Rony Ortega has “rejuvenated” himself with his new opportunity as Bryan High School’s principal.
Ortega replaces Robert Aranda, who was Bryan’s principal for 10 years and will be director of student services for Westside Community Schools.
Ortega has worked in numerous roles prior to Bryan High, both in suburban and urban areas in many grade levels.
He started as a Spanish teacher at Elkhorn High School, then was a counselor for Papillion La Vista Community Schools, an administrator at Norris Middle School for Omaha Public Schools, an assistant principal at Omaha South High School, principal at Alice Buffett Magnet Middle School and then supervised principals for two years in OPS before applying for Bryan’s principal position.
“I knew I needed to get back to a school, and this was a perfect fit for me,” Ortega said of coming to Bryan. “All those positions really helped me become a better principal today.”
What Ortega enjoys about being an educator is the students’ transformation through years of learning.
“It’s something where I wake up every day and I think about the impact education had on me,” he said. “Education changed the trajectory of my life, and my kids’ lives.”
There are a few differences Ortega anticipates leading a high school.
“Leading at a high school is different because it’s bigger, you have more people on your leadership team, so the principal is a little further removed directly from the classroom,” he said. “At a high school, my job is making sure our instructional leadership team has the capacity to help me lead.
“I’d be foolish to think I can be the only person to lead a high school — when you have over 1,800 kids and over 100 teachers, there’s no way one principal can impact, can change instruction without a strong instructional leadership team.”
So far, Ortega said his favorite thing about Bryan High is the people.
“The people here are ready for more,” he said. “They’re in that point in their careers where they’re wanting to really move the school forward.”
With a large student and staff population, Ortega said it’s imperative to be visible and accessible around the school.
“I told our staff, ‘I’m here to earn your trust and your confidence,’” he said. “I have to work extra hard at building those relationships, because people don’t know me, and I don’t know them.
“I’m not waiting for people to come to me — I’m going to them. One of the things I told our staff as part of my leadership plan is get out of the inbox and get out of the office — those two things I will continue to practice.”
Ortega said his main goals at Bryan are to create a stronger identity and a stronger vision for the school, and also to boost attendance numbers.
“Attendance has not improved here, it has actually dipped a little,” he said. “If we can’t get kids here, we don’t have a chance at improving anything. If we build a stronger identity and a vision we’re working toward, that translates to higher attendance because kids will want to be part of that.”