SOUTH SIOUX CITY – Rony Ortega has been offered the position of superintendent of the South Sioux City Community School District.
The offer is pending contractual agreement and final background checks, communications director Lance Swanson said.
Ortega was one of four candidates vying for the job. Current superintendent Todd Strom recently announced that he will be retiring at the end of the school year after 33 years.
On Monday, the board held a final interview with each candidate, and on Wednesday, the offer to Ortega was announced.
“As a board, we face a number of difficult decisions,” according to a statement from the school board. “The school board understands the importance of this process and selection, as it relates to our students, staff and community.”
“It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made,” said board vice-chairman Chris Krueger, adding that the board was “struggling” to make the decision because of the strengths of the finalists, according to the release.
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“We really had a talented shortlist of finalists, each nominee brought high caliber educational knowledge and community connections,” he said.
Ortega has been the principal of Bryan High School in Omaha for four years.
He holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, an M.A. in Educational Leadership, and an M.A. in Educational Counseling from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and a B.S. in Secondary Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. .
He previously served as executive director of academic support and supervision for the Omaha Public School District and principal of Buffett Magnet Middle School in Omaha.
Ortega said Monday there are 244 districts in Nebraska and only three he would consider working in — South Sioux City is one of them.
“I think my strengths are a perfect match for your challenges here. You have everything in place and all it takes is strong leadership and the right kind of leadership to really get things done,” he said.
Ortega is married to Cara Ortega who currently works at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has four children together. He graduated from Schuyler Central High School in Schuyler, Nebraska.
Ortega spent Nov. 16 in South Sioux City, meeting people throughout the district and community. He said it was a rigorous day and worth it.
“I received a lot of information … not only about the strengths, but also about the challenges,” he said. “I keep thinking that I can meet some of these challenges, that some of the challenges you’re facing right now are challenges that I’ve faced before.”
When asked what he would do to focus on culture, diversity, equity and inclusion, Ortega said it’s a lens he looks at things with and a lens he looks through. was born.
He said it’s important for children to see themselves in the school district and in school staff. He said he loves the community he is proud of and values diversity.
“I would like to push the community a little bit more to take this next step of inclusion and equity,” he said. “These are some of the challenges at South Sioux City Community Schools. How do we move from valuing and appreciating diversity to ensuring equitable outcomes for our children.”
Ortega said Bryan High School in Omaha is known as the district’s inclusive school and the only school where students in advanced academics reflect the school’s demographics.
Asked how he will approach recruitment and retention, Ortega said he would like to look at ways to provide education to classified personnel and help them progress to teachers and district administrators.
When it comes to recruiting, Ortega said hosting trainee teachers is a great way to recruit teachers and see if they’ll be a good fit for the district.
District stakeholders and community members said it was important to have a superintendent involved in the district and Ortega was asked how he would be involved.
Ortega said he currently works at a large high school, there is an event or activity every night he can attend. He said he tries to balance his time in the community with his management team to be present at events.
“You want to be at all the events, but that’s not humanly possible, so how do you work with your leadership team to make sure there’s representation from the district at all the events important to the community,” did he declare.
He said Monday he was looking forward to identifying opportunities in South Sioux City where he could be useful and have a presence.
At the end of the interview, Ortega shared a draft transition plan with the school board asking for input and feedback. If accepted, Ortega’s contract will be approved on December 12 with a start date of July 1, 2023.