The majority of Ottawa County's school boards have met and made decisions on how to approach the pending teacher walkout set for April 2.
OTTAWA COUNTY- Most local school districts met with their respective school boards this week to discuss, decide and make contingency plans should the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) teacher walkout occur on April 2.
A total of 5,964 students reside in the seven districts of Afton, Commerce, Fairland, Miami, Quapaw, Welch, and Wyandotte.
The OEA is calling for a statewide teacher walkout if the Oklahoma Legislature cannot reach an agreement for the request for teacher salary increases of $10,000, support staff raises of $5,000, and an additional $200 million for public schools education.
The Oklahoma Senate Voted late Wednesday evening on House Bill 1033xx, which would have provided funding for a 12.7 percent teacher pay raise approved by the Senate in House Bill 1033. After more than two hours, the Senate closed the vote when the bill failed to receive the 36 votes or three-quarters of the majority it needed to pass.
OEA posted on social media opposition to HB 1033 and HB 1033xx saying the proposal offered, “Nothing for support professionals, nothing for our classrooms, and no discussion of further raises to get us to our $10K demand. This is NOT the significant funding increase our schools need and our students deserve.”
The Miami Public Schools Board met Monday night and unanimously approved OSSBA's resolution of support of public school teacher's request for a salary increase.
The OSSBA resolution joined by the MPS Board acknowledges Oklahoma teachers' work in educating students, frustration with lack of pay, a qualified teacher shortage, increase in use of long-term substitutes and emergency certified teachers, and low pay. The resolution calls for, “The Oklahoma Legislature to find a dedicated source of revenue that can be utilized to fund a much needed, reoccurring salary increase that will be provided to public school teachers in Oklahoma.”
The board voted unanimously to authorize Superintendent Jeremy Hogan to close all MPS district schools up to 10 days during the potential walkout, provided those days are made up as required by law. The provision approved allows the closure to occur if the superintendent determines such school closures are necessary for the safety of students and for the fiscal integrity of the district to avoid the necessity of hiring substitutes.
Miami currently has a total enrollment of 2,220 students, the lowest number of students in 10 years.
Hogan reported a $52,000 budget reduction from state aid offset by a donation of $38,093 from the Cherokee Nation down to $13,906.
The superintendent gave a PowerPoint presentation using data he had collected from various sources.
“I want to talk about how we got to this point,” Hogan said.
Hogan said in 2017 Oklahoma ranked 47th overall in the U.S. in tax burden per state with a 6.6 percent with an average of 8.6 percent total burden.
According to the National Center for Education Services, Oklahoma spends $8,075 per pupil with a regional average of bordering states spending $9,505 per pupil. Oklahoma is one billion dollars short of reaching just the average in per-pupil spending and state appropriations have totaled over $1 billion since 2009, according to Hogan.
(See the slides from Hogan’s PowerPoint presentation in the video at the top of the article. For more resources on the pending walkout, visit http://www.miami.k12.ok.us/workstoppage/)
Hogan also met with Miami High School student representatives on Thursday to discuss the teacher walkout.
A survey of Miami teachers and staff showed 97 percent are in favor of a walkout.
“Speaking for myself, and I think I speak for the whole board, we are behind you,” MPS Board Member Harley Turner said.
No decision has been made at this time regarding what Afton Public Schools will do if the teacher walkout occurs.
“We will call a special board meeting the week following Spring Break and that is when our board will make a decision,” Superintendent secretary Teresa Speer said. “Right now a survey has been sent out to the employees on what their opinions are.”
Afton has 529 students, 39 teachers, 28 support staff, and four administrators.
The Commerce Board of Education passed a resolution supporting teachers and authorizing the superintendent of schools to close all District schools for up to 10 school days, provided such days be made up if required by law. As with the provision put forth by Miami's board, the decision allows the closure to occur if the superintendent determines such school closures are necessary for the safety of students and for the fiscal integrity of the district to avoid the necessity of hiring substitutes
“The Commerce Board of Education and administration are in support of our teachers and supports their efforts to secure a salary increase for public school teachers,” Commerce superintendent Jim Haynes said. “We plan to continue with extra-curricular activities should a teacher ‘walkout’ occur.
Commerce currently has 879 students and 65 certified teachers.
The Fairland Public Schools Board has also shown support for district teachers. Fairland currently employs 50 teachers, about 80 full staff serving 620 students.
“While hoping that the legislature will step up and resolve this issue before any work stoppage would take place the Fairland Board of Education will support teachers and close schools for up to ten days if there is a teacher walkout," Fairland Superintendent Mark Alexander said.
Fairland support staff are contracted for a number of days and will make up the time at the conclusion of the walkout when students are back in school. Because there is no way for twelve-month employees to make up time, they will work as usual.
“We are in the process of making decisions about extracurricular activities,” Alexander said.
Fairland schools had Friday's after spring break scheduled as snow days that have not been used, so to the extent the district can, they will use those first to make up days. After that, Fairland will add days to the end of the calendar or minutes to each day, according to the superintendent.
“It is a shame to have kids caught up in an adult conflict,” Alexander said, “Our teachers work hard and are among the most dedicated and caring individuals anyone will ever encounter, but they have grown tired of being treated with disrespect by the Oklahoma legislature, it is unacceptable that they could go to another state, do the same job and earn thousands of dollars more. Completing the term, student testing, preparing students for their next level, and student meals are among the many concerns. It is time for the Oklahoma Legislature to resolve this issue.”
Welch Public Schools had not completed a teacher and staff balloting process, but the Welch Schools Board of Education has voted to stand behind the district’s teachers, according to Welch Superintendent RC McKeon.
“We did a second ballot and we’re supposed to get the results by noon today,” McKeon said Thursday. “The board met Monday night and the board voted to approve a resolution in support of teacher raises. They discussed the possibility of approving a 10-day duration and decided they wanted to reduce it to a four-day duration with the understanding that if the teachers voted to walk out for the duration that the board would support that.”
The board plans to hold a special meeting if the walkout occurs and goes beyond four days to vote to extend the duration of the walkout, according to McKeon.
“In other words, Welch is supporting the walkout. The teachers have the opportunity to directly participate if they want to, or send a delegation to represent Welch teachers in the walkout. So we’re just waiting to see what the teachers actually want to do,” he said. “We’ve polled our entire staff because it's not just the teachers.”
Makeup days at Welch would be made up using snow days, or the school year would be extended if necessary.
“We’re going to continue our extracurricular activities because there’s no way to make those things up,” McKeon said.
Student enrollment is 325 at Welch and employs 30 staff and teachers.
“I know the focus is on the teachers but we also have to remember how it’s going to affect the students. Some of our students depend on the school for food through free and reduced lunches. I’m concerned about that and of course the seniors and how this will affect them,” McKeon said. “It’s a very complicated issue with a lot of factors to it. Overall we just want to be supportive of the teacher raises and more funding for education. ”
The Wyandotte School Board passed a resolution authorizing Superintendent Troy Gray to let school out for up to 10 days if teachers walk out. Wyandotte currently has 810 students, 62 teachers, and four administrators.
“Makeup time will have to be added to the end of our school year because with the fires we had and the snow I’ve only got one day left, and teachers know it would be added to the end of the calendar,” Gray said. “Our teachers are not going to lose any instruction time. Our board was very positive about it, very supportive to the point where our board said if we’re going to walk out with the state we 100 percent support them. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it, and not go out for five days and say, we’re not going to see it through. So, if we’re going to take a stand, we take a stand."
Gray said he met with the Wyandotte Public Schools Board and all teachers last week to talk about OEA’s plan and the district’s response.
“I did a survey of all of our staff and we’re sitting at right at 85 percent of all of our staff is in favor of walking out on April 2,” Gray said. “There’s no scenario where teachers want to walk away from their kids.”
“I met with our board on Monday night and we had an open discussion and our teachers organization sent tow representatives in case there were questions. We had a great conversation.
"Our board is super supportive of our teachers. This isn’t all about teacher raises. They understand its all about funding in general. We’re all suffering."
Support staff, administration, and maintenance will continue to work while cafeteria and bus drivers may be given other work or be off during the walkout.
“We have to ensure that they work enough to keep their benefits and insurance, and we will make that up at the end. So they’re not going to lose time or affect their pay so when the kids are here, they’re here," Gray said.
“We do have a plan for that and in discussion with our board, this is the most controversial thing that’s going on with all this. You don’t want to take a big people problem, and a problem with Oklahoma Legislators and pull kids into that. Our board is unanimous that we’ll continue to do our extracurricular activities,” Gray said. “We can make sure they get their education, but we can’t give completion lost for seniors and our Ag students with the State Convention or working toward scholarships."
The superintendent said there are many unanswered questions about the walkout, but the district is doing its best to plan for all scenarios.
“We have to get back to school sometime if this goes longer, we have to test sometime, we can’t gamble with federal monies,” Gray said.
The Quapaw Public Schools Board approved Superintendent Randy Darr’s authorization to close school for 10 days during the walkout if needed. Quapaw’s 581 students and 49 certified staff and teachers have used six snow days and have no snow days left to use for makeup days, according to Quapaw Superintendent secretary Tish Freeman.
“We are allowing extracurricular activities to go on as scheduled,” Freeman said.
"Our board voted Monday night to adopt a resolution supporting our teachers and staff and urging our legislature to increase not only salaries for teachers and support staff, but also increase operational funding for our schools," said Darr. "The board also granted me permission to close school for up to ten school days if the teachers walk out. Our administration and board are 100 percent behind our teachers and staff."
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.