Meet OPS' New Administration Staffers

By: WOWT 6 News Email
By: WOWT 6 News Email

The Omaha Public School District is welcoming eight new staff members to the Central Office.

All eight appointments by Superintendent Mark Evans, who joined OPS in July 2013, were approved by the Board of Education Monday.

Melissa Comine, Executive Director of School Support/Elementary

Ms. Comine brings 15 years of service to the district to her new post. She began her time with OPS in 1998 as a teacher at King Science. Later, she spent three years as an instructional facilitator and then six years in assistant principal and principal roles at the grade-school level – the most recent of which she’s spent leading Sunny Slope Elementary.

She holds two degrees from UNO – a bachelor’s and a master’s.

Ms. Comine said, “It has been an honor to serve as principal at both Sunny Slope and Belvedere, where I have developed many sustaining relationships with families, students and staff. It is a privilege to be selected as one of the Elementary Executive Directors in the Omaha Public Schools. This new position allows me to work in a variety of capacities to support continuous improvement in all schools.”

Lisa Utterback, Executive Director of School Support/Elementary

Ms. Utterback moves into her new post from Miller Park Elementary, where she’s been the principal since 2009. In all, she has 14 years of experience with OPS. Her first job was teaching fifth grade at Walnut Hill; after that, she worked as an instructional facilitator, dean, and assistant principal before advancing to the lead office at Miller Park.

Ms. Utterback holds a bachelor’s degree from College of St. Mary. Her master’s degree is from Doane College.

“Serving as the principal at Miller Park Elementary School for the past five years has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” Ms. Utterback said. “I am certain the school will continue to be a pillar of hope for the students and community! I look forward to working alongside the Executive Council to provide support and resources to all schools and families within our district to increase student achievement.

Jerry Corner, Jr., Coordinator, Office of Community, School & Family Engagement

Mr. Corner brings a broad range of experience in the private/non-profit sectors to OPS. Most recently, he’s served as a director for Lutheran Family Services, where he managed interdisciplinary collaborations to help meet the needs of children and families in the metro area. Previously, he worked as a family teacher/manager at Girls and Boys Town – and also in a management capacity at the Salvation Army.

Mr. Corner holds a bachelor’s degree from UNO and a master’s degree from Bellevue University.

He said he can’t wait to get started at OPS: “I am overjoyed and excited to serve in the position of Coordinator of Community, School and Family Engagement,” he said. “I want to thank the Board of Education and Mr. Evans for their vote of confidence. I look forward to serving the Omaha community in this capacity.”

Dr. Dwayne Chism, Executive Director of School Support/Elementary

Dr. Chism joins the district after serving for several years with the Bellevue Public Schools. There, he was a teacher and, most recently, an elementary school principal. Earlier, Dr. Chism worked with OPS – as the coordinator for the College Bound program and also for mentoring at Indian Hill Elementary, and as the chair of the Teacher Appraisal and Evaluation Team.

His three college degrees – a bachelor’s, master’s, and an Ed.D. – are all from UNO.

He says he’s looking forward to rejoining the district. “I am truly excited and honored to once again become a part of the Omaha Public Schools and to join in its mission to provide a quality education and bright future for all students,” Mr. Chism said.

Dr. David Alati, Norris Middle School Principal

Dr. Alati has served the district both at the building level and the district office level. Now, he’s returning home to the school at which he started his OPS career – Norris. He began as a PE teacher there in 1997, and then went on to serve in administrative capacities at Benson, Bryan, and Buffett. In 2012, Dr. Alati moved to TAC, serving as Coordinator of EXCELS/SIP-Special Projects.

Dr. Alati holds a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State. He earned his two advanced degrees – a master’s and an Ed.D. – from UNO.

As he prepares to start his new job, Dr. Alati said he’s looking forward to what’s ahead: “The opportunity to serve as the Principal of Norris Middle School is a tremendous honor and privilege,” he said. “The fact that I will be working at a school which serves students from the neighborhood my family and I live in is both humbling and exciting.”

Dr. Antoinette Turnquist, Executive Director, District Operational Services

A 50-year veteran of OPS, Dr. Turnquist is one of the living legends of the district. She spent 30+ years teaching at McMillan and South, also serving as a department head in the latter post. Dr. Turnquist joined the team at the district office in 2003 as Coordinator of Business Services. Then, in 2008, she was named Director of Business Services – a capacity in which she served as a departmental second-in-command to the retiring Dr. Jerry Bartee.

Dr. Turnquist holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from UNO; she earned her Ed.D. from UNL in 1991.

“I am deeply honored by this appointment – and look forward to working with an outstanding team of colleagues in the provision of the finest educational facilities, materials, and services for students in the Omaha Public Schools,” Dr. Turnquist said. “This is an energizing opportunity to further serve in an organization of significant importance to an entire community dedicated to the education of all young people.”

Sharif Liwaru, Director, Office of Equity & Diversity

Mr. Liwaru arrives at OPS after a decade at UNO, where he currently serves as Attendance Collaborative Director. Prior to that post, he worked for the university in managing roles for its school engagement and student organizations/leadership efforts. In addition, Mr. Liwaru has also served the Omaha community in various capacities, including organizational leadership and mentoring.

Mr. Liwaru holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from UNO.

“This is a great time to be part of amazing changes which are occurring in the field of education,” Mr. Liwaru says. “I look forward to providing leadership and direction to achieve positive and continuing district-wide inclusivity strategies with emphasis on providing positive attention to serving the diverse needs of the OPS community.”

Rob Dickson, Executive Director, Information Management Services

Mr. Dickson comes to OPS from Wichita, Kansas. There, he’s served the Andover Public Schools for 15 years – the last ten as director of technology. Mr. Dickson was recently named one of the NSBA’s “20 to Watch” education technology leaders for 2014. Prior to his time in public education, he spent several years as a network specialist for the United States Air Force.

Mr. Dickson holds a degree from Butler County Community College and numerous technical certifications, as well.

Mr. Dickson said that he is looking forward to his new job at the district: "I am honored to be joining the OPS leadership team and the amazing community of Omaha,” he said. “I am excited to be a part of this dynamic and forward thinking time for Omaha Public Schools.”

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