Cassata honored as state principal of the year

Sue Cassata does not enjoy the spotlight.

“My motto is under the radar - totally under the radar,” said the Lincoln East High School principal. “I don’t think people really need to know who I am.”

There was no avoiding the spotlight Tuesday night. She was honored at the Lincoln Board of Education meeting with a formal resolution for being named the 2020 Nebraska High School Principal of the Year by the Nebraska State Association of Secondary School Principals.

After school on Monday, Cassata talked about her 29 years in education, including the last 12 at East. 

She didn’t plan on being an educator when she entered Nebraska Wesleyan University more than 30 years ago. She wanted to be in student government, though, and the only open seat was from the education college - so she majored in education. She eventually fell in love with teaching and went on to teach social studies at Lincoln Southeast High School.

Lincoln Public Schools Director of Secondary Education Pat Hunter-Pirtle was principal of Southeast at the time. He convinced Cassata to take a coordinator position, a move out of the classroom and into administration that she never envisioned. She remembers first thinking, “What the heck am I doing?” Eventually she warmed to the idea of being able to take a bigger picture view of education.

“I fell in love with the idea of thinking bigger about schools - what can we do for all students, what can we do for all teachers, what can we do for all families,” she said.

She realized how much she loved helping others through her role as a coordinator, an assistant principal at Lincoln North Star High School and now principal at East. 

“I’m here to serve others. I’m here to serve staff and students and families. I’m here to help them create the best learning spaces for kids,” Cassata said. “I’m here to be an advocate for East High School, but I’m also here to be an advocate for all kids, to help others think about how we serve students and the conditions under which that service occurs.”

She’s also here for a good laugh. She’s known for her sense of humor and can’t imagine working somewhere and not having fun with her colleagues.

“I love the people I work with. I don’t know what it’s like to have a job and not enjoy the people I work with, whether it’s kids or staff or parents. I love collaborating with them, I love laughing with them, I love celebrating with them, I love also consoling them. People are what make the job - for me - the best.”

Published: November 11, 2020, Updated: November 11, 2020