Winter 2016 Newsletter

Page 1

A publication of the


Three-Generation Westside Families

Top row, L to R: Chris Hawkins (‘99), Kim Hawkins (‘72), Fred Hawkins, Sr. Bottom row, L to R: Ben, Colin, Hunter and Jack

If you take a look inside a classroom today at any of the schools in the district, chances are you know a child’s parent. There is even a chance you know the child’s grandparent! Westside Community Schools has been in existence for 68 years after a few small rural districts came together in March 1947 to form District 66. The goal of this district was to provide a high quality education for its students. Through the generations that return to the district, there is evidence this tradition of a quality education continues on. We reached out to a few of the three-generation families to talk with them about the District 66 tradition within their family. Mike Kroeger, (’68) has memories of the district before Sunset Hills School was completed. “The school was in a series of houses on 93rd Street that were later sold to different families.” Mike also has fond memories of the early years of modular scheduling, saying that it prepared him for college. When he and his wife Janet were looking for schools for their four children, they enrolled them at Swanson, believing

in the leadership of his former classmate and principal of the school, Jacquie (Adler) Estee (‘68). His oldest children Scott, (’94) and Amie (Kroeger) Schellpeper (‘98) have moved into the district. Scott and his wife Wendi (Sargent,‘95) chose District 66 for their children saying, “We share many of the same views on education as other families within the District. Knowing we are surrounding our family with like-minded families acts as an additional support structure for raising and educating our children.” Chris Hawkins (‘99), son of Kim Hawkins (‘72), and his wife Kayla (Monson,‘98) are proud members of the Loveland community. “We both had an extremely positive experience growing up in District 66 and knew we wanted the same opportunity for our kids”, says Kayla. “Our two oldest boys attend Loveland and their experience so far reaffirms our belief in the school. The education they are receiving, combined with the opportunities outside the classroom and the strong community support, are what has always made – and continues to make – Westside a special place.”

Alexis (Birge) Boulos (‘99) has a son, Niko, who attends Oakdale. “I think it speaks to the tradition of excellence in education at Westside Community Schools. When we moved back to Omaha, we only looked in one school district. I knew my kids would get a great education here,”said Debbie (Panos) Birge (‘72), mother of Alexis and Niko’s grandmother. She too has noticed the many parents who return to the District to raise their families. Debbie senses their connection to the schools and their desire to raise their children in the Westside community. Although generations return for its tradition, there is a sense the District continues to evolve and move forward. Debbie, like Mike, attended Westside when it first introduced modular scheduling. Debbie states, “The school district, even back in the 60’s and 70’s, was ahead of the game. I was at Westside when it started using modular scheduling, and that was very innovative for the time. It’s wonderful to see the District continuing to put a priority on innovation in education.” Debbie volunteers in her grandson’s classroom; she describes the changes, “The type of technology in the classrooms is different, but technology and innovation have always been important.” Another change will be the new construction and large renovations at the elementary schools and the middle school. Recently, the District passed a bond issue for these physical improvements. “Oakdale hasn’t physically changed at all, which is why it is so (Continued on page 2)

IN THIS ISSUE 40-Year Reunion: Westside High School Class of 1975 Westside Expands DECA Store estside Community Schools W Begins Renovation of Schools


Winter 2016

Happy New Year! The Alumni Association wishes you the best 2016 has to offer. 2015 was a big year around our Westside Community. Some milestones in 2015 included: • Our first edition of the “W” with a new look. We want to thank the Westside Community Schools Foundation and Clark Creative Group for helping make our “W” fresh for 2016. • 2015 welcomed new Alumni Association Board Members: Steve Archelpol (’68), Ricky Anderson (’05), and Denise (Haber)Swanson (’80). • Westside Community School constituents passed $79.99M in bonds for school improvements, additions, and reconstruction. We look forward to all the new improvements. • Westside High School, with the support of Dick and Helen Kelley and the Volberding family, opened “The Colosseum” as a retail store for DECA. If you get a chance, please stop by and show your Warrior Spirit with some new gear. • Maryanne Ricketts announced her retirement at the end of the 2015-2016 school year. Her dedication to Westside has been remarkable. We wish her well in retirement. Over the past few months, we have worked with Clark Creative Group to create the new look for the “W”. I hope you enjoy the outcome as much as the Newsletter volunteers and professionals. The Alumni Association is working hard toward producing a newsletter that you are proud of and look forward to reading. We continue to tweak our format and schedule as we attempt to communicate “Warrior Pride”. This edition includes a fun story about three-generation Warrior families.

Three-Generation Westside Families (Continued from page 1)

important to rebuild. I’m thrilled that our family can be a part of this fantastic transition that is happening in the District,” states Alexis. Alexis, like Niko, attended Oakdale. After Niko’s first day of school, he asked if the lunchroom and the library were the same. Alexis dug out an old picture of her elementary school basketball team taken in the gym. It had the same mural on the wall that exists today. Clockwise from left: Alexis (Birge) Niko was shocked! Although Boulos (‘99), Justin Birge (‘97), Oakdale has not had many Debbie (Panos) Birge (‘72), physical changes, the class and Niko. sizes are larger now than when Alexis attended. As Alexis observes, “That is a reflection of our neighborhoods turning over. On any given weekend, our street and the yards in our neighborhood are full of kids playing and riding their bikes. It’s fantastic!” The benefit to these Westside multi-generational families is their ongoing support. Debbie takes note, “There are many of us still living in these neighborhoods whose children are gone, but we are happy to continue to support our schools for future generations. We are lucky enough to have our family’s future living just up the street.” Niko Boulos, a second grader, reaps the benefit, too. He exclaims, “The coolest thing is when teachers come to visit and they know my mom, and sometimes they know my yiayia [grandmother] too!” Perhaps Niko (2026) will continue the tradition with the fourth generation.

2016 BOARD OF DIRECTORS President: Jason Hellman (’90) Vice-President: John Hoich (’76)

If you have an idea you feel would make a great “Warrior Pride” story for the “W”, please let us know. With decades of successful alums, we would love to get your input on great stories. In fact, you could even write a story and send it our way. The Alumni Association belongs to each and every alumnus. If you want to be involved, or have an idea that could help us serve our Alumni, please email I hope you enjoy our winter edition of the “W”. GO Warriors! Jason B. Hellman (’90)

Treasurer: Marc Lowe (’76) Secretary: Phyllis (Donaldson) Choat (’65)

THE “W” NEWSLETTER WESTSIDE ALUMNI ASSOCIATION 909 South 76th Street Omaha, NE 68114-4599 402.390.2183 (Voicemail) 402.390.2177 (Fax)

Directors: Steve Achelpohl, (‘68) Ricky Anderson (‘05) Rick Berkshire (’72) Mark Dudley (’73) Mike Guinane (’74) Curt Huston (’81) Rob Laughlin (’75) Beth (Williams) Leach (’98) Kristin Lynch (’89) Debbie (Moss) McGrew (’88) Rob Owen (’87) Mark Sempek (’80) Denise (Haber) Swanson (’80) Tom Thompson (’83) Meagan (Davis) VanGelder (’88)

40-Year Reunion: Westside High School Class of 1975


By: Vicki (Westphal) Rittner, Reunion Co-Chair

1966: 50th Reunion | July 22-23, 2016 Friday, July 22, 7–10 p.m. “Re-Meet” & Greet Reception Regency Lake & Tennis Club (Cash Bar) Saturday, July 23, 7–10 p.m. Henry Doorly Zoo African Lodge & Grasslands REGISTER ONLINE: CONTACT: Ken Bird, Ken Hermsen or Dave DeBuse 402-505-6814 Left to right: Bruce and Stacy Simon, Gail (Hiatt) Rule, Marcia (Orchard) Hammond, Maria (Deflippi) Carson, Mark Rule

Over 200 members of the Class of 1975 and 60+ spouses and guests contributed to the tremendous success of the 40-year reunion events held October 2–4. Thursday evening more than 60 alumni gathered at Spirit World in Ak-Sar-Ben Village and began matching faces with memories (helped tremendously by Facebook). Bruce Simon, President of Omaha Steaks, and his lovely wife Stacy hosted a crowd of 165 at the Friday tailgate party held at their Loveland Drive home. By 7pm, a somewhat smaller crowd was seated at the Westside vs. Burke football game (final score 39-31) in a stadium that has seen many improvements in the last 40 years! After the game, the festivities continued long into the night at several Omaha nightspots. The highlight of the weekend was a sit-down dinner and program at Embassy Suites Old Market, attended by 225. The program was planned and emceed by Jennifer Staley (reunion co-chair), and featured a 1970’s Trivia Game, a slideshow tribute to the 42 deceased classmates, recognition of attendees who have served in the US military, and an insightful talk by Chuck Garlock, one of the funniest people in the Facebook group. (If Chuck can do Facebook, anyone can do Facebook.) The evening ended with a special musical performance by Rick Haffey, who played guitar and sang lead vocals to his cleverly written “Good Ol’ Westside High”, a rendition of “Bye Bye Miss American Pie”. Backed up by six volunteers from the audience to help get things going, the entire audience was soon singing along. No one wanted this evening to end. After the ballroom doors closed at midnight, the party continued for hours in various suites throughout the hotel. Reunion attendees came from 28 states, including New York, the Washington DC metro area, Florida, Texas, California, Arizona, and Colorado. Plans are already being made for a 45th reunion, in the fall of 2020.


1971: 45th Reunion | July 8–9, 2016 Shriners Temple 84th & Center 6 p.m.–Midnight each night CONTACT: Kim Rice,

1976: 40th Reunion | October 14–15, 2016 Saturday, October 15th will be held at Embassy Suites in the Old Market. A block of rooms will be available at a discounted price on a first-come, first-served basis for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Additional details to be posted soon! If you need to update your address please e-mail your information to the email below. Be sure to provide your maiden name (if applicable). If you know any classmates who do not use the Internet or social media, please feel ask them if you can share their information with us. We want to be sure that ALL of our classmates are invited! ONLINE: CONTACT: Reunion Planning Committee FACEBOOK: Omaha Westside High School class of 1976

Classes due to have a reunion in 2016 Left to right: Special guest Dr. Blane McCann talks to Bruce Moore

1956 · 1961 · 1966 · 1971 · 1976 · 1981 · 1986 · 1991 1996 · 2001 · 2006 · 2011

Winter 2016


to these Great Sponsors! PLATINUM SPONSORS

Jennifer & Dan Hamann Sandy & Dave Parker Anonymous Donors GOLD SPONSORS The Hawkins Sisters Lori & Paul Hogan Jackie & Terry Kroeger Family


Berkshire & Meyers Families Angie & Bill Thorell Holly & Mike Boyer

Ann & Ken Stinson



VI VI 2015: Oh, The Places We’ll Go! The words of one of the world’s greatest educators Dr. Seuss - were the inspiration for VI VI 2015: “Oh, The Places We’ll Go!”. Westside Foundation’s gala to support Westside Community Schools took place on October 3, 2015 at Embassy Suites, La Vista. Four hundred and seventy guests encountered a Seussical wonderland that evening as menu, music and decor offered a distinctive Dr. Seuss theme. In addition to cocktails and a silent auction, VI VI 2015 also featured an elegant dinner, live auction of exclusive trips and experiences, and “So You Think You Can Think” a Dr. Seuss-inspired vocal performance by students representing every school within Westside Community Schools under the direction of Doran Johnson, Music Department Chair. Over 60 students took the stage dressed in Seuss-themed t-shirts to entertain guests with a fun and lighthearted performance. VI VI 2015 raised $175,000 for Westside Community Schools, exceeding our goal to raise $25 per student for the 6,000 students in District 66. These funds will go directly toward innovative educational opportunities in every school—building on the strong fundamental foundation by integrating new methods or technologies to further enhance the educational experience for every student. Emcees for the evening were Westside alumni Jeff Beals (’87) and Trenton Magid (’87) of 1110 KFAB’s Grow Omaha; Jeff Post served as auctioneer for the live auction.

Westside Alumni Association

Carl A. Swanson Elementary School Community Club

Liz & Doug Bisson and Helen North & Ken Bayles Nicole & Rick Kelley

Westside Middle School Community Club, in honor of Russ Olson & Cindy Vann

Marie & Blane McCann

Loveland Community Club

Honorary chairs for VI VI 2015 were Sandy and Dave Parker. Event Chairs were Liz and Doug Bisson and Helen North and Ken Bayles. Thank you to everyone who supported VI VI 2015!

Left to right: Ken Bayles & Helen North, Sandy & Dave Parker and Liz & Doug Bisson

IN REMEMBRANCE Gordon “Gordy” Schempp

Left to right: Superintendent, Dr. Blane McCann & Marie McCann, Foundation Board Chairman Sue Seline & Steve Seline

Left to right: Meagan (Davis) Van Gelder (‘88) and Barb Wimmer

The Westside community was saddened to hear of the loss of Gordon “Gordy” Schempp who passed away on July 16, 2015, at the age of 87. Gordy served on the District 66 School Board from 1970-1976. Schempp was a Lieutenant in the Navy and honorably served in World War II and the Korean War. He graduated from the University of Minnesota, Duluth in 1949 and taught grade school and high school after graduation. Gordy had a 36-year career with Northwestern Bell and finished his career as an Executive Director of Labor Relations in Denver, CO. Teaching was part of his career at the phone company and it was his passion, too. Gordy may be best known in Omaha as the visionary of Omaha’s Metropolitan Technical Community College. He led its governing board from 1973-1980 and trained many of the teachers when the school started. He will be remembered as an influential man in our district and in the Metro, working to make positive improvements in education. Gordy and wife Beth Ann were married 65 years. He is survived by his beloved wife, sons, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren.

The Westside Alumni Association honors and recognizes all deceased alumni. Visit:

WHATCHA DOIN’? Be a fan of the Westside Alumni Association Facebook page and post on our timeline. We'd love to hear from you! Left to right: Phyllis (Donaldson) Choat (‘65), Helen Bartee & Deanna (Bartee) Bartek (‘91)

UPCOMING EVENTS April 1 · Alumni Hall of Fame Nominations Due May 6 · C oaches Night of Distinction, Athletic Hall of Fame, Legacy Hall, 6 p.m. May 14 · W estside High School Commencement Baxter Arena, 2 p.m. May 25 · Omaha Gives!

Left to right: Jessie (Krieger) Feinstein (‘98) and Beth (Williams) Leach (‘98)

June 27 · T he 2016 Westside Open The Players Club at Deer Creek

Winter 2016


Warrior Spirit Expands with Improved DECA Store

22nd Annual WHS Alumni Basketball Tournament Features 2007’s Four-peat Win

2007 Winners, L to R: Derek Fletcher (’07), Colt Anderson (’07), Stu Dornan, former school board member, Keith Dornan (‘06) Sam Moser (’07) and Kyle Fries (’07).

It has been over a year in the making, and has taken the time and talents of students, teachers and community members to make it a reality. “The Colosseum”, the newly renovated and expanded DECA store located in the main lobby at Westside is now open for business. The new store has a storage room, conference room, checkout counter, and plenty of space to display merchandise. These improvements were generously funded by Helen and Dick Kelley and the Volberding Family; while furnishings were donated by All Makes Office Equipment Co. Last year, Westside engineering and architecture students were given a rough outline for the space and they created the floor plan. The store continues to be staffed by senior marketing students under the guidance of DECA sponsors and Westside teachers Katie Harmon and Sarah Schau. According to store managers Victoria Liakos, Miranda Sargent, and Lauren Zimmerman, the new space has positively impacted business. “We have expanded inventory and have items in different price-points to appeal to a broader audience.” Liakos said. The managers traveled to AmericasMart wholesaler in Atlanta to purchase new and improved products. They now sell water bottles, coffee mugs, tumbler cups, key chains, and phone chargers while continuing to sell Under Armour and other quality apparel. Managers Zimmerman, Liakos, and Sargent said the transition to the new store went well and the biggest hurdle they faced was how to best organize the merchandise in the storage room. In the first few months, they have seen a dramatic increase in sales, as shoppers are now able to browse the store and touch and try on the merchandise. Store hours have also been expanded. The Colosseum is now open to students and the community on school days from 8:20 a.m.–4 p.m.

On November 28, 2015, more than 50 alumni from at least ten different graduating classes participated in the 22nd annual WHS Alumni Basketball Tournament at Westside High. The event, sponsored by the Alumni Association, provides a platform for alumni to form their own class teams and compete against fellow alumni. It is a great venue whereby friendships are re-established and new ones are made. The event is open to all alumni, boys and girls alike. We were very pleased to welcome Regan Johnson, (’15) to her first alumni basketball tournament. On the boys side, leading up to the championship game, 2007, the winners of the last three tournaments, went 6-1, while 2009 and 2014 tied at 5-2. 2014 advanced to the final having beaten 2009 in head-to-head play. The championship game featured 2007 and 2014. Both years had players from their state runner-up teams. It was close until 2007’s Sam Moser and Derek Fletcher got hot, each pouring in several 3’s. 2007 capped its fourth straight win when Kyle Fries hit the game winner from the left wing. Final score: 15-11. The players enjoyed hot pizza, furnished by Little Caesars courtesy of Curt Huston (’81), Rick Berkshire (‘72) and Rob Laughlin (‘75) cochaired the event and were joined by other members of the Alumni Board including Steve Achelpohl (’68), Ricky Anderson (’05), Meagan (Davis) Van Gelder (’88), and Curt Huston. Berkshire handed out special commemorative t-shirts to Class of 2008 (winners 2009-2011) and 2007 (2012-2014) plus 2007 took home this year’s winning t-shirt. Proceeds from the tournament totaled $500, which is used to help fund the Tom Hall Scholarship for boys and the Vic Porter scholarship for girls. If you would like to play in 2016, mark your calendars for November 26, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. —Rob Laughlin


Westside Community Schools Begins Renovation of Schools Westside Community Schools has started the planning process to renovate its schools. The renovation is possible thanks to voters’ passage of a $79.9 million bond issue last spring.

on November 23 and is also working with a smaller design advisory group consisting of parents, staff, and community members. Lamp Rynearson also held a meeting in December for community input regarding traffic around the school.

Construction begins in January 2016 at the Westside Community Conference Center. The DLR Group is the designer for this building. DLR is designing space for a swing school on the upper level. The space will house Oakdale Elementary students beginning in the fall of 2016 while that school is rebuilt. Swanson and then Prairie Lane will also eventually send their students to this swing school as their schools are rebuilt or extensively renovated. The lower level of the CCC will house the Westside High School Career Center as well as students participating in the CAPS (Center for Advanced Professional Studies) programs.

In October, the Westside Board of Education approved BVH Architects to design an addition and plan renovations at Westside Middle School. Work on that building will begin during the summer of 2016. BVH will renovate approximately 75,000 square feet of the existing building and design a 15,000-square-foot addition. The architecture firm also held a community input meeting in November and is working with a smaller design advisory group.

On Monday, November 2, the Westside Board of Education approved the DLR Group as the architect to construct the new Oakdale Elementary School. The new building will open by January 2018. DLR held a community input meeting

For the latest updates on the construction process, visit or follow us on Facebook or Twitter @WCS66facilities.

Visit to update your contact info and include your Elementary School so we can keep you updated on construction progress throughout the district.

Oakdale School,1871.

Oakdale School as it stands today.

WESTSIDE ALUMNI ASSOCIATION 909 South 76th Street Omaha, NE 68114-4599



for his donation to the WHS music program

The Class of 1955

for donating their class’s remaining reunion funds to the Alumni Association

CONNECT WITH US Follow and “Like” us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to see photos, reunion news, and current information on relevant events. WestsideAlumni @WestsideAlumni Keep up-to-date by updating your contact information online:

Curt Huston (’81) Athene (Alsmeyer) Tenney (‘63) for their unrestricted donation to the Alumni Association

If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to the Alumni Association, please mail your gift to: WESTSIDE ALUMNI ASSOCIATION 909 South 76th Street Omaha, NE 68114-4599 Please make checks payable to: “Westside Alumni Association”

If you are a parent receiving this newsletter rather than the alumnus, please ask them to update their address with us.