Omaha Public Schools says it’s ready for the school year despite staffing issues

OPS is still looking to fill over 300 support positions
Omaha Public Schools is dealing with a staffing struggle ahead of the new school year.
Published: Aug. 8, 2023 at 5:24 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The first day of school for many Omaha Public School students is just around the corner -- and school leaders are promising parents every classroom will have a teacher.

However, OPS data from late July shows they still need to fill 371 school support positions, including paraprofessionals, bus drivers, security officers, and office jobs.

OPS is currently on a search for worthy candidates of all backgrounds and experience.

Mackenzie Fichter filled out a job application this week, hopeful for a new opportunity. She wants to be a special education paraprofessional.

“Especially form relationships with potential coworkers and also with the children I’ll be helping,” Fichter said. “Forming special relationships with them and being a mentor to them is really important to me.”

Fichter wants to shape a bright future for students.

“I’ve had a little bit of experience with special education kids before and they really are the sweetest people I’ve ever met,” Fichter said.

OPS said these support staff positions are vital to the schools’ operation.

“They’re so essential to what happens in school each and every day and they support those teachers and educate our students,” said Chief Operations Officer Charles Wakefield.

The district said it’s ready for the first day of school.

“Our numbers continue to increase,” said Greg Betts, OPS staffing director. “We can do better of course, but we’re feeling really confident and enthused.”

OPS hired 407 teachers for the upcoming school year with a pay increase in the plan for the next three years.

“Ultimately, we want to hire outstanding staff for our students,” Wakefield said. “They’re the key in educating that child and we want to make sure we have the right staff when doing that.”

Staffing shortages are still seen in OPS’s special education department. Fichter hopes she can fill that need.

“The biggest thing I want to do in my life is help as many people as I can,” Fichter said. “So, coming to a school district is probably something I would be most interested in.”

OPS data also shows for this school year, the district filled 97% of elementary school positions and 93% of secondary school positions.