Ortega to leave at end of school year, accepts superintendent position in South Sioux City

Justin Diep, Editor in Chief

After four years as a Bear, principal Dr. Rony Ortega will be stepping down at the end of this school year to become the next superintendent of the South Sioux City Community School District.

The decision was made following a public interview of the four finalists, which can be watched here.  

Ortega was not actively seeking a new job but the opportunity to apply came to him, and he decided it was worth it to at least explore. 

“If you’re interested or you think it might be a good fit you should explore it,” Ortega said. “There’s nothing wrong with you exploring positions especially if it’s positions that are going to help you grow.”  

In his new position, Ortega will oversee nearly 4,000 students in six elementary schools, one middle and one high school. He is looking forward to working closely to engage with not only the district but South Sioux City as a whole.  

“That is why I choose to do this because you’re not just are impacting the district but a whole community of people,” Ortega said. “To me that’s the most appealing part: that it’s of service not only to a school community but to a community.” 

The hardest part for Ortega was making the decision to leave because of the connections he made with the school.  

“I have never been as connected or have loved a place like I do here,” Ortega said. “In all my years of education I’ve worked in a lot of schools from Elkhorn to Papillion and OPS in multiple schools, multiple levels and I have never ever felt at home like I do here.”  

Reactions from staff, students, parents and the community have been positive throughout the whole progress. Some even came in with gift baskets and flowers for Ortega after his return from Thanksgiving break to congratulate him.  

We are thrilled for Dr. Ortega to become a superintendent,” OPS Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Logan said. “It is the most difficult time to lead in K-12.  He has taken on the challenge, and we all wish him and his family the very best in South Sioux City, Nebraska.” 

A spokesperson for OPS gave this statement regarding the selection of Bryan High’s new principal.  

“Our Human Resources team will post the Bryan High principal opening by January 2023. The hiring process will include a survey of students and staff to see what qualities they would like in their next school leader. An interview panel, which will include a Bryan High family representative, will help narrow qualified candidates to a finalist. Once a new principal is selected, Omaha Public Schools will communicate directly with staff, students and families,” OPS External Relations Administrator Bridget Blevins said.   

As Ortega looks back on his time as principal, he is most proud of bringing back a sense of pride within the school. He remembers meeting with students who said they didn’t feel proud of the school. Ortega cited rebranding efforts and a school identity committee for how he brought back a sense of pride.  

“It’s now a student-centered school that validates kids,” he said.  

Ortega also cited an increase in support of activities and a revamp of the athletic program to bring pride back. He highlighted the effects the boys’ soccer program going to state for the second time ever and making it to the semi-finals had on the school. 

“It was satisfying to know that it paid off and it paid off for the school because I started to see more swag in our kids, more pride and they finally had something they were proud of,” he said. “Across the board, in our athletic program we’re better today than we were four years ago, and I can say the same for activities too.”  

Ortega will replace Todd Storm, who announced his retirement in September after serving as South Sioux City’s Superintendent for six years.  

The South Sioux City Community School District’s Board of Education will formally approve Ortega’s contract at their December 12 meeting, and he will officially start his new position on July 1, 2023.