Skip to main content

Omaha Magazine

Superintendents Letters

Mar 08, 2019 11:20AM ● By Daisy Hutzell-Rodman
The greater Omaha metropolitan area is home to some of the state’s best schools, educators, and students. Superintendents at six of the area’s largest school districts share their thoughts and reflections from the 2018-2019 academic year.

Micheal W. Ashton, Ed.D.

Archdiocese of Omaha

Michael W. Ashton, Ed.D

We invite you to learn about our robust, diverse, and excellent Catholic school options across the metro area and 20 more counties, stretching as far as St. Joseph’s in Atkinson, Nebraska. There are nearly 20,000 students and 1,400 teachers growing in faith, academics, and service every day. Our ultimate goal is being accessible and affordable for every Nebraskan. This 2018-2019 school year has seen significant increases in the number of students from historically underserved populations—children in poverty, non-English speaking families, and students with diagnosed learning disabilities. Academic programs and support services in our schools continue to grow.

Omaha Catholic School Consortium opened the Dual Language Academy at the site of the former St. Stanislaus Catholic School in South Omaha. The academy provides an immersive, bilingual English and Spanish education for children age 3 through first grade. Dual language students will be allowed to continue their education through eighth grade at partner schools.

One-third of our metro elementary schools participate in one of the largest, private school, blended-learning initiatives in math. Since implementation, 20 percent of the students using the program for five months who were below grade level have moved up to grade level, and 5 percent of the students who were at grade level have graduated to above grade level.

The Madonna School is expanding its programming to include high-needs classrooms for students with profound disabilities integrated into some of our parochial schools. Children will have a wider range of pull-out and inclusion options with this new format, bringing them into full community with the students and families of those schools and parishes.

Bary Habrock, Ph.D.

Elkhorn Public

Bary Habrock, Ph.D.

Elkhorn Public Schools is grateful for a truly supportive community and another year with many celebrations. In 2018, our students excelled in the classroom, through extracurricular activities, and in their community. Our staff continues to believe in the potential of all students, and they remain dedicated to maintaining a sense of community while managing the challenges that come with the unprecedented growth of welcoming over 1,000 new students every two years. As we move forward in our 31st consecutive year of significant student population growth, our ability to live out our mission remains the same as we “unite students, families, educators, and the community to ensure a challenging and enriching academic environment that inspires students to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to become responsible citizens and lifelong learners.”

Some of  Elkhorn Public Schools’ many highlights from this year include:

Results from Nebraska’s AQuESTT (Accountability for a Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow) rating system show EPS as the only district in Nebraska to consistently maintain the state’s highest rating—excellent.

• EPS, for the seventh consecutive year, was named to the 2018 Advanced Placement Honor Roll.

• EPS successfully launched a new summer

enrichment program, offering increased summer learning opportunities in exciting new skill and subject areas to nearly 400 students.

EPS remains dedicated to preparing students for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead while shaping them into responsible, lifelong learners. We’re already looking forward to the upcoming school year—another year of excellence in all facets of our students’ education.

Jeff Rippe, Ed.D.

Bellevue Public

Jeff Rippe, Ed.D.

As one school year comes to a close, we move into summer mode, and begin preparing for a new school year and start all over again. It is good to remember that learning is a year-round activity. Here are some of Bellevue Public Schools’ big accomplishments:

• We began work on a strategic plan—a roadmap to help guide and challenge us towards even greater success.

• We continued to renovate, rehabilitate, and improve existing facilities through our bond program—providing students with access to cutting-edge technology, educational and recreational resources, and safe, secure environments where they can learn and grow.

• We received a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to support advanced STEM education. The grant will support the three-year College Readiness Program from the National Math and Science Initiative.

• We received a five-year, $1.25 million grant from the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA). The partnership will provide elementary teachers access to STEM resources, curriculum, activities, and professional learning.

Students have the opportunity to remain involved through the break with summer school,  offered to students in all grades in June, and STEM camps, offered to incoming sixth- and seventh-grade students in three one-week sessions in late June and early July.

Providing opportunities for students such as these allow them to remain engaged during the summer months with not only their academic development, but their overall well-being.

Jim Sutfin, Ed.D.

Millard Public

Jim Sutfin, Ed.D.

Many people notice the birds in spring. Around Millard Public Schools, we tend to keep our eyes open for other things flying through the air—specifically baseballs, tennis balls, golf balls, soccer balls, kickballs, and the occasional Frisbee. Our buildings are the heartbeat of our neighborhoods, and they are busy far beyond the regular school day. It is easy to see that in the warm months when you drive by on a nice evening while families gather on the playgrounds and green spaces. That’s just outside. There’s so much more going on inside, and it happens year-round. Teams practice before and after school; our swimming pools open in the early mornings and the water doesn’t settle until late in the evening. Clubs meet, local sports groups reserve our gyms, Metro Community College night classes commence, and many other organizations rely on us for space for their activities. We truly serve our community, and we are happy to do so. Millard Public Schools are neighborhood schools, both before and after the last bell.

Cheryl J. Logan, Ed.D.

Omaha Public

Cheryl J. Logan, Ed.D.

As the end of our first school year together comes to a close, I remain truly grateful for the honor to serve this community. Our students are eager to receive second-semester report cards and head off to summer break. We know reading habits can suffer during school breaks, particularly summer break. Families, please encourage our kids to spend time maintaining a healthy reading regimen. Let’s be sure we’re having them pick up a book each day for a minimum of 20 minutes. I’d also like to extend another “thank you” to Omaha voters for passing the Phase 2 bond. We’re eager to start construction on two new high schools, two new elementary schools, and a new middle school. We’re also eager to begin renovation work. Our kids deserve to learn in schools that are up-to-date and conducive to the needs of the 21st-century learning environment. We’re preparing them to compete on a global scale and your support of Omaha Public Schools is sincerely appreciated. Enjoy a wonderful and relaxing summer break.

Blane McCain, Ph.D.

Westside Community

Blane McCann, Ph.D.

My youngest daughter, Audrey, is a sophomore at Loyola in Chicago and recently spent a semester studying in Ireland. Over winter break we talked about planning for a summer internship here in the Omaha metro area. “What do you want to do?” I asked her. Her response was, “I’m not sure.” Part of me was delighted by that response. I hope it means that my creative, talented, and driven daughter will keep exploring different jobs and careers that will help her use her talents and strengths to find her passion and purpose in life. The Chicago Sun-Times has published an article entitled, “Let’s Stop Brainwashing Our Kids That It’s a College Degree Or Nothing.” As superintendent of Westside Community Schools, I am proud to have contributed to the formulation of our strategic plan, which serves the needs of all our learners. Many of our students attend college, others come alive with a welding torch in their hands; we are preparing them for trades with an expanded welding lab and experience at businesses like Owen Industries. We provide students interested in health care with opportunities for certification and positions with companies like Home Instead Senior Care. Whatever our learners want to do, we are helping each student use their talents and strengths.

Discuss with your children how they want to spend their time this summer, then find activities to match those talents. Omaha provides countless opportunities to develop many interests. Google’s Jaime Casap tells us to no longer ask our children what they want to be when they grow up. Rather, we should ask them what problem they want to solve and then help them develop their talents and strengths to solve that problem.

We all have a path that provides fulfillment, and it’s our job as parents and educators to help children use their strengths and passions to thrive and do their best work daily.

This article was printed in the 2019 Summer Camp Edition of Family Guide.