Teacher shortage sweeps through Omaha Public Schools



Olivia McCrossin, Editor-in-Chief

Teachers have taken on overwhelming responsibilities due to ongoing staff shortages. According to Laura Sambol, a writer for Omaha WOWT News, Omaha Public Schools (OPS) lost over 700 workers by the end of the 2021- 2022 school year, and now about 200 teaching vacancies still remain open.

The OPS staff shortage prevented Omaha North High School from allowing teachers to fill their vacant slots because other schools were in greater need.

Michelle Porter, a Curriculum Specialist at North, says not only does this have an effect on teachers, but also on the students. It is hard for teachers to navigate getting to every student who needs support when there are so many kids in one classroom.

In addition, Porter believes the opening of the Westview and Buena Vista High Schools contributed to the staff shortage. Both schools currently enroll ninth and tenth graders only. Porter also mentions that as new grade levels open in the new schools, we may continue to see an increase in staff departures.

Jessica Koch, a mathematics and engineering teacher, does believe that the new schools in OPS, Buena Vista and Westview, had a role to play in teachers leaving the building. However, she is not worried about more teachers leaving even when the news schools open to additional grade levels.

Due to the lack of teachers, many classes, including honors and Advanced Placement classes either had to get removed from schedules all together or moved all into one singular block.

Skylar Gabel, 11, was removed from an introductory Journalism 1-2 course and placed directly into Yearbook, an advanced level course for journalism students.

“Not taking journalism sometimes feels like a disadvantage when it comes to necessary writing techniques,” said Gabel.

“The overcrowded classrooms at North disrupt the learning environment making it hard to focus,” according to Gabel.

Koch also think that this staff shortage may have an effect on students academically. “It’s hard for student to get the one on one attention that they need to learn.”

Rather than a lack of respect among the students, Porter believes the lack of respect among the school community contributed to the shortage.

“Teachers not being seen as professionals in school buildings and even in the district, could weigh on teachers,” said Porter.

In response to the lack of teachers, Omaha Public Schools officials announced a plan to temporarily boost pay for district employees. The pay boost would apply to all certified and classified full-time and part-time staff for the next two years.

Some employees cited poor working conditions that were not improving. Certified and classified full-time staff would receive an additional $4500 per year, while part-time staff working 20 or more hours per week would receive an additional $2,250 per year.

At a press conference, Superintendent Cheryl Logan said ESSERS funds would be used to cover the new stipends. “This acknowledges the additional needs and challenges of this time,” said Logan.