Omaha Public Schools give updates on open teacher, staff positions

The local teachers union said Friday that OPS still had 200 teaching jobs open.
For Omaha Public Schools, hiring teachers has been a relentless effort and now they say, they're seeing progress.
Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 4:54 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 1, 2022 at 10:31 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Days after the Omaha Education Association said Omaha Public Schools had 200 teaching positions still open after many left at the end of last year, the school board provided an update on the matter during its regular meeting Monday evening.

Charles Wakefield, chief operating officer for OPS, is also currently overseeing the human resources department and provided the board with the most recent staffing update.

Wakefield says that at both the elementary and secondary levels, more than 96% of teaching roles have been filled. But for elementary schools, 84 positions are left out of that number, and for secondary schools, 75 are left out. Wakefield says that’s because they’ve increased the number of students in the classrooms to help curb the shortage, and they want the percentages to reflect that.

“The short story is, compared to two months ago, we’re in a much better place,” he said. “But we are not perfect, teachers have more challenging times this year than they’ve had in the past, they will have slightly larger class sizes, we’ve had to schedule positions unfilled.”

The district has dug deep to fill positions, including moving 65 employees from the central office. Instead of serving in their district-supporting roles, they’ll be back in the classrooms this year.

“They’re going back into a classroom that they may not have been in four, five maybe 10 years in some cases, but they recognize the importance of working with staff each and every day and working with kids each and every day,” Wakefield said.

At the end of last year, 497 teachers resigned from OPS, and 97 retired. The district says they’ve hired 403 new teachers for this coming fall. In a typical year, they hire an average of 372 teachers before the start of the year.

The district is also touting the success of the teacher stipend that’s now being offered. They say 33 of the 50 student teachers who received the stipend in the Spring of 2022 accepted full-time positions with the district this fall.

OPS says there are around 1,000 substitutes available for this coming year, some of which may become long-term subs or full-time teachers due to staffing shortages.

But teachers aren’t the only positions that need to be filled.

When it comes to classified staff, para-educators, security, office personnel, etc., the district only has 76.6% of positions filled. OPS says this is normal for this time of the year, and expects it to go up, but are still relentlessly and shameless recruiting.

On Saturday, OPS held a job fair at Benson Days, where they hired 73 people, including 27 para-educators and 15 custodians.

Just 77% of nutrition services positions are filled and 82% of bus driving positions are filled.

The district says they have billboards, are making cold calls, are advertising online and on the radio, and are setting up a text recruiting platform to help with recruitment.

They’re also working to implement location-based advertising, which will get OPS ads on thousands of apps, and embed them into news articles, social media, and more — both locally and nationally.

Digital Director Gina Dvorak contributed to this report.

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