On Monday, March 12, the Edmond School Board passed the following resolution at a special board meeting.

Resolution

WHEREAS the Edmond Board of Education’s sole mission is to provide a quality and
proper education to those students enrolled in the Edmond School District;

WHEREAS, the Edmond Board of Education supports its classroom teachers and the
work they do educating the children of our school district;

WHEREAS, the Edmond Board of Education understands that the teachers of Oklahoma and Edmond Public Schools are frustrated with the lack of pay and as a result the state is experiencing an extreme shortage of qualified teachers throughout Oklahoma:

WHEREAS the education of our children should be the highest priority of the Edmond Public Schools, the Legislature and the Governor;
WHEREAS, the Board of Education supports a salary increase for public school teachers;

WHEREAS, Edmond Schools has received an outpouring of public support for the
teacher’s efforts to restore adequate pay and school funding for students:

BE IT HEREBY RESOLVED that the Edmond Board of Education strongly supports and stands by its teachers in advocating for a salary increase to a competitive salary level with surrounding states and encourages and implores the Oklahoma Legislature and the Governor to continue their work to find revenue by which to fund a significant teacher pay raise.

Adopted this 12  day of March,  2018.

Resolution

From Superintendent Bret Towne:

Prior to the signing of the resolution, Superintendent Bret Towne made the following comments:

Teacher Shortage

Last Thursday evening, Edmond hosted its annual job fair for elementary positions.  While the quality of applicants was excellent, the numbers of persons interviewing was disappointing.  Here are the number of participants who attend our last five  elementary job fairs.

2014 – 151

2015 – 138

2016 – 119

2017 – 100

2018 – 83

Up until 5 years ago, I would never have thought there might not be an adequate supply of elementary teachers for schools in the state.  This is alarming.

Edmond needs more than 300 teachers to fill next year’s positions.  With no more than 400  teacher candidates graduating this year we are anticipating a shortage of teachers to fill ours and other districts open teaching positions.

Late last week, the Oklahoma Education Association( OEA) released information to the public calling for a teacher walk out and school closures which are scheduled for Monday, April 2.  Along with a list of conditions, OEA is asking the legislature to specifically address teacher pay raises and increases in school funding.

If a walkout occurs in significant numbers, schools will be forced to shut down as there will not be enough teachers and substitute teachers to provide adequate instruction and safely supervise students.  There are many questions that are being asked of administrators concerning a teacher walkout and while we don’t have all the answers at this time, we will work to inform the teachers, students, parents and community of the effects of a walkout on each of them.

So what are some of the issues, questions and challenges that the district must address in light of a possible walk out?

Teachers’ Pay and Benefits 

Many Oklahoma school districts already require students to attend school for more minutes and hours or whole days than the 180 days or 1,080 hours required by the state.  Edmond is one of those districts that chose hours.  Currently EPS has six days banked with instructional time over the minimum requirement.  Edmond teachers can miss six days before additional instruction must be made up.  Missed instruction beyond six days will either be made up by increasing the minutes of future instructional days, or adding additional days at the end of the current instruction calendar.

Under these circumstances, if teachers walk out, there will be no loss of pay or no disciplinary actions associated with their walking out.

Support Pay and Benefits 

Most support employees are hourly employees whose contract days coincide with students being in school.  A plan for possible work days or work activities for those groups of employees has not been approved at this time.  Support employees not on a 240 day contract are at the greatest risk of losing compensation, but nothing has been decided at this time.

Student Testing 

The SAT and ACT are mandated by the state as career and college readiness assessments. Those tests are set for the first week of April.  Edmond’s ACT testing dates are scheduled for April 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 & 12.  These tests are taken on computer. There is a makeup date on April 24 which is a pencil and paper test.  The 3rd – 5th grade testing window is April 2 – 20.  The 3rd grade ELA and all of 5th grade has to be given and shipped by April 17 to get 3rd grade back for RSA meetings and 5th grade writing scored. The 11th grade science window is April 2-26.  Most schools have this scheduled after the ACT if finished on April 12. The 11th grade history can be taken in class at any time. It is highly unlikely that this testing window will be extended by the State Department of Education.

In Edmond, students also begin taking most of their Advanced Placement Tests the first week in May.  Students have invested hours studying and preparing for these tests and many families have already paid hundreds of dollars for tests in advance.  No plan is in place yet, but principals, teachers and district administrators will begin to discuss this week how to work through these testing issues should that be required.

Graduation 

If a teacher walkout occurs, Edmond will have graduation on schedule.  Students typically graduate before the end of classes and finals.  The issuance of their diploma is held up until all requirements such as course completion and attendance are met.

Career Tech 

It is highly doubtful that Career Techs will be closed during any time of a public school walkout.  If Career Techs are open, Edmond Schools will provide transportation from the high schools to and from the career tech center.

Free and Reduced Lunch/Weekend Backpack Programs 

In the desire to continue to feed students who need breakfast and lunch, the district is considering plans to offer a child nutrition meal program at several schools around the district.  This would be for any and all students who are currently receiving meals through Edmond’s Child Nutrition program.

If possible, Edmond will attempt to continue providing the weekend backpack food program at the schools using volunteers and school staff.

Athletics and Extra Curricular Activities  

A question that has come up as a part of the walkout discussion is, “What about activities and events that are scheduled outside of the contract day?” Can we still have band practice and attend competitions? What about drama or speech rehearsals? Robotics?  AgEd? FHA? FBLA? TSA competitions, conventions and shows? Athletic events? Prom, etc…?

This decision would be entirely up to the local district working with its sponsors, teachers and coaches.  At a meeting last week, most Oklahoma City metropolitan and suburban districts agreed that it is in the best interests of students to attempt to keep an athletic / activity schedule as close to normal as it can.  Principals and district athletic and activities coordinators will begin discussing with coaches and sponsors how these practices and activities would move forward with a teacher walkout.

Final Thoughts

It is my hope that there is teacher pay increase and a teacher walkout never transpires.  We have many Edmond legislators who have voted for plans that would increase teacher pay only to have the votes fall short of the 75% approval threshold required by State Question 640. You have to remember that nearly all of our Edmond legislators are on record in support of a teacher pay raise.  Please remember that our legislators have been and are continuing to work on the issue of teacher pay and school funding.   Our Edmond legislators are working hard to be a part of the solution. Your encouragement of them is important as they consider how they can continue to support us.

This week I have personally received around 200 emails supporting the teachers in their pursuit of a state salary increase.  The superintendent’s office has received over 900 phone calls supporting teacher pay raises and supporting teacher’s efforts to receive pay increases and 14 calls not supporting a teacher pay raise.

Edmond Schools supports its teachers in efforts to secure a state pay increase.  We have been with you for years working on advocacy, communication and efforts to increase salaries and school funding, and we will continue to work and support those efforts to increase school employee salaries and support of schools.