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Live reporting by Anthony J. Zarzycki
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Anthony J. Zarzycki @anthonyzarzycki
Hi, I'll be livetweeting today's Omaha Public Schools Board of Education @OmahaPubSchool Meeting for #OMAdocumenters @oma_documenters!

The room is about ⅒th full. I use #OmahaEd so folks interested in Omaha education can find eachother!

05:55 PM Aug 7, 2023 CDT

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@OmahaPubSchool @oma_documenters President Head @Spencer_Head, reminds the public that OPS Board meetings will be at @OPS_NorthHigh from October to December.
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@OmahaPubSchool @oma_documenters @Spencer_Head @OPS_NorthHigh Thielen and Kratky are both absent. Head @Spencer_Head says Thielen provided the Board a reason for his absence. Erdenberger asks if Kratky did. He says no.

Erdenberger motions to excuse Thielen's absence. Smith seconds. Passes 7-0.
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@OmahaPubSchool @oma_documenters @Spencer_Head @OPS_NorthHigh Holman @DrShavonna motions to excuse Kratky, don't catch who seconds. Full @advocacybri and Erdenberger vote no. Kratky's absence is excused with a vote of 5-2.
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@OmahaPubSchool @oma_documenters @Spencer_Head @OPS_NorthHigh @DrShavonna @advocacybri Attendance Report:
1. Smith 13/14, 93%
2. Full 13/14, 93%
3. Thielen 12/14, 86%
4. Holman @DrShavonna 13/14, 93%
5. Head @Spencer_Head 13/14, 93%
6. Kratky 11/14, 79%
7. Erdenberger 14/14, 100%
8. Juarez 12/14, 86%
9. Casady @trcasadyops 13/14, 93%

All excused.
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@OmahaPubSchool @oma_documenters @Spencer_Head @OPS_NorthHigh @DrShavonna @advocacybri @trcasadyops Moving to Superintendent and Board Communications.

Interim Superintendent Matthew Ray talks about the district readying for back-to-school this month. Full @advocacybri will be out much of next month for a trip to the Netherlands.
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Erdenberger says she has held two townhalls for Subdistrict 7 and will be holding two more this week.

Find your subdistrict here »
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Moving now to Public Comment. There are 5 people who have requested to speak tonight.
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Kathy Pohling, new President of OEA, introduces herself to the Board and says she has had several meetings with District staff after taking over after Michelle Settlemeyer's departure.
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Mary Russell raises a potential oversight, saying her grandchild will need to walk 1.6 miles to a hub to be picked up for school. The new changes are that those within 1.5 miles, instead of 1 mile, won't be provided bus transportation.
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Calvin Russell, father of the child previously mentioned, asks the Board to hold Wilson Focus @OPS_WilsonFocus to the new policy.
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@OPS_WilsonFocus Tyronda Pierce also attends Wilson Focus @OPS_WilsonFocus. She says some students would need to travel more 4+ miles to for their bus. Her grandchild would walk 2.7 miles. She says somebody "at transportation" told her on the phone she should change schools if this is a problem.
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@OPS_WilsonFocus McHale is a member of the Omaha Public Schools Citizen Board Oversight Committee. Says she appreciates the District paying attention to the needs of students with special educational needs.
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Moving to Consent Agenda. Casady @trcasadyops excuses herself from Item 10. Passes 7-0.

Some items which came up in Board Communications are Item 2 and 23.
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Moving on to the District giving a presentation on the Bond Program Update which passed in 2018. Several new schools are opening this year as a result of this program.
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District says they identified back in 2013 a billion dollars worth of changes they needed. The Board went to the public first in 2014, proposed a bond which is where voters approve or reject a raise in taxes for certain projects, and then came back in 2018 for the remainder.
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Four main promises District says they made to voters which they believe were kept:
- safe and secure schools
- enhanced educational environments
- community centered approach
- good stewardship of taxpayer funds
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District says the timing for these bonds was perfect because at the time, interest rates were quite low, but since then, interest rates (the cost of borrowing money) and the price of many goods has gone up, so these same projects would cost much more if done now.
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Juarez asks for clarification: it sounds like there's still a million dollars leftover.

District says there is but they're waiting for projects to finish up to decide whether to provide more additions at 2018 bond sites—like more secure doorways—in case anything goes overbudget.
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Full asks about the interest District says they accrued during these years. Asks what that interest can go to. District says any interest accrued from the bond program has to be spent on bond sites.
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Moving on to a Staffing Update. OPS Strategic Priority 2 contains the goal that by June 2025, 95% of teaching positions will be filled by August 1 of every year with highly qualified candidates.

Elementary: 97% filled
Secondary: 93% filled
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For elementary, there no unfilled regular education classroom positions, but 75 unfilled special education, support, and special positions.

For secondary, 29 unfilled regular education classroom positions and 85 unfilled special education, support, and special positions.
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Pandemic hiring+retaining issues seem to be getting better.

431 teachers were hired for 2021-2022. 402 hired last year. This upcoming school year, there were 407 teachers hired. Not as high as pre-pandemic but going up.

District says resignations are down 22% from last year.
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The Board has a policy of providing a $9,000 stipend for student teachers to incentive. This policy doubled the number of student teachers and more than doubled the number of student teachers they end up hiring.
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District had mentioned that they visited 20 states to look for recruiting talent, which they hope to make 40.

Erdenberger asks: "have you considered Florida?"

Audible laugh from Boardmembers and audience.

District: it's hard to compete with beaches.
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Juarez asks what anecdotal experience they have with out-of-town applicants.

District says that part of engaging applicants to be sold on working for OPS is selling the idea of living in Omaha. They work with groups like the Chamber of Commerce to succeed with this.
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Full @advocacybri asks where the District most has issues recruiting teachers into and retaining.

District: North Omaha.

Follows up to ask how many student teachers they "trained for free" who didn't stay with OPS. District says more than half (didn't hear exact number).
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@advocacybri Casady @trcasadyops asks of the student teachers who did not stay, if there are any ways the District is tracking them and staying in contact.

District says yes. Mentions the difficulty of competing with small towns who can spend more on each graduate to bring them back.
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@advocacybri @trcasadyops Erdenberger asked if student teachers who leave are surveyed for why.

District says there is no active exit program to track that. Says their mission is that if they can expose student teachers to OPS, they will chose OPS.
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Head @Spencer_Head says that there's a number of people who will become student teachers who aren't considering going into education afterwards, so the 50% retention number should be looked at more like 53% or 55%. This seemed to trigger some hushed side discussion.
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@Spencer_Head Next is the Accountability Committee Update which is tasked with the Superintendent search. Smith says the second community input survey will open in the last week of September and end on the 25th.
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@Spencer_Head Full @advocacybri asks why the committee voted to not allow Boardmembers to hold independent townhalls on the search.

Smith says the recommendation came from the firm, saying people would ask different questions and it would split the Board between those who do/don't have them.
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@Spencer_Head @advocacybri Full @advocacybri asks Smith if the Board will enforce this.

Smith says yes.

Full says she doesn't want Boardmembers to be punished for doing their role.

Smith says there will be no punishment.
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@Spencer_Head @advocacybri Juarez reads out the Budget and Audit Committee Update.
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@Spencer_Head @advocacybri Next, Erdenberger is presenting the first of two action items tonight: approval of the first reading of Policy 5416 which waives student activity fees.

Passes 7-0.

Next item, waiving the second reading for the policy change due to time constraints.

Passes 7-0.
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@Spencer_Head @advocacybri This means the Board can now vote on the actual approval of the policy change. Full motions, no second needed, passes 7-0.

Smith moves to go into closed session, passes 7-0.
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While we wait for the OPS Board to come back to adjourn, you can get meeting coverage about OPS and other public bodies across the city emailed to your inbox with the Omaha Documenters @oma_documenters newsletter!
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Meeting adjourned at 9:06 p.m. This concludes the Omaha Public Schools (@OmahaPubSchool) Board of Education meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for August 21, 2023. For more meeting coverage, check out #OmahaEd