Month: November 2016

Outdoor Classroom Update

Thanks to PTA support, the students, staff and families of Harrison Elementary will have a new space to celebrate in the spring of 2017! After twelve months of planning, designing and working with teachers, administration and private funders, the PTA is proud to announce the final plans for our “Big Idea” project — the Harrison Elementary Outdoor Classroom and butterfly garden.

Initial plans for this project included fruit trees and raised garden beds, however, after working with TAC and the staff at Harrison, the PTA learned that limitations on land availability and maintenance would jeopardize its success. As a result, we worked together to refocus the project around the idea of an outdoor classroom, a project that would still fulfill key project objectives.

The purpose of the project is twofold: to increase hands-on learning opportunities for Harrison students and to beautify the school grounds.

This fall a workgroup of teachers and parents met to prioritize the teachers’ desired outdoor classroom elements, solicited bids from vendors and reviewed the outdoor classroom designs from three local landscape companies. The winning design, selected by Harrison staff, was Kinghorn Gardens. Details on the layout and elements of the garden are noted at the links below.

The outdoor classroom will be located on the northwest side of the school, adjacent to the stairs exiting from the gymnasium. It will incorporate native Nebraska plants, trees and grasses as well as tiered seating for the students. The project will also incorporate a butterfly garden and bench as a memorial to our beloved counselor, Mrs. Beers, who passed away last summer. Landscaping will be fully funded by PTA revenue and a grant from the Omaha Men’s Garden Club. The Beers’ family has provided financial support for the memorial bench.

There is still plenty of work to be done to implement the project and a dedication ceremony will planned for the spring. The PTA will be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the space so if you have a green thumb, or would like to lend a hand, please email us.

Special thanks goes to Indian Creek Nursery, Sun Valley Landscaping, Kinghorn Gardens, Mulhall’s Nursery and Gardening, City Sprouts and the Omaha Men’s Garden Club for their support and assistance during the process.

Check out the plans!

A natural outdoor classroom provided by Kinghorn Gardens
A natural outdoor classroom provided by Kinghorn Gardens





Meeting Minutes for October 17, 2016

September Meeting Minutes are approved

Introduction of OPS School Board Candidates: Ben Pearlman and Alex P Gates

Mrs. Laura Beeghly is the new gifted and talented facilitator for Harrison. There have been lots of questions about identification for the gifted and talented. OPS is dedicated to upholding standards of excellence, being inclusive and also rigorous. All OPS students are being identified in the same way. Permanent identification instead of annual. Once you are identified, you stay in the program through 12th grade. Identification through multiple measures must meet three out of four. Children can continue to be identified throughout the year. She will be here during parent teacher conferences. Read more about the student selection process here.

Principals report

We are celebrating Red ribbon week.
Next week is parent teacher conferences.
Tuesday the interview process begins for a new school counselor and Dr. Haynes is hoping to have someone in place by January 2017.
Disney musical is going well, casting took place today
Robotics teams have been selected, there is a meeting at 6 pm Wednesday
Basketball intramurals are starting for both girls and boys
Trick or Trunk Monday October 31 at 2:30, 2:00 arrival time for room parents.

Treasurers Report

We have $20,560.58 in our account that includes $10,000 earmarked for the Outdoor Classroom and also includes the money in the robotics sub account.
So far, we had 111 members for PTA, only had 90 last year
T-shirt sales were very successful and thanks to Nicole Brown for designing our awesome t-shirts. View the updated budget documents here.

Old PTA Business

Star grants applications continue to come in, and looking for more volunteers for the star grant committee.
–Outdoor classroom updates: we are looking to work with TAC and have have an answer this week with a groundbreaking in late October. Butterfly Bench was sold to us at cost from Mullhalls.
–Coat Closet: Mrs. Laura Bowden. During conferences, the library will be open but private and families can come in and take what they need from the clothing closet. We are currently very short on coats, need new and used coats. Also need sneakers. Halloween costumes we have plenty. Bring your items to the office. Label them as “clothes closet” when you bring them in.
–Adopt a Family: We are starting an Adopt a Family. If your child is friends with anyone in the immigrant population, please make an effort to include them in school events and also offer transportation if needed.

New PTA Business

–We are in need of leadership for next year. Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President
–Bash is November 18. Emojis is the theme. DJ for dancing, food games, bake sale games. Room baskets.
–Teacher staff appreciation committee. Jennifer Wolfe. Pitch is catering the meal for parent teacher conferences next week.
–Robotics, Frank Luceri, 20 kids this year. Meeting this wednesday from 6 to 7:30. Friday, start building robots. 6 tournaments this year.
–Proposal for new club, Secret Millionares Club organized by Cecil Hicks & Erik Hoiekvam. This club will introduce basic financial concepts to 5th and 6th graders. Hoping to have 20 kids, 2 weeks out of the month, 45 minutes to an hour.  Requesting $50 for snacks. Will probably be the first 20 children who apply. Move to approve by Nicole Brown, Second to move to approve by Angela Smith, the club is approved by the PTA members in attendance.
–Dads’ night out is our annual event to help struggling families during the holidays. It is the week before Christmas so dads’ night out will be Tuesday December 20th. The event will be at the Nifty Bar, if you bring a present you get your first drink free. 7 pm to 10 pm.
–Harrison Year Book, Nicole calls for images for the year book.

Upcoming events

  • October  27/28 – No School
  • October 31 – Halloween Parade / Party – 2:00 p.m. Room Parent arrival / 2:30 parade / 3:00 classroom parties
  • November  18 – BASH / 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. event
  • November 23/24/25 – No School
  • December 9 – Winter Program / 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
  • December 20 – Dad’s Night Out
  • December 23 – January 6 – No School

–Nebraska Loves Public schools, Brittany checking out parent involvement.
–Mark DiShaw with Douglas County Sherriffs’ office on Cyber Security.

Members in attendance:

Carol Frankesen
Alexia Morrison
Emily Winterwoood
Charlotte Shafer
Tara Wilcox
Rielly Rettele
Corrie Warak
Anna Rivedal
Sarah Wynn
Karen Spurgeon
Denise Easton
Cecil Hicks
Kristin Rasmussen
Brad Carne
Alice Goodman
Michele Merrill
Molly Lolling
Andrew and Jen Cerin
Mary Ann McDonald
Joel and Esther Fischer
Katie Coughran
Jamie Frost
Ben and Katherine Fischer
Ruth Farrington
Nicole Brown
Angela Smith


Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) is implementing an updated identification process. This process requires students to meet multiple criteria including assessment data and teacher input.

To be identified for GATE services a student must meet at least 3 of the 4 criteria listed below:

COGNITIVE – Top 5% at the school or national level on an intelligence/cognitive test

ACHIEVEMENT – Top 5% at the school or national level on a grade-level achievement test

Cognitive assessments measure a student’s reasoning and learning abilities. Achievement assessments measure how much a student has learned, specific to grade level standards.

An example of a cognitive assessment is the Inview which is administered to all 2nd grade students (and is therefore used in the identification of incoming 3rd graders). The Inview measures verbal and nonverbal reasoning abilities.

Another example of a cognitive assessment is the CogAT which is administered by the GATE facilitator. This measures verbal, nonverbal, and quantitative reasoning abilities. The CogAT has been used in the past to identify students for the GATE summer QUEST program. Currently, it is administered when acceleration is being considered for a student. It may also be administered to students who are new to OPS (and therefore lack an Inview score) and are being considered for the GATE program.

An example of an achievement assessment is the MAPS test which is administered to all 2nd graders. NESA scores are also used to evaluate achievement.

MOTIVATION/PERFORMANCE – “A” or Advanced (ADV) in 60% or more courses on the most recent semester grade report OR Qualifying recommendation for Motivation/Performance as recorded on the Classroom Teacher Input Form OR Parent/Guardian/Student/Staff Referral

CREATIVITY/LEADERSHIP – Qualifying recommendation for Creativity/Leadership as recorded on the Classroom Teacher Input Form OR Parent/Guardian/Student/Staff Referral

Parents, guardians, students and staff interested in having a student identified for Gifted and Talented Education services are welcome to complete a referral. Each referral will be considered and the student will have a referral and eligibility worksheet started so that all available criteria can be reviewed.

The Omaha Public Schools’ Gifted and Talented Education carefully works to implement equitable identification processes and procedures that will permanently identify high performing students for GATE services within the Omaha Public Schools, nurture their social/emotional development and enhance their curriculum experiences so these unique individuals may reach their fullest potential.

*During the 2016-2017 transition year, the following apply:

  • Students at a secondary building with four or more years of GATE services (as recorded in Infinite Campus) will continue to be identified.
  • Students may meet one of the criteria if they have received a minimum of one year of GATE specialized instruction in grades 2‐5
  • Students who prior to 2016-2017 had an intelligence test with a score greater than or equal to 130 will continue to be identified.

For further information, contact Laura Beeghly, Harrison’s GATE facilitator at or visit the OPS website.