OPS Board of Education starts 2018 productively

February 26, 2018

2017 could only be described as a nightmare year for the OPS Board of Education. The thinking was that busing issues would be the biggest PR trouble the Board would face; until it became crunch time for the hiring of a new superintendent. Suddenly, the district could not escape what would become a whirlwind of negative press, highlighted — or in this case lowlighted — by the failure to hire a replacement for Mark Evans.

Considering this, if the Board set a “new year’s resolution” for better communication and unity, it seems to be keeping it.

January 30th was a vital indicator of this change in direction. On its second attempt, the Board narrowed down the superintendent search to Dr. Cheryl Logan of Philadelphia and Harrison Peters of Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida. Walking into the finalist interviews, it seemed like there were two solid candidates with experience in urban school districts larger than OPS.

The surprise was less in who the Board selected, as Logan was lauded by former coworkers for her “roll up the sleeves” attitude, her fluency in Spanish and her experience with diverse student populations. Truly, the shock came when the board voted for Logan unanimously, 9-0.

Just over a year ago, it took hours for the Board to choose a president, with a meeting going past midnight. But when Logan came for her interview, it seemed that members had a fairly easy decision. Harrison Peters was also a fine choice, but with the accusations following him from Tampa, hiring him would have required another rough explanation.

The fact that the Board members were quick and decisive with the new hiring process showed a refreshing change of culture. Logan herself, who is only somewhat familiar with the district so far, even recognized the shift in an interview with the Omaha World-Herald. “We’re all works in progress, and sometimes we fall short. I don’t think when people fall short you put them in the garbage disposal. You have to let people restore themselves, and I think they’ve worked to do that.”

Anyone who attended the finalist interviews could hear the difference in what Logan said. Her vision for the district, while only words, sounded much more focused than her counterpart. She emphasized listening more than talking, especially as she transitions in the beginning of her three-year contract. In self-reflection, Logan characterized herself as “honest to a fault.”

That sort of attitude, along with the unity from the board, brought applause from the hundreds in attendance. The kind of applause that is seldom heard ringing through the halls of the TAC building. Logan’s enthusiasm is infectious, and has brought a renewed vigor to teachers and parents alike. That excitement will not last forever; as soon as her contract is approved by the Board, the transition will begin.

It will be up to Logan, the Board and TAC staff to unite together and go “from good to great,” as Board President Marque Snow has said.

The time for talk is now over and the time for action for the first African-American superintendent of OPS starts soon.

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