8701 Pacific St. Omaha, NE 68114 Volume 60 Issue 7
FEATURE Learn more about the new principal Jay Opperman on page 8 April 8, 2016
“SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?”
Faculty announce plans for upcoming year L I B BY S E L I N E
Graphic by Nick Gross
March 15 was decision day for Westside High School faculty. It was the day they signed contracts for the next year and committed to teaching in the district again. While the majority of staff chose to stay, more than 10 staff members chose to not work at the high school. According to Sally Shepherd, Vice President of an organization of teachers called the Westside Education Association (WEA), the teachers have had a “rough” year. Changes such as the recent budget cuts and the announcement of the retirement of principal Maryanne Ricketts can be difficult for teachers to adjust to. Shepherd believes this may have contributed to teachers’ decision to leave. “I think [the past year] could have [contributed to [teachers’ decision to leave,]” Shepherd said. “When [a teacher] gets tired and just worn down [a teacher may think] something new will reinvigorate [them] as a teacher. It could’ve contributed to some teachers as to whether or not they apply for other jobs.” However, there is no central reason for why these teachers have decided to leave. Teachers will leave for other reasons including wanting to teach in the same district their kids go to school in or moving to a new neighborhood with their family. Although teachers may leave because of the salary, this is not because teachers are being paid less than other districts. The salary schedule the district follows cannot be compared to salary schedules of other local area schools. In District 66, people will first get paid according to their degree and the amount of time they have been teaching in general. Then, if a teacher chooses, they can take advantage of different opportunities such as earning a National Board Certified Teaching certificate and becoming a team leader to earn more pay. “Westside is all about rewarding teachers who want to take on leadership and do more because we have high expectations,” Head of Human Resources Department Enid Schonewise said. “If I’m a teacher who has been teaching for seven years, but I can’t add more days or take on additional responsibilities [the salary schedule] is not a super strong schedule for me. If I’m taking on coaching and leadership I can make a lot of money.” Every year, members of the WEA meet with Human Resources and they discuss and vote on a schedule. It is then taken to the board to be approved. This year, 85 percent of the WEA members that participated in the vote voted for the new salary schedule. At the board meeting on Monday, April 11, the board will approve or veto the new schedule. “If the teachers don’t like [the salary schedule] they vote it down and then we have to go back and renegotiate,” Schonewise said. “So it isn’t that the school board says ‘teachers this is what you get paid’ and then [the teachers say] ‘Ugh. I don’t like it. I’m going to go somewhere else.’ They’re apart of the process and we agree on it together.” The salary schedule at Westside for the 2016-2017 school year will not be affected by the budget cuts. Budget cuts will not directly affect the teaching environment and Human Resources Department claims that no teacher that had a continuing contract lost their job. Staff that are in charge of programs affected by budget cuts are going to be reassigned and not fired. For instance, the elementary Spanish program has been cut from the elementary schools, but the Spanish teachers will not be fired. They will instead be placed as a teacher in a different job within the district that needs a replacement. All Westside High School teachers leaving will be replaced unless the program they specialized in is going to be cut. Schonewise ensures that all teachers leaving will have great replacements. “We don’t just replace [teachers leaving] with brand new teachers; we go after the best teachers,” Schonewise said. “We have not said ‘Oh, you can’t bring in the best teacher.’ We will continue to hire the best teacher even if it costs a little bit more, [which is what] we always do here.”
Q. Why are you leaving?
“There’s no reason why I wanted to leave, I wasn’t looking for a new place to go, but I’ve been here for twelve years and when you’ve been somewhere that long it’s kind of nice make sure you’re keeping things fresh and invigorating as an educator and not letting things get stale for yourself. I think it’s a good challenge for me to go and try something new. And I’m a Gretna graduate so it’s kind of like going home.”
Current Position: Vocal music director
new position: Vocal music director at Gretna Middle School
Q: Why are you leaving? “To finish my education and do my student teaching.”
Current Position: Art instructor and varsity football coach
offensive line coach, PapillionLa Vista
new position: Teacher
“My first year of teaching was my sister’s freshman year of highschool and she went here, so having taught her and all of her friends was a pretty unique experience.”
Q: Why are you Leaving Westside?
“My family [lives] in Elkhorn. [My husband and I] want to be on the same school schedule as our kids.”
“The Christmas cards the business department sent out this year. It will forever be a favorite memory.”
new position: Business Teacher
and JV volleyball coach, Elkhorn South
Q: Why are you leaving Westside? “Is there one reason why I’m leaving Westside? No, there’s not. There are a variety of different things that have happened in the past couple years. This opportunity, more or less, takes away those problems. Plus, I’ll be on the same schedule that my kids are. I’m going to be in the area that my family is in. With an opportunity where you talk about family first, I couldn’t turn it down.”
Q: What is your Favorite memory from teaching at WEstside?
instructor, DECA sponsor and head volleyball coach
“A lot of it has to do with location. I live in Elkhorn. Next year I’ll have two kids in school, and my wife works nights, so to be able to be on the same schedule as the boys. It will be nice to be able to help with the carpool in the mornings to school.
current Position: Math instructor new position: Math instructor,
current Position: Business
Q: Why are you leaving?
Q: What is your Favorite memory from teaching at Westside?
“[Westside] made me realize how much I love working with students who need help the most.”
“Westside’s been amazing. For a young kid, a 22 year old out of college to come in and get his first job here was pretty incredible. Westside gave me a start, it has inspired me to be the teacher I am, the coach I am. It’s been nothing but awesome to work here under the modular scheduling, and with the staff. I’ve developed great relationships with everybody, it’s just really molded me into who I am.”
new position: Art instructor and
Q: What Impact has Westside had on you?
Current Position: Special
“It’s closer to home. It’s closer for my family, just new opportunities and something fresh I’ve been at Westside 17 years so, just looking for new challenges and again just probably proximity is the biggest thing.”
Q: What impact has Westside had on you?
Q. What are your Final thoughts? “The biggest thing for me is that I sort of feel like I’m not leaving. I’m just going down the road and I’ll still have connections with the students and teachers and community here. I still plan to come back and watch performances and make sure I watch these particular students graduate, because they’re important to me, and the hardest part is leaving the people. So, I think about it not in terms of leaving but just switching things up. I’m still sort of going to be here just in a different capacity.”
Q: Why are you leaving?
Q: What are your Final Thoughts?
Current Position: Chemistry Honors Team Leader
new position: Chemistry
Instructor, Elkhorn South
“It’s very hard to say, I’ve been with Westside for over a third of my life and it’s hard to leave...I have a lot of friends, a lot of colleagues that I’ll miss. I’ll always root for Westside. I think people are mistaken if they think it was an easy decision or it was something I did on a whim and not think about it. It hurts to leave, you know, you leave some people in some bad positions, but when it comes around to it, my family comes first. I love Westside, if there were some different situations, I would stay in a heartbeat there’s no questions asked.”
REASONS FOR LEAVING 6.5%
* Swanson and Hillside are not included in Number of Teachers Leaving because all staff will remain constant at these schools. Data Courtesy of Peggy Rupprecht Graphic by Casey Arritt
Q: Why are you leaving? “I have done a lot at Westside. It felt like it was time for me to move on [and have] something different [and] new challenges. Creighton Prep is really excited about starting something new.”
“I am leaving WHS because my family (6 kids and husband) is moving out of state.”
Q: What’s the Impact Westside has had on you?
Q: What are your final thoughts? “I’m proud of the students that have gone on to journalism or not; I’ll always cherish the memories I had with students. The awards are nice and my colleagues have been awesome, but it always boils down to the students.”
Current Position: SpeechLanguage Pathologist
new position: Hoping to find
Current Position: Broadcast
a similar job, something that relates to student advocacy, consulting etc. within field (Autism, behavior disorders, transition skills, executive functioning).
and online advisor
new position: Journalism advisor, Creighton Prep
Q: Why are you leaving? “It was a hard decision. I applied for the principal job here [at Westside] and did not get that position. I think it’s just that point in my career where I’m ready to take that next leadership position. I’ve been an assistant principal for 16 years and I’ve got my doctorate degree. So that opportunity [to be a principal] closed here at Westside and it opened somewhere else, and I needed to take it”
Q: What are your final thoughts?
Current Position: Assistant Principal
“It makes me teary-eyed, it makes me sad to think about leaving Westside because I’ve lived here, [my] kids have gone to school here, I’ve coached here, lived in the neighborhoods here, my wife volunteers here, so Westside’s been a huge part of our life of every facet for 16 years. Leaving all that is really hard.”
new position: Principal at Bellevue East
“Westside has many impacts, all positive, on my career/life. I cannot capture in words the things I have learned here. I have grown immeasurably as a person and professional with the guidance and respect from parents, fellow staff and my supervisors. I know that I will take many lessons and much knowledge with me. I have learned about inclusion, respect, teamwork, serving the whole child/all of a person’s needs, community and so much more.”
Q: Why are you leaving? “Quality daycare in Omaha is horribly expensive. Between the cost for my two youngest to be in full-time care and my oldest being in before and after school care, a huge percentage of my pay will be going straight to daycare. I miss out on a lot being a working mom as it is, so I am choosing to see this as an opportunity to enjoy the time with my two youngest while they are small. The district is kind enough to allow staff members the chance to take a year of leave and then return somewhere within the district; I am leaving with the hope that I can return to Westside High School after a year.”
Q: What are your final Thoughts? current Position: CB American Literature and Composition
new position: Stay-at-home mom
Teachers not featured in this spread that have publicly announced their leave: Maryanne Ricketts, Susan Schlegel and Carrie Turner
Q: Why are you leaving?
“I’m beyond excited to spend this next year with my children, but I’m going to miss working with the students and staff here at Westside.”