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Equity and Diversity: Winter 2021 Newsletter

Direction-A Letter from the Director of Equity and Diversity

"When you’re up against a trouble,

    Meet it squarely, face to face;

Lift your chin and set your shoulders,

    Plant your feet and take a brace.

When it’s vain to try to dodge it,

    Do the best that you can do;

You may fail, but you may conquer,

    See it through!"

-Edgar A. Guest

Many of us have been fortunate enough now to meet the optimism of the near closing of this pandemic. Around this time last year we were different people than we are today. We believe one thing to be true about ourselves. We understood our identity before COVID. We may have even thought we understood our purpose before COVID. We may have thought we understood how our identity and purpose connected to our work.

In the last year life has posed many obstacles to us on a macro-level that has disrupted our understanding of ourselves. To name a few challenges we have all been forced to meet we have witnessed the responses of our countrypeople, and the world, to being denied access and opportunities as a result of government mandated shutdowns. This changed us. We have been confronted with racist injustices manifesting in healthcare, labor, and law enforcement. This changed us. We have experienced the most contested transfer of political power since the Civil War that piqued with an insurrection of the nation’s capital. This changed us. You have had personal, or micro-level that has disrupted your understanding of yourself. This changed you.

In Shawn Ginwright’s article “The Future of Healing: Shifting From Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement” he challenges us to not allow ourselves, or our students to be labeled by crisis. My charge to all of us is the same. As we “see it through” we need to make sure that we do not overlook our need to build back our efficacy. In doing so I encourage you to look at three steps: 1.) Raise your awareness about what you are actually experiencing through a full context 2.) Seek a space or time to that allows you to find safety and 3.) Find an appropriate therapy source that brings you healing.

A new “you“ is emerging through our crisis. Your being is redefined through reflection. Your agency will now align with your new being. Your belonging and place in our work is adjusted because the labor has had to adapt to the crisis. As you find your new identity, I challenge you to embrace your new sense of self and allow our challenges to not limit you but help you to see how because of your resilience you are limitless.

To carry on more conversation about Building Efficacy please join the Office of Equity and Diversity for the third webinar of our Community to Classroom Connections #C3 series. For more information click here.



A District of Inclusion-Counseling Department

k+r strategies – a collaborative, majority Black owned change navigation  firm that centers equity and justice

The OPS School Counseling Department has contracted K+R Strategies for multi-year professional development around systemic change. 

k+r strategies is a collaborative, majority Black owned change navigation firm that centers equity and justice. Their approach is rooted in emergent strategy and focuses on culture shifting.

The first year of the series focuses on social change navigation, remaining resilient and personally and professionally sustainable, and supports School Counselors to locate the power of change that they have in their own lives and within their communities. Future studies will explore culture and the ways that School Counselors can intervene as agents of positive change. 

The Change in our Schools-Belvedere Elementary

Belvedere Elementary has developed an annual tradition to celebrate Black History Month. Assistant Principal, Shaneice Udofia, led and effort this year to focus on Black History through literacy (reading) activities and also through community outreach. The Community Professional activity was designed to Inform and inspire elementary students (K-5) about your career path. Additionally, African American professionals provided students with the knowledge of the skills needed to prepare for career fields and to be a leader in the community. The second arm of this effort asked community members/leaders to read a text from a Black author to the classes to provide a gift of a shared reading experience with Belvedere children. Mrs. Udofia said the following, "The purpose of Belvedere's Black History Month celebration is to recognize past and present people and events pertaining to African Americans. We paid tribute to the struggle and accomplishments of African American throughout the month of February. We gained knowledge through games, contests, and visits with community members."

Minnesota Humanities

Minnesota Humanities Center – Looking Ahead

MHC/OPS’s spring 2021 virtual professional development offerings are now underway. We are thankful for all our scholars, assistants, and for all who are participating - OPS Educators have registered over 800 times with us this spring. Looking ahead, on April 8 (6-8 pm) is the next virtual Community Infused Story Circle led by MHC Humanities Officer, Rose McGee.  Registration for that event is now open and can be found here: Community-Infused Story Circle. This wonderful Circle builds on OPS’s recent Community to Classroom Connections webinar “The Words We Choose” and will feature students from South High School.  We are so excited to witness their stories and truths and hope you can join us.

Minnesota Humanities She-roes

In honor of Women’s History Month, we would like to take this opportunity to recognize four amazingly talented, gifted, and cause-driven women who are at the heart of our Education Strategy with Omaha Public Schools:  Rose McGee, Peggy Jones, Shelley Henderson, and Dr. Verna Price. These women are providing outstanding professional development and trainings to the district’s employees, and, in addition, they are also making significant impact within the broader community of Omaha and across the country. We are so proud to highlight some of their most recent accomplishments. Scroll down a bit to read more...

Wishing you all a Happy, Peaceful Spring!

Minnesota Humanities: She-Roes

Minnesota Humanities Officer Rose McGee is founder of what’s become the nationally recognized non-profit Sweet Potato Comfort Pie®. Since the murder of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis, Rose’s “sweet” approach to fighting for racial justice has been featured in (to name a few) Huffington Post, USA Today, People Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Guidepost,  Washington Post’s Lily Edition, one of the NBC Nightly News top stories in 2020, and a recent sponsor of King Arthur Baking Company. Rose’s response to this unexpectant notoriety: “Humbly, I feel Divinely guided to stay focused by keeping my eyes on the pies.”

Peggy Jones, (M.F.A., University of Nebraska-Lincoln) is an Associate Professor and past Interim Chairperson of the Black Studies Department, and a member of the Graduate and Women's and Gender Studies faculty, and the Nebraska Humanities Council Speakers Bureau.

Peggy was recently honored for National Women’s History month by the University of Nebraska – Omaha for her contributions as an associate professor and associate director in the Women’s and Gender Studies department. Peggy works closely with the Minnesota Humanities Center’s Education Strategy as a community partner and a member of the Curriculum Leadership Team, assisting with the School Action Team meetings and the Adaptive Action Research Project program.

Shelley Henderson is the Diversity & Inclusion Manager for FIRST—For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. She has spent more than 20 years working as a youth development specialist, certified teacher, nonprofit executive, university program coordinator/adjunct professor, community organizer, public policy advocate, and volunteer for a number of organizations and initiatives. Equipping adults to address inequity and advance social justice has always been a priority throughout her professional journey. Henderson earned her bachelor’s degree in secondary education and her master’s degree in educational administration and supervision of secondary schools from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is finishing her doctoral degree in educational leadership at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and starting a Certificate of Diversity & Equity in Education with an emphasis in human resource development at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Shelley will be a presenter at the upcoming National Summit for Educational Equity from the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity organization with her session entitled “Building Capacity: Preparing FIRST for the Race to STEM Access and Opportunity for All”.

With Minnesota Humanities Center, Shelley is one of the Educational Strategy scholars, and facilitates the offerings Gender Intersectionality, Re-imagining Giftedness and Becoming Equity Influencers™. Shelley also works

Dr. Verna Price was recently named as a Change Leader on Twin Cities Business magazine’s TCB 100: The People to Know in 2021 list. After working as a consultant and executive coach in the Twin Cities for two decades, she looks to 2021 to change corporate cultures around race. Price, one of the few Black women in the Twin Cities who’s served as a leadership adviser, wants to leverage the heightened awareness around racism and inequality to move beyond traditional diversity and inclusion programs. Dr. Verna is a scholar with Minnesota Humanities Center’s Educational Strategy partnership with OPS, facilitating the Principal Cohort and the Personal Power in the Workplace offerings.

Distance Learning with Common Sense: There's More to Black History Than Slavery and Civil Rights

Join educator Tory Wadlington as he shares his experience celebrating Black History Month. Tory will share resources for exploring Black individuals who have shaped the world we live in. We'll learn how he shares with his community to make Black history and culture a part of every day.

A Place of Refuge-Douglas County Historical Society Project

Douglas County Historical Society | SHARE Omaha

The DCHS (located on the Fort Omaha Metro Community College campus) mounts an annual exhibit on different topics concerning Douglas County’s history. Our upcoming exhibit Rooted in Diversity: Douglas County Ethnic Heritage will illustrate the large and varied number of immigrant and refugee groups that have settled in Omaha through the past two hundred or so years. There are, of course, a very large number of groups, and we have decided to name as many as possible, while highlighting about twelve of the largest groups (for reference, other groups include Native Americans, Irish, German, Czech, Polish, Mexican, Karen, etc.).

In highlighting these groups, we hope to provide information on the group’s cultural/ethnic identity and the context for their arrival in Douglas County, but for us it is equally important to illustrate each group’s presence in and contribution to Omaha. Our main goal is to show how Omaha has been influenced by and continues to be defined by all of its diverse residents.

Essentially, one portion of our exhibit space will be divided out to give each highlighted group a small area. Because we do not have anything in our collection on the Omaha Sudanese population, we are hoping to crowdsource from local organizations and individuals. We are looking for:

  • Any photos that document the Sudanese presence in and contribution to Omaha (family businesses, churches, celebrations/events, influential individuals, etc.). We would be happy to take digital versions of any image, or to accept originals on loan.
  • Any artifacts that exemplify the group’s traditions or values that could be loaned to our exhibit (traditional clothing, Arabic or Nuer-language documents/texts, signage/advertisements/etc. for local businesses, social organizations, or religious groups)? What are they? 

Douglas County Historical Society is looking for connections regarding an exciting exhibit.  They would like to highlight artifacts and local representation of the following groups:

  • Karen
  • Hmong
  • Somali
  • Afghan
  • Nepali/Bhutanese
  • Guatemalan
  • Sudanese

The General Crook House Museum (the exhibit will be in the lower level of this building) has a tradition of decorating each room during the holiday season from November through December. This year the plan is to give various group different rooms to decorate to showcase holiday traditions from around the world. Many of the rooms will be Christmas themed, but this is by no means a requirement. There will be other rooms that are not Christmas themed (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.)

Please contact Natalie Kammerer (402) 451-1013 with any support.

Native Indigenous Center of Education (N.I.C.E) Program

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Storytelling has always been a medium used by Native Americans to convey values and traditions of the sacred. Stories of human and animal relatives tell of their experiences through adversity and curiosity which helps to build resilience and understandings of the self, family, and community. The NICE program is using virtual meeting spaces to share these stories with youth and community. Since January storytellers from the Umonhon, Lakota, Ponca, Dine', Yoeme, and Anishinaabe Nations have shared their wisdom via zoom on a weekly basis to keep this valuable tradition alive. Sessions are held Wednesdays at 5PM at the following link: 

Everyone is invited for questions please contact Echohawk Lefthand with the NICE program. 

Deaf History Month

City of Fremont, CA on Twitter: "March 13-April 15 is National Deaf History  Month. Fremont is proud to be the home of the CA School for the Deaf and  its vision to

Teaching with the HEART in Mind-Dr. Lorea Martinez

It's Teaching with the HEART in Mind Launch Week! To celebrate that this new Social Emotional Learning (SEL) guide is out and available, Dr. Martínez unveils the 5 SEL skills behind the HEART in Mind model. With practical techniques for educators of all subjects, Teaching with the HEART in Mind provides a comprehensive roadmap to the psychology of emotions, relationships, and adversity in learning. Be the best teacher you can be and infuse social emotional skills into any subject!

Click here for an interview that Leading Diversity hosted with Dr. Martinez

A District of Inclusion-School Safety

OPS introduces new protocols to address threats in schools


Recently passed legislature, has given us the opportunity to review our procedures in professional development for our OPS Security Officer staff.  Conversations and leadership from Minnesota Huminites have provided a direction that has not only assisted in reaching requirements for legislative, but more importantly provided a direction for a theme for our professional development in the 2021/2022 school year which will improve our abilities to work effectively with students, staff, parents, and other visitors to our schools.  

This spring the first cohort of OPS Security Guards will be attending a training session on Building Student Resilience hosted by Dr. Tommy Watson. 

Resilience is one of the top factors to long-term student success. Even students, who have been unsuccessful with the basic school accommodations at Tier 1 level, can benefit and make better progress with resilient-based interventions that address more of their social, emotional and behavioral needs.

Building Student Resilience allows educators/caregivers to focus on a strength-based strategies to dealing with students who have failed with Tier 1 interventions.

Building Student Resilience will focus on:

  • Emotional competence– Increasing student’s ability of self-regulation of emotions and impulse.
  • Social competence– Increasing student’s ability to better connect to their surroundings.
  • Behavioral competence– Increasing student’s ability to recognize and build on their talents and skills.

We are excited to start the path to re-envisioning our school safety efforts and practices and are thankful for our partnership with Minnesota Humanities Center.

The Change in our Schools-Buffett Magnet Middle School

General Information

Buffett engaged with Inclusive Communities over a year ago to support inclusive teaching practices and self-reflection among teachers and staff. While the pandemic changed school environments over the past year, a renewed desire to engage in conversations about the impact of equity and diversity on our teaching emerged. The summer's BLM and strengthening movements to support the voiceless in our nation gave Buffett teachers pause about their own work. After remote teaching, Family 3:2 teaching, and then return to in-person teaching, the time was right to continue our journey of self-reflection with the ultimate goal being a transformation of mindset Buffett staff brings to the table each day while working with students. This semester, we have engaged again with Inclusive Communities and now the Office of Equity and Diversity to continue the reflective journey and increase the lenses with which we approach students. Simultaneously and to enrich our experience, the Buffett Book Club was formed and will begin reading titles such as "We Want To Do More Than Just Survive" by Bettina  L. Love, "The Color of Law" by Richard Rothstein, "The Skin I'm In" by Sharon G. Flake, and "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" by Beverly Daniel Tatum.

Title IX: What Next Podcast-A National Wave of Anti-Trans Bills

What Next with Mary Harris.


As legislative sessions begin across the country, a rash of anti-trans bills have been brought to the floor by Republican legislators. Many of the proposals target trans youth -- both in sports, and access to medical care. If any of these bills become law, what will it mean for trans rights across the country? 

Quick Insights-IHE Virtual Week of Understanding 2021

Institute for Holocaust Education


Week of Understanding is an annual educational initiative created by the Institute for Holocaust Education and the Omaha Public Schools. The week is designed to deliver Holocaust survivor testimony to a maximum number of students in one school week.  This year Week of Understanding will be a virtual event to accommodate the safety of our speakers, students, and teachers. During the week of March 22-26, 2021, we will be streaming at least six speakers into schools across Nebraska. As sad as we are that we cannot be physically in schools this year due to Covid-19, we are hoping this allows us to broaden our reach to schools outside the Omaha metro area. Please sign up here for a date and time. And enjoy a preview of this year’s speakers.


Equity in the Community-Equal Play: Inspiring Confidence (EPIC!)


When the Northwest Girls Basketball team was confronted by a member of the Norfolk High School crowd who used a racial slur at the team, Mr. Lee, the school principal was approached by an organization that is skilled and equipped to support these circumstances, specifically. EPIC! strongly supports having a Woman of Color assist with the unpacking in of this incident. Especially considering it focuses on creating equitable opportunities for African American girls. 

EPIC! for Girls (Equal Play Inspiring Confidence for Girls) is a non-profit organization working to strengthen the quality, competitiveness, and accessibility of access to athletics for girls (primarily girls of color) in Omaha. As they describe it themselves,

" We’re on a mission to strengthen the quality, competitiveness, and accessibility of sports for girls in Omaha, NE.  EPIC works alongside organizations providing accessible and affordable opportunities to compete in multiple sports, including but not limited to: basketball, volleyball, soccer, dance, softball, gymnastics, track and field, golf, tennis, and swimming. EPIC is focused on working with sports programs that equip women and girls with the life skills acquired through sport in addition to providing resources to overcome the multifaceted challenges women and girls face in this world."

If you would like more information about EPIC! click here

Check Your Pedagogy

Addressing Prejudice and Building Racial Equity into America’s Schools

by Dr. Mark J. Van Ryzin

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Hint: It’s the pedagogy as much as the curriculum!

Intervention programs aimed at reducing racial disparities in education often focus on reducing the impact of discrimination through coaching in coping mechanisms. However, such curriculum-based approaches can be expensive and time-consuming to implement, particularly if teachers are expected to become experts in the program and set aside instructional time to deliver them to students. There is an alternative approach that can address the underlying prejudice that gives rise to these negative social experiences in the first place. Importantly, this approach does not involve the implementation of an external curriculum, but rather involves a change in pedagogy.

To read more from Dr. Van Ryzin please click here


Equity and Diversity Advisory Board- Palma Strand

Professor Palma Strand clerked for Judge J. Skelly Wright on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and for Justice Byron R. White on the United States Supreme Court. Prior to joining the Creighton faculty, she taught at the Georgetown University Law Center and the University of Maryland School of Law. She is currently Professor of Law in the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program in the Graduate School's Department of Interdisciplinary Studies.


Professor Strand was a Hewlett Fellow in Alternative Dispute Resolution and Legal Problem-Solving at the Georgetown University Law Center from 2002-2004. She was also the co-founder and principal of The Arlington Forum, a civic organizing initiative based in Arlington, Virginia, that worked with community institutions to broaden and deepen civic engagement in the area of schools, land use, youth, and government processes generally. Palma was on the faculty in the School of Law for 10 years prior to moving to the Graduate School.

Professor Strand is Director of Creighton’s 2040 Initiative as well as Co-Founder and Research Director of Civity,  She is Affiliated Faculty at Stanford University's Institute for Research in the Social Sciences, and she has served as Chair of the University Network for Collaborative Governance. Palma designs and facilitates Conversations About Race and Belonging for public school teachers in Nebraska and other states.

“I get most excited - in teaching and in research - about issues that arise at the juncture of legal structures, cutting-edge conflict engagement and governance processes, and important current equity perspectives, including those that related to race and gender.”

El Dia Del Nino is April 30th!!!!


Omaha Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, age, genetic information, citizenship status, 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 address inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Superintendent of Schools, 3215 Cuming Street, Omaha, NE 68131 (531-299-9822).

Las Escuelas Públicas de Omaha no discriminan basados en la raza, color, origen nacional, religión, sexo, estado civil, orientación sexual, discapacidad , edad, información genética, estado de ciudadanía, o estado económico, en sus programas, actividades y empleo, y provee acceso equitativo a los “Boy Scouts” y a otros grupos juveniles designados. La siguiente persona ha sido designada para atender estas inquietudes referentes a las pólizas de no discriminación: El Superintendente de las Escuelas, 3215 Cuming Street, Omaha, NE 68131 (531-299-9822).