Gene Haynes, longtime Omaha North principal, to retire

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- Legendary Omaha North High School Principal Gene Haynes will soon call it a career.

Principal Haynes says it was a tough decision to make, but last week, Haynes announced he plans to retire.

For 20 years, Haynes walked the halls of North High School.

Before he was Principal Haynes, he was Coach Haynes — one of the first African-American head coaches in OPS. He coached the tech high school basketball team back in 1978, with a young Thomas Warren, who went on to become Omaha's first African-American police chief. Today, Warren is president and CEO of the Urban League of Nebraska.

"What we taught him and his intuition that he had before he got there, I marvel at what he's been able to accomplish and he's one of my favorites of many," Haynes said.

Warren calls Haynes a mentor and a friend, saying Coach Haynes was teaching more than basketball.

"He was also into character development," Warren said. "He wanted you to be successful and responsible as a young man, so you could be successful as an adult."

"That's what I remember most in terms of his willingness to invest his time in your personal growth and social development," he said.

Haynes can call most of his students by name. The principal says he just remembers the families that come through the district.

“It’s easy to remember grandma, grandpa, great-grandmother, grandpa, and those type of things,” he said. “And when they come in, I try to set a goal for myself with my freshman the first quarter: I want to know at least three-quarters of those young people’s first and last names. And if I forget their names, little brother, little sister.”

Haynes has been with Omaha Public Schools for more than 50 years. He plans to retire soon, but until he does, the principal said he will continue to walk the halls of North, calling his students by name.

Haynes said making the decision to retire was very emotional, but his love of family just might have tipped the scales in favor of retirement.

"I have two grandchildren: a 12-year-old and a 7-year-old," he said. "They live in California, and they always asking Papa, 'When are you coming to see us? And how long are you going to stay?"

Haynes will walk into retirement hoping he's remembered by all of those he's encouraged, motivated and even disciplined.

"As someone what cared and someone that really wished to provide the best opportunities for students to have success. That's how Gene Haynes wishes to be remembered.