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Oklahoma Schools Struggle To Fill Teaching Positions

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EDMOND, Oklahoma -

The state school board association says there were more than 500 teaching vacancies at the start of the year, despite record numbers of emergency certified teachers.

School leaders say the problem is not finding a couple of quality teachers - it's finding hundreds of quality teachers - and the elimination of more than 400 teaching positions from the year before.
 
"We have more than two dozen middle and high school positions posted right now," said Randy Decker, human resources officer for Edmond Public Schools.

They're positions Edmond Public Schools is struggling to fill.

"We don't have the pool of candidates waiting in the wings to become that next great teacher," he said.

District leaders say in years past they would see 400 teaching candidates attend an annual job fair. This year, not even half showed up.
 
"Our principals will tell you there are times when they would have 50 to 75 applicants for a job," Decker said. "Now when I get their recommendations, sometimes it's five to seven at best."

Like Edmond, Tulsa Public Schools was forced to use emergency certified teachers in the classroom just to fill the gap.

"Five or six years ago we had 25-30 emergency certificates a year," said Shawn Hime, Executive Director of Oklahoma State School Boards Association.

A survey completed by 300 Oklahoma districts showed 536 teaching vacancies as of August 1 and another 480 positions that were eliminated.

"Class sizes continue to grow. When you can't find a teacher then you combine classes, and the existing teacher then has more difficult working conditions," Hime said.

Educate Oklahoma
 
The survey conducted by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association says the number one factor contributing to the teacher shortage in Oklahoma is teacher compensation.
 
"For all job markets, you want a competitive compensation package, and Oklahoma is dead last in our region and dead last in the nation when it comes to teachers," he said.

Randy Decker, Edmond Public Schools, said the quality of candidates is very good.

"The quantity is what is lacking right now because some of those quality candidates are choosing to go out of state," he said.

Leaving concerns for the students left behind.

"We all want a high quality teacher in the classroom," said Shawn Hime, OSSBA. 

Schools say they are doing everything that they can to insure that they're offering the best quality education.


 

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