October 2021
Dear Omaha Public Schools Community,
Each October, we celebrate our school and program leaders during National Principals Month. What a fantastically challenging and rewarding way to serve young people. We are incredibly proud of the principals and program directors who make up our Omaha Public Schools community. While there are countless stories of our exceptional leaders, I wanted to take this column to share three examples of leaders living our district values. 
This month’s Sup for the Soul visits Crestridge Elementary and highlights Principal Valerie Varas. Each morning as she greets students in front of the school and visits classrooms, you see her support for students, staff and families. Principal Varas’ deep and heartfelt engagement demonstrates our focus on results and accountability in Omaha Public Schools. A new Monroe Mustang this school year, leadership inspired Principal Tony Gunter to embrace a new opportunity and challenge at the middle level, after leading Kennedy Elementary for many years. Principal Gunter’s passion for students and staff is evident in any grade level. To see the joy that inspires school spirit, you need only travel to Bear Country. Principal Rony Ortega is relentless in celebrating Bryan High and one can see it the minute they walk in the door. That spirit reaches staff and students throughout the school.
Please join me in thanking your school principal or program director during National Principals Month. Share a note on social media and be sure to include “#OPSProud.” As the largest school district in our state, we are stronger because of the many talented leaders who care for our students, staff and families every hour of the day.

Cordially yours,

Cheryl Logan, Ed.D.
Omaha Public Schools
Principal Welcomes Students to the
School She Calls Home
Kristine Denton, principal of Minne Lusa Elementary, is Omaha born and raised, and she has quite the connection to the Minne Lusa Elementary community.

“I grew up a couple blocks from the school and attended Minne Lusa Elementary, McMillan and then graduated from North High,” said Denton. “After college I came back and did my student teaching at Minne Lusa, I worked here as a teacher for a few years, and I even served as a supervisor for Minne Lusa and a few other schools in North Omaha for a few years.”

Denton shared, “It really has been just a blessing for me to have such a wonderful history here, and now to come home to serve the community as principal of Minne Lusa is so much more than I could have ever hoped for.”

This history and care for the Minne Lusa Elementary community is apparent.

"I think it is so cool because she has a past here and she has a history here," said Bostin Jimmerson, a fifth grader at Minne Lusa Elementary. "I think maybe that's why she's so fun and always so excited when she talks with us. She used to sit in the same classrooms we're in now!"

Judith Bahle has been teaching at Minne Lusa Elementary since 1991, and she has loved watching Denton’s passion for the community grow over the years.

“I remember first meeting Ms. Denton when she was a student teacher,” said Bahle. “She had such a wonderful energy and love for her students, you could just tell she cared about each person she worked with every single day. Now I get to see her every day as our principal and that same enthusiasm and care is just as clear as it was when she first started.”
This is Denton’s third year as the Minne Lusa Elementary principal, and she’s working to make every student feel as at home as she does.

“We kicked off the school year with a little retreat for each grade level. Each grade had their own time to come together in the gym and do activities, solve team puzzles and get them all back into school mode,” Denton said. “This got them meeting their classmates, their teachers and it really set the stage for the school year.”

Denton is excited to share her love of Minne Lusa Elementary with every person that walks into the building.

"Sometimes my friends and I will go eat lunch with Principal Denton," shared Perla Diaz-Estrada, a fourth grader at Minne Lusa Elementary. "We'll do little activities in her office or just sit and talk for a while."

“Students have come up to ask me what the school was like when I was a student here. Having that initial connection really means a lot to these kids and can help them feel more comfortable and at home here,” said Denton. “My favorite part of my job is having that opportunity to connect with so many students.”

Twice a month, Denton hosts special events for students who have good attendance and attitudes in class. These events range from playing "Minute to Win It" games to throwing a pie in the face of Principal Denton.

“Having positive adult influences is such an important thing for students, and Ms. Denton does such a great job reaching out to the kids and giving them that kind, caring authority figure,” Bahle said. “She does such a wonderful job making the kids and the staff feel at home, and that gives our students so many more opportunities to learn and grow.”

October is National Principals Month. To celebrate National Principals Month, send an e-card directly to your student's principal or check out Omaha Public Schools' social media pages for special features all month long. 
Student Athletes Rise Above the Competition and Showcase Sportsmanship
Even in the fiercest competitions, a simple act of sportsmanship can make a world of difference.

Tae Gott, a cross country runner for Marrs Middle, was battling it out for third place when his competitor slowed to a stop during a recent cross country meet.

"At the halfway mark, he seemed really out of it," said Gott. "So, I patted him on the back and told him to keep going, to keep pushing. After that, he started moving forward again.”

Gott risked his own place to motivate his competition, and he'd happily do it again.
"Any encouragement at the end of the race just really boosts your confidence and tells you, like, you can keep going and it helps you just keep going," Gott continued. "My parents have always told me to keep going but don’t let competition get in the way of being nice."

Buffet Middle's Vanessa Flores and Carmen Carmichael showed their own exceptional sportsmanship at that cross country meet. After they finished their race, they noticed a student in the next heat had fallen behind the pack.

"He had gotten confused on the course I think, so he had to turn around and run some of the course again," said Carmichael. "He had to run a lot farther that way, and so he was far enough behind the others from the mix-up that you could tell he was ready to quit."

The Buffet Middle girls ran to his side and encouraged him to finish.

“He may not go to the same school as me but that doesn’t make me not want to be nice to him," Flores added. "I’ve been in that situation where I did not want to do it anymore. I was in the middle of the race, and I was like – I just want to stop.”

Despite already running their own race, the girls didn't hesitate to help.

Flores said, "We just went up there to encourage him to keep on running, but we ended up running with him the rest of the way.”

Moments like this pass by in an instant, but no matter the sport, no matter the competition, the impact they make can last a lifetime.

Watch the video below to hear more from these outstanding student-athletes.
New Ombudsperson Supports Students, Staff
and Families
Omaha Public Schools' new ombudsperson will serve as a “trusted navigator” to support students, families and staff. Crystal Boyd stepped into the new role earlier this year and she is working to promote awareness and understanding about how she can help. 
“A big part of my work is helping families that maybe don’t know what to do or where to turn,” Boyd shared. “Sometimes a student is facing difficulties and the family doesn’t know what options or resources are available to them, so I’m here to show them what help is available and to guide them through the process.” 
The new role will serve all students, families and staff, working to find solutions to whatever challenges they may be facing. 
“Schools are still the first point of contact for families who need support, but this position really is a huge opportunity for students and families in our district,” said Lisa Utterback, chief officer of student and community services. “Sometimes the biggest obstacle for families is not knowing what supports are available for their student, and that is what Ms. Boyd’s role is all about. Connecting families with the resources they need to succeed.” 
As ombudsperson, Boyd works to resolve issues and serves as a trusted source of information from Omaha Public Schools. This summer, she led numerous community engagement sessions for our College & Career Academies and Pathways and ESSER fund planning. 
“A big part of my new role is to nurture relationships with our families and community,” said Boyd. “Relationships are key, and people know when you truly care and are there to help. My job is to provide information, resources, connections, anything I can do that will support our students, staff and families better.” 
Boyd added that her mission is for families to leave her office knowing they have options and a path forward.
“My job truly is to connect with families, work alongside them and provide whatever supports I can to make sure they know we are here to help.” 
Find more information about Omaha Public Schools' ombudsperson, including contact information, on our website at this link.
Attendance is critical for student success. Across Omaha Public Schools, families are encouraged to #StriveFor95, which means attending school on time at least 95% of school days.

Winter weather is on the way, so we’re working to ensure students have the hats, gloves and scarves they may need to come to school on time every day. We’re calling it “20,000 Villagers” to honor the many community members who support our students.

A $20 donation can purchase hats, gloves and scarves for four students who may need them.

Omaha Public Schools Teacher Named
2022 Nebraska Teacher of the Year
We are proud to recognize Lee Perez of Alice Buffett Middle. During a ceremony on Oct. 13, Perez was named the 2022 Nebraska Teacher of the Year. Click here to watch a video of the award presentation.

Perez began his teaching career in 2008 at Marrs Middle. He then moved to Alice Buffett Middle where he currently teaches English as a second language.

Perez will participate in the National Teacher of the Year competition later this year.
Check out our new website!

Omaha Public Schools is committed to open communication with our students, staff and families. As part of the Strategic Plan of Action, our district recently launched a new, updated www.ops.org!

Data on page visits, and student, staff and family needs drove the construction of our new site. Staff took design best practices to build a site that is crisp and easy to navigate, with many opportunities to celebrate the great things happening in our schools. Watch the video below to check out the new www.ops.org!
Viewing school menus on the new OPS.org

To access our new SchoolCafe menus, visit https://www.schoolcafe.com/OMAHAPS or follow the link on the bottom left of our homepage. You may Sign In to Your Account, or select View Menus (As a Guest).

On the top of the next screen you can select the time range you would like to view:
  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Monthly

Then, you will be asked to select:
  • The date or date range
  • Your student's school
  • Your student's grade
  • What meal you are interested in (Breakfast or Lunch)

Once the above information is provided, you will have two options of meal types:
  • Specials of the Day will show which rotating meal is available that day. These are the meals that change each day, such as pizza or spaghetti.
  • Available Daily will show additional meal options for students with dietary restrictions.

To view ingredients and nutrition information, you can select the Show Nutrients button on the right side of your screen, or you can click on the individual food option you would like to learn more about.

To print the menu, you must be in Weekly or Monthly view. On the right side of your screen there will be a Print button, which will create a printable form of the menu.
  • Please note, you must print the Breakfast and Lunch schedules separately.
New and Improved: Omaha Public Schools Bond Projects Remain on Track
The finish line is in sight for a significant investment in our school district that will benefit students, staff and families throughout Omaha. Our Phase 2 Bond Program remains on schedule with four of five new schools scheduled to open in less than a year. Two new elementary schools (Pine and Forest Station) and two high schools (Buena Vista and Westview) are getting interior and exterior finishes. From collaboration spaces and media centers to music rooms and athletic facilities, many projects are nearing the home stretch. Furniture, fixtures and equipment have arrived or will be arriving in the weeks ahead. Meanwhile, work continues on our middle school (Bluestem) which is set to open in August 2023.

Aside from our new schools, crews are also working on improvements and additions at existing sites throughout Omaha Public Schools. Visit ops.org/bond for updates on all projects underway throughout our district.

Fall STEM Learning

Julie Sigmon, Omaha STEM Ecosystem Director
You are going to fall for these new STEM programs and opportunities. Here are some programs that students can do themselves to further their interest in STEM outside the classroom.  

  • Imagine Science - Biomedical Engineering (Self-guided Camp Resource): In this engaging hands-on program, students will use the engineering design process to work through biomedical engineering challenges. They will get to participate in activities like nanotechnology in the body, laparoscopic surgery, biomedicine in space and prosthetics and pills. This program is offered for free by the Nebraska 4-H.

  • Esports Minecraft Tournament Bedrock Edition: Pick a team and compete in this Minecraft building challenge tournament! This competition is exclusively for Minecraft Bedrock edition. The is a free tournament open to Nebraska students. The tournament will be held Friday, Dec. 10th. This program is offered by Prairie STEM.

To register for these opportunities or to find more STEM programs, visit the STEM Community Platform Portal or click the link below.
Do you know an Omaha Public Schools teacher who deserves recognition?

A great teacher can turn a geography lesson into an exciting adventure or make a conversation become a life lesson. And the Omaha Public Schools community is fortunate to have so many great teachers. It’s why the Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award was created more than 30 years ago — to recognize those teachers who have gone above and beyond to help their students in the classroom and in life.

Nominate an Omaha Public Schools teacher for this award and tell us what he or she has done that has made a difference. Now more than ever, let’s recognize the extraordinary efforts of educators within the Omaha Public Schools. Omaha Public Schools teachers continue to meet today’s challenges with an unwavering spirit and passionate dedication to their students. Please submit your nomination by January 15, 2022. 
CHI Health and Omaha Public Schools Partner to Honor Teachers Across our District

CHI Health wants nominations of Omaha Public Schools' teachers changing the lives of students. Each month, they'll surprise a Top Teacher nominee with a treat basket for the teachers' lounge and a personal gift card. CHI will draw winners on the last Friday of the month. CHI Health will select one winner at the elementary, middle and high school level.

Anyone can nominate a Top Teacher at CHIhealth.com/TopTeachers.

If you would like to view the latest CHI newsletter, click here.

Thank you for your support of our teachers and Omaha Public Schools.
... to Lee Perez of Alice Buffett Middle for being named the 2022 Nebraska Teacher of the Year. Perez will participate in the National Teacher of the Year competition later this year.

... to Blessing Ametitovi of Northwest High for being named to the 2021-22 Nebraska School Activities Association student Advisory Committee.

... to Leah Litz of Bancroft Elementary and Bri Walentine of Bryan Middle for being recognized as Nebraska state finalists for the 2021 Presidential Award of Excellence in Science Teaching by the Nebraska Department of Education.

... to Jason Dworak of Gateway Elementary for receiving the Ignite Wellness Transformation Award from The Wellbeing Partners for his work in teaching physical education.

... to all Omaha Public Schools students who were named 2021-22 Believers & Achievers by US Bank and the Nebraska School Activities Association.
  • Burke High: David Sortino, Brandon Rummel, Kathryn Singh and Hannah Ajogbeje
  • Central High: Claire Williams, Logan Simmons, Grace Weberg and Aniah Wayne
  • North High: Lauren Sitzman, Kaden Hughes, Anne Rogers and Jessica Wynne
The following links will provide you with quick access to district sponsored events, procedures and resources. Please click on the categories under each title below, and you will be taken to the correct web page.
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Thank you!
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.