Omaha Public Schools board members and teachers responded to the news of continuing staff departures during Monday night’s meeting.
Nearly 600 teachers are projected to leave the district by July 1, an increase of 80% from last year. OPS also expects at least 99 to retire.
Superintendent Cheryl Logan said the district has been making changes when it can to help recruit and retain staff. Human resources employees are also reaching out to teachers who have resigned to discuss part-time work opportunities for next year.
She also said three teachers have rescinded their resignations.
“We will rise to meet the challenge and the need together,” Logan said.
Shavonna Holman, board president, said board members have been doing what they can to help with the ongoing staff shortage, such as working as a substitute or on lunch duty at various schools.
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She said every single board member is committed to the students, staff and community in OPS.
“We do realize although we can’t fix and correct everything right now, we are certainly doing our best,” she said. “We do care, we do understand and we do hear you all.”
Several OPS teachers disagreed that the district is doing everything it can to help retain staff.
Michelle Settlemeyer, board member and incoming president for the Omaha Education Association, said teachers have not felt valued or appreciated for several years. The administration and board has also ignored requests from the teachers union for solutions, she said.
Settlemeyer said teachers are leaving because of the heavy workload of covering staff absences, increased safety issues and because they don’t feel valued by the district administration.
Two weeks ago, 63 teachers had to cover 14 absences in a high school because of an ongoing substitute shortage, she said.
“When teachers are constantly covering classes on a regular basis, it is draining,” she said. “The levels of violence in the buildings have increased dramatically because of the lack of staff.”
Students and staff confirmed the rise of misbehavior earlier this spring. Settlemeyer said staff members also feel tired, used and underappreciated.
Adam Byers, an OPS preschool teacher who is resigning, said a single school year in the district “destroyed the love I have for teaching.”
“The district has the audacity to wonder why it is hemorrhaging staff, when it does not value feedback, pays inconsistent staff wages and packs our classes full of students on a daily basis,” Byers said.
Robert Miller, OEA president, said the union has come to the district with several solutions that wouldn’t require a monetary investment. He said administration granted one request — more no-student days for teachers — but the time was filled with required professional development instead of giving the day to teachers for their own work.
“I am at a loss to identify what help has been offered,” he said. “Educators are needed more than ever. With the number of teachers who have resigned — there’s still a great deal of work to do.”
OPS parent Lydia Turner said she is dreading what the staff departures will do to the district.
“I stand devastated, afraid and anxious because of what next year could look like for my children,” she said.
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