Omaha Public Schools addressing staffing shortages ahead of 2023-2024 school year

Omaha Public Schools is working to address staff shortages ahead of next school year.
Published: May. 17, 2023 at 10:12 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The school year isn’t even over yet and Omaha Public Schools has already traveled to dozens of recruiting events across several states to make sure there is a teacher in every district classroom next school year.

OPS provided 6 News with the latest resignation and retirement numbers for this year and for the two years prior.

In the 2020-2021 school year, 362 OPS staff members resigned, and 99 retired.

In the 2021-2022 school year, 615 resigned and 117 retired.

For this school year, 497 resigned and 89 retired.

“Like last year, it is going to be a challenge,” said Charles Wakefield, the district’s chief operations and talent officer. “We continue to face a teacher shortage nationwide.”

It’s a challenge they started tackling more than a year ago, according to Wakefield.

“We have staff that has traveled to over 100 events, 18 different states across the nation recruiting teachers alone.”

But he said every classroom will have a dedicated teacher next year.

“Some of that is looking at class sizes across the district (and) where we’re gaining students and losing students as natural family patterns adjust across the city.”

Lanyce Keel, a grandparent to a Liberty Elementary School student, hopes that the staffing issue doesn’t affect her granddaughter’s education.

“The concern would be if there are enough teachers for the classes to continue as they are,” said Keel.

According to OPS data, the average class size for elementary school, kindergarten through sixth grade, was on a downward trend the past three years but increased this year.

It’s important to note during the dataset’s timeframe of declining elementary class sizes, the total enrollment numbers were decreasing too. This year enrollment went back up.

Comparison of OPS class sizes for elementary grades from 2019-2023.
Comparison of OPS class sizes for elementary grades from 2019-2023.(Omaha Public Schools)

OPS parent Sydney Blake said she thinks about the teachers who she and her daughter adore.

“I think it can affect the children. I mean you run somebody so hard so long, eventually, they’re burnt out and teachers don’t want to teach,” she said.

“It’s one of the reasons we negotiated the contract we did with them to recognize their efforts,” said Wakefield.

This February, the district agreed to a new 3-year contract starting in the 2023-2024 school year.

The negotiated agreement increases the base teacher salary by $7,200 over the next three years. Other staff members are also getting raises.

In a final message to parents, Wakefield had to say: “Ultimately, we’ll have great teachers doing great things with our kids, and we’ll have another successful school year.”