As a new superintendent took over in the Omaha Public Schools, officials wanted to know how people felt about the largest school district in Nebraska.
So OPS sent out a survey for staffers, parents, students and community members, asking them to tell Superintendent Cheryl Logan what they liked about the district and what needed to improve.
The result was 10,650 responses, 980 pages of comments, for Logan to build on.
Of those responses, 4,791 came from OPS staff members. Parents and guardians of current students contributed 3,989 responses.
Logan, who started her job July 1, presented the results of the survey to the school board last week as part of a report on her first 90 days on the job.
Before telling the board about the results, Logan said people often respond to surveys with a critical eye.
“Psychology tells us that people are more moved to respond to a survey if they have something that they feel is negative to share,” she said.
Overall, 52 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with OPS, but even those who responded positively said recent budget cuts and loss of paraprofessionals had hurt morale.
But there was optimism about Logan’s leadership.
The survey focused on four areas: maintenance of schools, meeting the educational needs of all students, district transparency and equitable and efficient use of funds.
Some of the trends highlighted in Logan’s report:
Upkeep of schools
Negative comments frequently mentioned the lack of needed supplies in the classroom, a lack of technology and stable access to the Internet, problems like leaking roofs that persisted after bond renovations, and inadequate custodial services.
Positive comments said the renovations that were completed through bond initiatives were done well and that the replacement of well-worn carpet was a welcome development.
Meeting the needs of all students
Negative feedback highlighted large class sizes, a lack of paraprofessional help with unruly students and the need for more training to deal with students with mental health needs.
Those who responded positively expressed optimism that transparency and openness could improve under Logan and credited the district for its use of texts, emails, phone calls and newsletters to share information.
Negative responses said that in recent years, too much had been done in secret and that some information was still coming from the press instead of from the district.
Efficient and equitable use of funds
Negative feedback said technology was one of the biggest inequalities among OPS schools, with schools in wealthier parts of the city having better access to technology. There was also criticism about how schools were selected for bond work.
People who provided positive responses said that the district has been doing better with equitable expenditures and that the two recent bond issues helped.
Satisfaction with OPS
Teachers were among the most dissatisfied with the district. They said staff in their buildings were strained with additional responsibilities after budget cuts eliminated positions across the district. There also was concern about a lack of support and communication between district administrators and building staff.
Positive responses referenced optimism about Logan’s leadership.