume design to writing lyrics, students are invested in each performance. This year’s show centered around the World Cup soccer competition.
“The community of South Omaha is a beautiful mosaic of cultures. It’s one of the many things I love about this community,” said Gruttemeyer. “We come from all different kinds of backgrounds, but we come together for a shared love for musical theater.”
King Science & Technology Middle Roars to Life in Spring Musical
For the first time in school history, King Science & Technology Middle will perform a musical this year – The Lion King. A partnership with the Omaha Performing Arts Disney in Schools Grant made it possible.
Collin Jarden, King Science & Technology Middle sixth-grader, says he’s excited about the musical and his character.
“I’m one of the hyenas,” said Jarden. “I had to study what hyenas do or how they move and talk.”
The grant paid for the rights to the production, scripts for the cast and two teaching artists that visit weekly to help with the musical. The grant allowed the school to work with fifth and sixth graders this year, but the hope is to have an entire middle school production next year.
The growth students have through a musical process is amazing,” said Sheri Vollmer, BSP teacher and musical director. “I love watching students go from unsure and nervous to confident and ready to try anything.”
The students performed one of their songs in early March at the Holland Performing Arts Center.
Billboards Feature Student Artwork from Omaha Public Schools
A special treat greets drivers in Omaha this month. Billboards feature art created by our students. The students range in age from first grade through 11th grade.
Their artwork decorates billboards at several locations throughout the city for Youth Art Month.
Washington Elementary first grader Mic Rife is the youngest student to have his drawing displayed on one of the billboards. Rife found out about his billboard a few days before his seventh birthday. He says having his artwork displayed for all to see is special.
“It’s fun to make your imagination into art,” said Rife. “You get to share it with people like your family and your friends.”
Omaha Public Schools art teacher Julie Ryan submitted Rife’s art. She says seeing our students work in the community is a joy.
“Art is necessary for our public school system,” said Ryan. “When people drive around and see these beautiful billboards, they can see what our students are doing in art classes across the district.”
There are 11 billboards located around Omaha. They are sponsored by community partners.
Students Showcase Excellence at Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
The annual Scholastic Art & Writing Awards took place this month, celebrating its 100th anniversary. The recognition program is the nation’s longest-running for high school artists.
Hundreds of Omaha Public Schools students submitted work for this year’s showcase. The winning pieces are displayed at the Teacher Administrative Center this month, alongside art from students throughout Nebraska.
More than 560 students received regional honors. More than 170 of those students attend Omaha Public Schools.
“This is the largest display of student art in the state,” said Angela Fischer, K-12 visual art teaching and learning consultant. “I compare it to a state tournament, the best of the best from Nebraska.”
Students submitted entries of all types: photography, hand drawings, paintings and sculptures. Judges scored each piece on originality, skill and the emergence of personal voice. All entries are considered for Gold Key, Silver Key, honorable mention, and other recognition from local Scholastic Awards Affiliate Omaha Public Schools Art Department.
“Art education is an essential factor in the total education of our students,” said Fischer. “It encourages continued commitment to the arts by students, community organizations and individuals everywhere.”
More than 1,000 pieces are displayed until March 31, 2023. Visit our district’s social media pages to view some of our student entries.
Teacher Finds Joy through Art at North High
When Logan Thurston graduated from North High in 2016, he didn’t know his journey would take him back to his school community as a teacher. Now, he is sharing his creative side with students. 
“It’s a way for me to give back to the community that I feel like I connected most with,” said Thurston.
Thurston says experienced art educators surround him at North High and inspire him to grow in his craft. Thurston encourages students in his ceramics classes to use their imagination and think outside the box.
“We want students to care about art, and we want them to have this idea that they can do something with art in the world,” said Thurston.
North High student Vivian Landis appreciates the options available to students.
“You learn new skills as you go along,” said Landis. “It's definitely a pathway that will teach you a lot of different skills. It lets you express your thoughts in a different form. I feel like without art, there's no beauty in the world, and everyone needs a little bit of that.”
Take a closer look at the projects underway in Thurston’s North High ceramics class by clicking the video below.
Family-Teacher Conferences Underway at Omaha Public Schools
Omaha Public Schools family-teacher conferences take place throughout March.
Conferences allow a student’s loved ones to engage with the school community and be more involved in their students' academic lives.
View conference dates on our District Calendar. Contact your student’s school if you cannot attend during the times available.
Spring Recess Begins on March 13
The third quarter has come to an end, and it’s time for Spring Recess.
There is no school for students from March 13-17. District offices will remain open. View or download a copy of our district calendar by visiting our website.
Student Wrestlers Finish as State Champions
Omaha Public Schools congratulates all our student-athletes who participated in the NSAA State Wrestling Championships.
Three students earned first place in their weight category:

  • Darelle Bonam, Central High
  • Tyler Stewart, North High
  • Tyson Terry, North High
North High wrestling coach Dan Carlson credits their hard work on and off the mat.
Tyler’s consistency and determination on the mat is the reason he is a three-time state champion,” said Head Wrestling Coach Dan Carlson. “Tyson Terry is in a league of his own. He’s a workhorse in the wrestling room and an academic All-Stater.”

Central's wrestling coach said Bonam's win is also a win for the entire program.

"DJ didn't give up a single takedown during the entire state tournament which is outstanding," said Matthew Storm, Central High wrestling coach. "DJ is going down as the 124th Central wrestling state champion which puts Central in the lead with most state champions in the history of Nebraska High School Wrestling."
Safe2Help Nebraska Hotline

Safe2Help Nebraska is a confidential and anonymous reporting hotline for students, families, staff or community members to report concerns. Examples of potential topics that could be reported would include depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, bullying, relationship issues, substance abuse or distribution or threats against a school or an individual. 
The Safe2Help Nebraska app is installed on every Omaha Public Schools iPad, providing easy and immediate access to report concerns. 
Check out this month's Community Opportunities. Our Community Opportunities section provides a one-stop shop for youth and family events.

Omaha Public Schools does not endorse any business, product or service.

If you're interested in advertising with us or have questions about community opportunities, please contact District Communications at (531) 299-0221.

March STEM Learning

Julie Sigmon, Omaha STEM Ecosystem Director
Digital Express, located on the Metropolitan Community College (MCC) Fort Omaha Campus, is a new gathering place where people can access technology, study and collaborate. Digital Express offers personal support to students and families to connect and learn. Offerings include technology checkout and support; low-cost technology repair; K-12 educational programming; meeting and family rooms; and print, fax and scan capabilities. Click here to take a virtual tour.

This MCC community resource is in addition to Omaha Public Schools 1:1 technology program. If families have questions or need support with district-provided technology, please contact your student’s school.
Technology Infrastructure Careers Page Launches on STEM Community Platform

The STEM Community Platform has launched a page to explore technology infrastructure careers. Technology infrastructure involves building and maintaining all the devices and applications that keep us connected. Careers in technology infrastructure require an understanding of networks, systems and hardware. As remote work becomes more common, infrastructure careers are more critical to an organization's success than ever before. Technology infrastructure careers are full of problem-solvers who can assist customers and solve complex behind-the-scenes issues. Click here to explore technology infrastructure careers.
… to Joseph Jacoby, principal of Springville Elementary, for being selected as the 2023 Change Maker in Education on behalf of the Greater Omaha Chamber and the 2023 YP Summit Committee.

… to Piper Allen of Central High for winning the InvestWrite state-level writing competition.

… to Norris Middle’s science bowl team for placing third place at the Regional Science Bowl for the first time in school history. 

… to all Omaha Public Schools students who participated in NSAA Swimming and Diving Championships.

… to all students who were recognized for their artwork in the annual Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.
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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.