Improving communication, strategic planning the priorities of OPS' new leader

Jul 15, 2013

The new superintendent of the Omaha Public Schools says strategic planning and improving communication with stakeholders are his areas of focus.

Monday begins Mark Evans' third week as OPS' new superintendent. He was hired last December to lead the district of 50,000 students and more than 8,000 employees. Evans, the former superintendent of the Andover, Kansas, Public Schools, says he's spent much of his time talking with outside groups, as well as OPS staff. He says there's a common theme in those conversations.


“There's a real sense in my mind that everybody wants OPS to be successful, they want stability, they want direction, they want focus, and they're willing to say I want to help you on that journey.”


He says one of the district's biggest challenges is to improve communication.


“We haven't talked well amongst ourselves, let alone with the external group, and so kind of to put it in an analogy, in some minds, OPS has kind of been in a castle with the drawbridge up. And there are some external leaders who've told me that, in a matter of words. And I guess what I see as one of the initial challenges is getting that drawbridge down.”


Evans says improving communication is one of his priorities, along with strategic planning. And he feels the new, 9 member OPS board is committed to taking on those issues.


“Their hearts are in the right place. They're here for making a difference with the 50,000 young people, and that's the most important thing. Now after that, and I would say, and I think they would be the first to admit too, that they're still learning a lot. This is a big organization with nearly eight thousand employees and a budget well over 600 million dollars, it's a lot to learn. And so they're on a steep, steep learning curve.”


Evans says he wants stakeholders to give input and hold him accountable as the district's new leader. During his first two weeks, Evans says he's spent much of his time talking with OPS staff and external groups, such as the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, about what the district is doing right---and could be doing better.


The OPS board meets at 6:30 pm Monday.