Omaha public school board members and teachers responded to the news of continued staff departures at Monday night’s meeting.
Nearly 600 teachers are expected to leave the district by July 1, an 80% increase from last year. The OPS also expects at least 99 people to retire.
Superintendent Cheryl Logan said the district has made changes where it can to help recruit and retain staff. Human resources employees are also contacting teachers who have resigned to discuss part-time work opportunities for the next year.
She also said that three teachers had rescinded their resignations.
“We will rise to meet the challenge and the need together,” Logan said.
Board chair Shavonna Holman said board members are doing all they can to address the current staff shortage, such as working as substitute or lunch service at various schools. .
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She said every board member is committed to the students, staff and community of the OPS.
“We realize that while we can’t fix and fix everything right now, we’re definitely doing the best we can,” she said. “We care, we understand and we 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 of the Omaha Education Association, said teachers have not felt valued or appreciated for several years. The administration and council also ignored demands for solutions from the teachers’ union, she said.
Settlemeyer said teachers were leaving because of the heavy workload of covering staff absences, increased security concerns and because they did not feel valued by the district administration.
Two weeks ago, 63 teachers had to cover 14 absences at a high school due to an ongoing shortage of substitutes, she said.
“When teachers are constantly covering lessons on a regular basis, it’s exhausting,” she said. “Levels of violence in buildings have increased dramatically due to understaffing.”
Students and staff confirmed the rise in misconduct in early spring. Settlemeyer said staff also feel tired, used and underappreciated.
Adam Byers, a resigning OPS preschool teacher, said just one school year in the district “destroyed the love I have for teaching.”
“The district has the audacity to ask why it’s hemorrhaging staff, when it doesn’t value feedback, pays inconsistent salaries to staff, and fills our classes with students daily,” Byers said.
Robert Miller, president of the OAS, said the union came to the district with several solutions that would not require a monetary investment. He said the administration had granted a request – more student-free days for teachers – but the time was spent on the professional development required instead of giving the day to teachers for their own work.
“I am unable to identify what help was offered,” he said. “Educators are needed more than ever. With the number of teachers who have resigned, there is still a lot of work to be done.”
OPS mother Lydia Turner said she feared what the staff departures would do to the district.
“I’m devastated, scared and anxious because of what next year might look like for my kids,” she said.
Our best Omaha staff photos and videos from May 2022