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

This month especially, we celebrate the best of OPS.
Almost every day in May, we have the joy of attending award receptions for our young people, hosting graduation ceremonies for seniors or recognizing the exceptional staff who make it all possible.
Last week, seniors from many of our high schools and programs shared a bit about their experience in Omaha Public Schools. It was part of our annual Top Seniors event. Listening to how our community impacted a student’s journey was deeply moving.
One student learned to savor victory and graciously accept loss through building a Quiz Bowl program. A fellow senior spoke about their earliest years learning English, and how Omaha Public Schools laid the foundation for her plans to pursue a medical degree. OPS’ Virtual School offered an all-star gymnast the flexibility she needed to excel academically and athletically. One student arrived in our district with so many credits to earn, the finish line seemed impossibly far off – but his resiliency and our staff’s support mean college is ahead this fall. These are just a few examples of wonderful children throughout the Omaha Public Schools. We know our students achieve success and excellence in many ways, every day of the year.
a wideshot of the attendants of the top seniors breakfast
Omaha Public Schools celebrated its Top Seniors this month during a breakfast in their honor.
Just like our students, our staff members rise to each challenge and opportunity before them. The local, state and national recognition earned by Omaha Public Schools staff is remarkable. Equally inspiring are the countless engaging lessons, acts of care and encouraging words delivered by our team each day. It takes every person to make our system “go” for young people.
There is no doubt the last three years brought more demands in the classroom than ever before. And it did not stop at the end of the day. Everyone confronted challenges outside of school brought on by the pandemic. This is a staffing shortage and a headwind faced by every school district – urban and rural – in Nebraska and across our country. As we lead nationally in developing future talent, it does not fill every position tomorrow. It does not immediately lighten the lift of our current staff. We will rise to meet the need, together. We are counting on the Omaha community to join this effort and rally alongside us as we deliver high-quality, in-person learning next year.

To our graduating seniors, we wish you our very best. We cannot wait to see what you achieve in college, career and life. Please keep in touch and think of Omaha Public Schools as you consider professional pursuits. To our staff who make it possible – thank you. I am grateful and proud to serve alongside you.

Cheryl Logan, Ed.D.
Omaha Public Schools
Joy filled the room when Cheryl Logan, Ed.D., visited students at Crestridge Elementary recently.
Living the Ethic of Care:
Pie-making Project Connects School with
Students and Families
Sweet potatoes, milk, sugar and eggs – all of these ingredients come together to make a sweet potato pie. The mixture may sound basic, but the result is far from ordinary.
Students at Joslyn Elementary learned just how special a sweet potato pie could be when made with joy and shared with care.
"We all thought about somebody we wanted to help make feel better or just show them that we care," Alea Wegner explained.
Wegner is a member of Joslyn's HOPE (Having Only Positive Expectations) Leadership Group. The team made dozens of pies recently as part of the school's family engagement night. Leading up to the event, they learned about community leader Rose McGee, founder of Sweet Potato Comfort Pie. McGee shares pies throughout the region with those who need comfort.
"My favorite part of making the Sweet Potato Comfort Pie was talking about who we wanted to make them for," added Wegner. "I chose Dr. [Cheryl] Logan."
students working together to pour pie filling into its crust
Students in the leadership group worked together to make pies while they brainstormed who in their community would most need or appreciate the comfort of a sweet potato pie.
The pie-making captures a small slice of the work underway at Joslyn Elementary to increase family engagement. The leadership group worked to make positive changes in their community throughout the school year. They spent time with the residents of an assisted living center and collected donations for a shoe drive.

"This means a lot to someone who doesn't even know it yet," said Joslyn's principal, Betsy Kosch.

Kosch leads students in learning how they can improve their community, from small acts of kindness to big ones like making food to comfort those in need.
Rose McGee speaks to families at joslyn elementary
McGee spoke the school community about the impact her pies have made on grieving communities and how her work came to be internationally recognized.
"Everyone can make their mark and make a difference in the world," Kosch added.

Joslyn's family engagement night echoed that sentiment. The event encouraged families to participate in activities that support sharing acts of kindness, or heart prints, in the community. 

McGee even surprised students by attending family night in person.

"Coming together, caring and sharing them with the community - that's what the pies are about," said McGee.
The event showcased the collaborative efforts underway among students, staff and families to build positive relationships through our district. A grant from the Minnesota Humanities Center made the night possible.
Click the image below to see more photos from Joslyn's family night, including a virtual visit from nationally known author, Peter Reynolds.
A student received a bag of compost after choosing a potted flower to bring home (top-left). School leaders pose with Rose McGee and the pie students made for her (top-right). Principal Kosch welcomes families into the school (bottom-left). Children participate in a dance (bottom-right).
McMillan Middle's Academic Pentathlon Team:
A Decade of Success and a National Reputation
Academic Pentathlon award plaques sit in a line
Middle school students from Omaha Public Schools have earned a national reputation for their academic excellence.

For the 10th year in a row, students from McMillan Middle will represent Nebraska at the United States Academic Pentathlon. McMillan’s seventh and eighth-grade teams scored highest in the region after competing at the local and state level. They have won third place nine times in the national pentathlon.

“They know when we go to nationals, there’s a good chance they’re going to see the McMillan name pop up in the top three,” shared Eric Hagen, a social studies teacher at McMillan and the Academic Pentathlon coach. 
McMillan Middle Schools display case of academic pentathlon trophies
McMillan's many Academic Pentathlon trophies are one of the first sights upon entering the school.
Teams compete to earn the highest grade in rigorous multiple-choice exams on literature, math, fine arts, science and social sciences. Questions revolve around the year’s theme – “Water: A Most Critical Resource.” The Academic Pentathlon is more than just taking tests. Teams also compete by delivering speeches, writing essays and interviews.

Jasmine Hester, a member of the seventh-grade team, appreciates what she’s learned through competing in the pentathlon.

“I like how expansive it is,” Hester explained. “It can range from all the topics in the guides, and you can add even more information. It’s been interesting to learn, and [the competition] expands your knowledge.”

“We run it like an honors program and teach it as a class, which is why we’re so successful,” Hagen said. “We use the guides which read like college textbooks. It’s really challenging.”
The global pandemic added new challenges, canceling the 2020 national pentathlon entirely. In 2021, students prepared to travel to California before the national competition shifted to an online event. The event also moved online after plans to attend in-person in Arizona this year.
“It was a major motivation to study,” said Cara Travis, a member of McMillan’s eighth-grade team. “Even without being able to travel, it was still really fun to hang out with friends and build better bonds.”

Despite the disappointment, McMillan’s Academic Pentathlon teams are proud of their achievement.

“We all have different things we are good at,” added Sadie Larkin, another member of the eighth-grade team. “We wrote down our individual scores and studied more on the things we were not good at, which helped us test better.”
a student sits at a desk writing
Students study and prepare for the United States Academic Pentathlon.
“It’s a team thing,” said Travis. She and her team scored the highest out of all teams in the central region. “I feel like all of us as a team had to cooperate and work together to get that number one spot.”

The McMillan teams will compete virtually at the United States Academic Pentathlon on May 20.

“During one of the most challenging years, McMillan students triumphed," remarked McMillan’s principal, Monica Green, Ph.D. "I appreciate the commitment of our coaches and am so proud of our students."
Middle School Musician
Prepares to Perform at Carnegie Hall
Cameron Barona is finishing eighth grade at Marrs Middle and is already an accomplished musician with many notable achievements. She was a part of the eighth-grade All-State Band, All-City Band, Blair Honor Band and the Omaha Area Youth Orchestra.
Although impressive, none are quite as exciting as her most recent accomplishment.
“This summer, I’m going to New York because I’ve been accepted into the Honors Performance Series, which is a big deal,” Barona said with pride. 

The series brings together middle school students from 39 states, the District of Columbia and Canada, for a performance at Carnegie Hall.
Cameron Barona playing her French horn
"In order to play the French horn, you need to have a really good ear for different pitches," Barona said. "You could try to play one note but end up playing the complete opposite, so you have to remember what it sounds like."
The selection process is challenging and highly competitive. Only students nominated by their music teacher can audition. Barona’s band teacher, Katherine Stier, nominated her for the Honors Performance Series.
“The audition process is really intense,” Stier explained. “There’s a lot of stuff in those auditions we don’t cover in class every day, so students have to be very self-motivated and practice on their own. I’m really grateful Cameron did her part and is taking it upon herself to learn those extra things.”
While Barona says she practices one to three hours each week, she didn’t become the musician she is on her own. She takes private lessons with the Omaha Symphony’s principal horn player, Brett Hodge, who helped pick Barona’s Honors Performance Series audition songs.
“She is frequently after school independently practicing or seeking feedback from me so she can get multiple opinions on her playing,” said Stier, who also specializes in the French horn.
When she arrives in New York, Barona will practice and perform with other talented young musicians under the direction of master conductors from around the nation. Honors Performance Series musicians also get to experience the city's culture by visiting historical sights and attending a Broadway show.
“It’s going to sound crazy; I just really want to be in a pit orchestra,” Barona remarked. Seeing and hearing the Broadway pit orchestra play will be equally exciting as watching the performers on stage. “To me, that sounds like such a fun job.”
Barona is currently fundraising for her upcoming trip to New York, which takes place in mid-June. She is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to join such an exclusive group of musicians.
I’m going somewhere,” Barona said with a smile. “That’s what it feels like.”
Bond Work Continues:
Four New Schools Prepare to Open in August
In the months ahead, Omaha Public Schools will open four new schools. Each school will host opening celebrations as we prepare to welcome students and staff.

Watch for details soon! This exciting phase is all part of our 2018 Bond Program. Including our new schools, more than 25 projects are underway throughout Omaha Public Schools. Learn more about our bond projects by visiting
Congratulations to the Graduating Class of 2022!
District Updates Progress on Strategic Plan of Action Goals

In April, Omaha Public Schools staff shared an update on our district’s Strategic Plan of Action. The presentation was part of a Board of Education workshop.

Four strategic priorities focus the work: Academics, Staff, Financial Accountability and our Ethic of Care.

Goals within the priorities include targeted work to:

  • support our students’ academic and social-emotional wellbeing
  • address staffing challenges
  • build upon our district’s fiscal responsibility
  • reduce the number of student disciplinary events
As community members gathered in 2019 to build this future-focused plan, participants identified staffing as a top concern for the future. Omaha Public Schools has focused on recruiting and retaining talent since the plan’s launch in 2020, including several new initiatives since the COVID-19 pandemic.

North High Academy Achieves National Model Status

North High’s Academy of Engineering and Design recently earned a national distinction. “Model Academy” status is the highest recognition by the National Career Academy Coalition (NCAC).

“We are proud to receive this designation. It affirms our team's work and encourages us to press forward, elevating expectations and expanding opportunities for all our students,” said North High Principal Collette Nero, Ph.D.

Model Status certifies a career academy as being implemented with excellence based on The National Standards of Practice for Career Academies (NSOPS). North High’s Engineering and Design Academy review emphasized the program’s commitment to career preparation and postsecondary education. It also highlighted professional development opportunities for teachers.

New High School Student Assignment Plan Begins in August 2022

After several years of planning, our new High School Student Assignment Plan will begin in August.

The updated plan is one of many steps our district has taken to plan for the opening of five new schools. Our Board of Education approved new boundaries for elementary and middle schools in 2019, and Omaha Public Schools will implement College & Career Academies and Pathways this August.

Along the way, our district remained committed to ongoing communication with families and staff. Since 2019, Omaha Public Schools has contacted families impacted by the new High School Student Assignment Plan through direct mail, emails and personal calls to help plan for the changes. Families affected by the opening of new schools, boundary changes and transportation eligibility will receive additional outreach in the weeks ahead.

Omaha Public Schools Provides Summer Learning Opportunities

This summer, Omaha Public Schools is proud to host Next Level Learning once again. Families registered students for more than 11,000 sessions of the summer school program.

Students not identified for Next Level Learning can use several resources to stay engaged over the summer, like Libguides or the SORA digital library. The resources are available in the library section of each school's website.

Elementary school students will also receive a bundle of books for home. Omaha Public Schools recommends at least 20 minutes of reading every day.
2021-22 Communications Survey: Improving with Your Feedback

Thank you to the Omaha Public Schools staff and families who completed our 2021-22 communications survey! More than 4,800 people participated when the survey link went to all staff and families in March.

We are happy to see participants list the all-new as a trusted source for district news. We always monitor feedback and the most popular pages to improve your experience on the site.

Your answers were loud and clear. People are looking for shorter, more “snackable” bursts of information. We’re already using that in district newsletters and school communications.
Respondents shared the good news they wanted to see:

  • student achievements
  • staff awards
  • teaching and learning in our classrooms
  • how families can help their students succeed at home

That feedback will guide the stories we share in the 2022-23 school year. We care deeply about our students, staff and families. We value open communication with the community we serve.

May STEM Learning

Julie Sigmon, Omaha STEM Ecosystem Director
Grow in STEM this May with one of these STEM opportunities. Search our comprehensive catalog for current and upcoming offerings for students, educators, and professionals. Here are some of our top picks for May. 

  • Build a Hut Energy and Sustainability Camp: Join the Douglas-Sarpy Extension in this free and engaging hands-on program, youth will work in teams with local engineers to build a hut using off-grid technology.
  • Love Your Block Litter Walk: This spring show a little love for the planet by starting on your own block! Keep Omaha Beautiful invites you to explore your neighborhood with the Love your Block Litter Walk. This event is free and fun for all ages. 

To register for these opportunities or to find more STEM programs, visit the STEM Community Platform Portal.
to all the State Journalism medalists.

… to Cameron Barona of Marrs Middle for her acceptance into the Honors Performance Series where she will play her French Horn at Carnegie Hall.

… to Elias Kopp and Emilio Parra-Garcia of Central High for earning an Outstanding Performance Award for instrumental solos at the district music contest.

… to Hannah Polak of Benson High for earning an Outstanding Performance Award for vocal solos at the district music contest.

… to McMillan Middle's seventh and eighth grade Academic Pentathlon teams for scoring highest among all states in their region and continuing a 10-year tradition of national representation at the United States Academic Pentathlon.

… to McMillan Middle for earning second place at the Nebraska Science Olympiad.

… to all the medalists at the Nebraska Science Olympiad.

… to Oscar Castillo, dual-language math teacher at South High, for earning the UNO Department of Teacher Education’s Outstanding Graduate Student Award.

… to Katie Rice of King Science Middle for earning the Leadership Development Award from the National Council of Teachers of English.

… to Sara Cowan of Central High for receiving the Country Music Association’s 2022 Music Teachers of Excellence Award.

… to the staff members named Cox Education Heroes.
  • Tammy Steele
  • Kristi Woodworth
  • Frances Finn
  • Robin Knudtson
  • Dana Contreras
  • Jill Martinez
  • Ophelia Collins
  • Nicolette Oliver
  • John Huber
  • Amanda McLaughlin
  • Rhett Wurst

… to the recipients of the Spring 2022 Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association Academic All-State Awards.

… to Stephanie Hoesing for her recognition as the School Social Work Association of Nebraska's 2022 School Social Worker of the Year.
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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.