Pesek returns to alma mater to lead the pack

Pesek steps in as interim principal


Tania Moreno Tellez, Staff Writer

Jodi Pesek, former student and graduate of South High and current Alumni Association member, has stepped in as interim principal while principal Ruben Cano is on medical leave.  

“I’ve been principal for four years and have been an administrator since 2001 and, you know, I don’t know if I ever really believed that I would be here,” Pesek said. 

Pesek elaborated that, while she enjoyed being an administrator, serving as a principal at South was beyond her wildest dreams. 

I don’t think I allowed myself to really believe that this could be true, Pesek said.  

She said her and her family’s experiences and opportunities, at South and as South Omaha residents, played an important role in their individual successes and in who they have each become. 

You know, it’s something you can’t repay. But kind of feel like that’s what I’m trying to do now, Pesek said. 

Pesek was ready to greet South students on their first day back to the building after months of virtual classes. 

Staff and I were so excited to get to know our students, both those who will be attending and those who are going to stay virtual for the rest of the semester,” Pesek said. 

Pesek described the experience of being back at South as invigorating. 

“To be back, the memories are all here and the feeling of the building is similar, warm and inviting,” Pesek said. “I want to make sure that we’re doing everything to prepare our students to be successful in school, in future careers and just in life.” 

“I want to make sure that we’re doing everything to prepare our students to be successful in school, in future careers and just in life.” 

School is much different than in years past. There are new protocols and procedures that have been created to keep everyone safe during this time. That is one of the first things Pesek and the rest of the staff have focused on teaching students since their return. 

It comes down to safety first. We sent information to families through Facebook and Twitter. That has some of the basic information and we have information posted on our website, that will be similar,” Pesek said.  

Pesek went on to explain how teachers have been working diligently to meet the needs of students who are learning at home and in person and emphasized the importance of routine and reiterating information. 

“We’re going to be repetitive but we’re going to be there supporting. We’ve been out for eight months. So, you can imagine this being your freshman year and now we’re in October and it’s the first time you’re going to step into a new building,” Pesek said.  

Students, especially freshmen, will be watched closely to make sure they are following routines and procedures but to also make sure that staff are able to meet the social and emotional needs of students during this unprecedented experience. 

Safety is Pesek’s primary focus but there are other things she hopes to accomplish during her time as principal like expanding more space in classrooms and more. 

As a member of the Alumni Association, I’ve been aware of the effort to put on the new Performing Arts space, and the Capitol trying to raise money towards that effort,” Pesek said. 

As a musicianPesek understands how the Performing Arts expansion will help not only serve students who are in that path of study, but also help alleviate some issues with full classrooms by opening up more space. She also understands the attendance initiatives of both South and Omaha Public Schools. 

I know we would like to raise our attendance a little, but that’s hard to focus on when you’re dealing with such unprecedented times. Right now, it’s about making sure that we are the most welcoming, enriched environment that any of our students could ever want, Pesek said. 

Things might become stressful for students and staff alike during the Family 3/2 learning model, but everyone will be trying their best to manage both safety and education. Students that have returned to school in other districts earlier have been performing well. Therefore, as OPS schools adjust to the new schedule, school norms should become more familiar and easier to manage. 

There are some students that have chosen to stay remote because they’ve been the most comfortable and successful at home during this time for safety, but the other students that have come back are looking for a connection, potentially, not just to see friends,” Pesek said. “There is the social aspect, but they also want to connect with the teachers and the staff members that they relied on here. 

Pesek believes that everything is going to be okay. Small groups have reported to South for the ACT and PSAT and the students have performed well. 

We are serving students every day who have come back a little early, and everything is going great. So, I think we are going to make it, and everything will be fine,” Pesek said. “There will continue to be changes with this pandemic but know that we’re here for students for whatever they need remote or in person.” 

Pesek wants South to keep in mind that the students success is important and that the communication between students and teachers is crucially important. Whenever any student is struggling with any aspect of school, they should feel comfortable talking to any staff member they share a connection with. 

“I want the students to know that we wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t be here, if it weren’t for them. It’s my whole purpose. They’re the most important part of any school, and that their voices matter. Their creative and their success is what matters,” Pesek said. “I think that a lot of times, when adults are in their own space at home, they might forget that we wouldn’t have a school without our students, virtually or in personStudents are the most important thing. So, I want them to know they can talk to me or any other staff member in this building and tell them we are here and that we care.”

Students and staff must remember to keep masks on, at all times, and try to stay six feet away from others. These first weeks have been stressful for everyone, buthese new procedures are in place and enforced for everyone’s safety. 

I think that is going to take a little getting used to and its going to be a learning curve. Nobody’s perfect, all we can do is hope for the best,” Pesek said. I’m just proud to even be able to come in and help support everybody during this time. It’s just really special.”