ROCET was created to help boost morale, show support and provide professional development for Ottawa County's 760 educators.
MIAMI – To say the least, the state of Oklahoma's education budget cuts have been a disappointment to teachers, but where the state has failed, the community has stepped up to support teachers, students, and education.
A new group of concerned community members have organized, ROCET (Recognizing Ottawa County Educators and Teachers). ROCET was created to help boost morale, show support and provide professional development for Ottawa County's 760 educators.
“We want to do our part to help fill a gap in the funding and show our educators that we do recognize the vital role they play in our community and in the lives of our children,” ROCET organizer Tracie DeLano said. “I'm really excited about it!”
“Our community members and businesses continue to be great partners with the school district. The willingness to give so much of their time, energy, and in some cases a monetary commitment allows to meet the needs of our students and staff,” Superintendent Jeremy Hogan said of ROCET, Teacher’s Tool Box and Bright Futures programs and others supporting teachers and students.
DeLano previously led the My Life and Man Up programs for teens as part of her work with the Ottawa County Health Department and is now working as the Director of Joyful Learning in Miami. She wanted to create a similar event geared for teachers and others in education.
“For the past 12 years while working at the Ottawa County Health Department I have spent my days in the hallways, classrooms, cafeteria, and offices of the Ottawa County schools interacting with superintendents, principals, secretaries, teachers, janitors, everyone,” DeLano said. “I have had an up close look at what goes in our schools, and I can say that without fail each of our county schools has dedicated educators who are doing their very best to provide a quality education to our children.
"Each year they are expected to do more with less and not only to educate but to meet basic needs of students who do not have the family support that children need and deserve...This is a group of people who recognized a need.”
All Ottawa County educators, staff and support personnel, have been invited to participate in the two, day-long ROCET events on Aug. 10 for Ottawa County educators from Afton, Commerce, Fairland, Quapaw and Wyandotte schools and Aug. 15 for Miami educators at the First Christian Church at 2424 North Main Street in Miami. Each day will include an inspiring keynote speaker from the Search Institute, Dr. Gene Roehlkepartain, interactive breakout sessions, community resource booths, food, and fun.
“It's for all school personnel, not just the teachers,” DeLano said.
The community is being asked to come from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. on those two days to greet, rally and come together in a sign of support and appreciation for the county's educators to kick off the school year.
“It’s a very small commitment of time that will have a big impact,” DeLano said.
On the evening of Aug. 15 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. the public is invited to come to the church for a free community event with the Search Institute’s speaker.
“It’s open to anyone in the community that wants to support kids,” DeLano said. “We’re really hoping that we have youth ministers, parents, daycare workers, anyone that has a heart for youth, and we’ll get some practical ideas. ”
Business owners and supporters are asked to put #oureducatorsrocet and #ROCET signs in windows as a show of support.
“Our schools have had such drastic budget cuts and no relief in sight. One area that's been cut is the professional development area, and so that is one thing we're going to try and address with ROCET,” DeLano said.
DeLano said Ottawa County citizens have shown strong support for teachers and did vote to pass the $5,000 teacher pay raises ultimately defeated by the majority of Oklahoma voters.
“We know that in Ottawa County we do have a community that does want to support our teachers, our educators in our schools, but morale is very low. So, it's about what can we do to help,” she said. “So, we have a committee of like minded people working to get together and get the funding and the days in place. We're going to have two events and the First Christian Church is being very gracious and letting us use their building again.”
DeLano is excited about the keynote speaker who will provide statistics and information on 40 identified developmental assets such as reading skills, safe neighborhoods, connections to support, etc.
“The more assets that a child has, the better success they have,” she said. “I went to a Search Institute training many years ago as part of my job, and it was one of those trainings where I left empowered. This makes so much sense; it's like common sense science. I have wanted to bring it here for years.”
POCI (Partners for Ottawa County, Inc.) helped fund the speaker in part, and several other groups, businesses, and organizations have pitched in to provide the special events.
“The children in Ottawa County have so many obstacles, and we cannot expect our teachers alone to overcome that, it's too much,” DeLano said. “If we're going to really build our Ottawa County students up for success it takes all of us. It takes our community," said DeLano. "It takes our school community, which is not only our teachers, and administrators; it's the bus drivers, and the lunch lady and the school secretary. All of those adults in the school have such a vital role and such a potential to really empower children, and this speaker is going to address that.”
The ROCET group's efforts and two days of events are geared to provide these important people in student's lives tools, information, resources, and support to help students flourish, thrive and achieve to the best of their ability.
“A lot of our schools are already doing this, but this will help us all work toward the same goals,” DeLano said. “We’re to the point in Miami where there are no librarians, and there are no school based social workers…how much further can we cut? These are our children. We have to step up. We have to do what we can.”
The events include break out sessions on stress, reaching the unreachable, TSET and more, games and gifts, and a line up of resource booths and good food.
“We want it to be informative and fun and interactive,” DeLano said. “The superintendents have all been fantastic, and this is actually going to be their professional development day.”
The Miami Regional Chamber of Commerce wants community businesses to join the Chamber Challenge in a show of support for area educators.
"With the challenges that not only Miami Public Schools face, but all schools in the State of Oklahoma, we want to let everyone know we care and we support our educators and teachers, MRCC Director Brandy Smith said. "I love the idea of ROCET, building morale, and inspiration before the new school year starts. It is a great way to bring educators, teachers and our community together. The Chamber challenges all businesses and organizations to show your #ROCET pride!"
MRCC is asking area businesses to paint or hang signs in store fronts that show #ROCET Pride!
"Don't forget to take a picture and add your photo to Facebook and hashtag #ROCET and #OurEducatorsROCET," Smith said.
DeLano said programs such as ROCET, Teacher’s Tool Box, and Bright Futures are important community efforts to fill gaps left by state funding cuts.
“It takes all of us,” she said.
Anyone interested in helping by volunteering with ROCET can contact DeLano at firstname.lastname@example.org or 918-541-7525.
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.