Mark Evans finally knows the names of his future bosses, and now he's trying to get to know them personally.
The morning after Tuesday's election, Omaha's incoming superintendent sent congratulatory cards to the newly elected board members and emails to the incumbents who were re-elected.
Evans also plans to have hourlong phone conversations with each of the nine board members before Thursday. And, before the end of this week, he will send a packet of data that he has compiled on the Omaha Public Schools to the six new members.
“I'm just anxious to get to know them personally and professionally,” Evans said in a phone interview.
Only two people who hired Evans last December will remain on the new board when it takes office June 10.
His new bosses are eager to complete introductions with him and their future colleagues before then. Some also appear to be positioning themselves to lead the board. The board is expected to pick new officers June 17.
The members have at least one informal gathering planned before then. They also plan to gather at lunches and dinners and, with Evans, attend a formal school board orientation on Thursday.
Evans officially begins his job as superintendent July 1.
“We've got to get things going,” said board member Justin Wayne.
Board members want to move quickly because of the challenges before them: improving student achievement for 50,000 students, developing a long-term plan for OPS and restoring the public's trust in Nebraska's largest school district after a series of controversies.
They also want to act fast because some of them will be up for re-election in 2014.
“It's a great opportunity to get the focus back on the students,” said Matt Scanlan, one of six new board members.
He and other board members agreed that they should meet informally before taking office.
“Creating a healthy, positive working relationship is key to getting some things done in the first year, year and a half,” said Yolanda Williams, elected to represent Subdistrict 1 in north Omaha.
Incumbents Sarah Brumfield and Wayne, current board President Marian Fey and newcomers Katie Underwood and Lou Ann Goding all think the board's first priority should be developing a long-term district plan with Evans.
“It's very important that we work together as a group and figure out where we're going,” said Goding.
Other board members had different priorities:
» Williams wants to learn why some elementary school principals in north Omaha are being transferred to other OPS schools.
» Marque Snow said he wants to focus on three things right away: OPS having a better relationship with its after-school programmers; early childhood education and neighborhood schools. Snow is the teen director of after-school and summer programs at the South Omaha YMCA.
» Scanlan said the board needs to review and revise its policies before Evans starts. He especially wants the board to look at the policy on reporting suspected sexual harassment.
» Lacey Merica said improved communication should be a focus. The district should have a spot on its website where people can submit ideas and ask questions, said Merica, who will represent portions of Bellevue and southeast Omaha.
Both Wayne and Fey, along with two new board members, could be running for the board's top spot next month.
Williams said she'll decide after getting a feel for her colleagues' natural leadership skills. Scanlan said he will consider seeking the top spot.
Wayne said he's again interested in the presidency. In January, he lost a bid to become president when the board elected Freddie Gray after 30 rounds of voting.
Fey, who became president after Gray resigned from the board, appears interested in retaining the leadership position as well.
“I want to serve in the position that I'm the most useful to the board and can do the most good,” she said, “and if that's helping with the transition by continuing in the role of president, then that's what I want to do.”
She also said she's optimistic about the new board, a feeling she's had before, especially when she was elected in 2010.
But that was before the board dealt with a series of controversies and the Legislature intervened. That was also before she realized how politics can affect the board.
“I've always been enthusiastic about my work on the board,” she said. “What people learn is that the school board is much more political than what they anticipated.”
During her three months as board president, she said, the board has been less political.
“It's a matter of understanding you don't have to agree on everything but you do have to be agreeable,” she said. “So let's try to keep personalities out.”
World-Herald staff writers Julie Anderson and Joe Dejka contributed to this report.
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