OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — After five decades of educating North Omaha’s youth, an Omaha North High School principal will retire at the end of the school year.
Gene Haynes has worked for the district for more than 50 years. He's been North High's principal for the past 20.
“A lot of people choose to do the right thing because they respect him," said student Desyree McGhee.
You'll likely hear his voice before you see him walking down the halls of North High School.
"Gene Haynes’ philosophy has always been allow students and parents the opportunity to have an excellent opportunity to gain their education," said Haynes.
Haynes is retiring at the end of this school year, planning to spend more time with his wife and two grandchildren.
But North will always be a special place for Haynes.
“We often talk about Omaha North High Magnet School as the best high school east of the Rockies and west of the Mississippi, and that's the most important thing that I’d like to continue," said Haynes.
He knows just about every student’s name.
“When they come in, I try to set a goal for myself for my freshmen. The first quarter, I want to know at least three-quarters of those young people," said Haynes.
"He knows their story, he takes the time to actually get to know you and personally, that's what matters--that's what we need in our community... but not just in our community, but in our lives... we need that person that wants to get know us and that cares about us," said McGhee.
McGhee, an honor student, adds there aren't many like him.
"Mr. Haynes is like a father figure to me--like, ever since I came in, like, he knows my family, my mom, my auntie, my grandma and them, and so when I came in, he basically just took me under his wing,” said McGhee. ”And sometimes I go in there, like, ask him about relationship advice--school advice.”
You'd likely find Haynes in his office on a Saturday, meeting with parents at a time convenient for them.
"It's the relationships that you developed and work with young people and make it all happen... that's the most important thing that I can remember, and I will continue to remember about this job,” said Haynes.
After all these years, Haynes said it's the joy he felt inside this building that kept him here.
He says it's a place of peace.
“Sometimes students don't get that until they get to school, and a pat on the back and encouragement is what makes my day,” said Haynes.
Things will be different next school year... but McGhee says one thing is for sure, Haynes has her back.
“There's a lot more people that want to see you fail than they want to see you be successful... and with Mr. Haynes, he's not like that... he likes to give opportunities and second chances," said McGhee.