Broken Arrow School For The Deaf Struggles To Pay Its Teachers

Wednesday, May 2nd 2012, 10:55 pm
By: News On 6

A school for deaf children in Broken Arrow is struggling to pay its teachers.

Happy Hands is a Christian non-profit and the director admits - some of the staff haven't seen a paycheck in several months - including her.

Happy Hands started 18 years ago with seven students and one teacher. The program now has 50 students and 19 teachers, but funding has stalled this year.

Kendra Stine can't imagine another career. The Happy Hands teacher is so dedicated to her students, she doesn't panic when the school's funding shortage delays her paychecks.

"I'm fully committed to the school here," Stine said. "I whole-heartedly believe in what we are doing at this school and no matter what, God has always provided for my needs and my family's needs."

Happy Hands caters to children with hearing loss or communication disorders from 6 weeks of age to kindergarten. There's a waiting list to get in.

"That's where it's difficult," Happy Hands Director Jan Pride said. "We're growing very fast in our enrollment. Our funding needs to grow at the same time."

Community donations make up 90 percent of the Happy Hands operating budget. That's why the school was excited about a $1000 check from the group DeafTU with the University of Tulsa.

Happy Hands never turns a child away because parents can't pay.

"That 90 percent of our budget coming from the community directly impacts what a child can receive here at Happy Hands," Pride said. "The building is paid off. We still have operational costs, we still have teachers to pay."

Just like other non-profits, a bad economy hurts Happy Hands' budget. But parents admit they didn't even know about the funding and paycheck problems because all the school services, therapy and classroom instruction have remained the same.

"My favorite part is at the end of the day when the children run up to me and say, ‘I love you Miss Kendra. I'll see you tomorrow,'" Kendra Stine said. "How can you not come back to that?"

Kendra says her reward is so much greater than a paycheck.

The kids at Happy Hands are holding a fundraiser this Friday called "Happy Feet Fun Run." They'll run, walk or be pushed in strollers for 30 minutes and you can sponsor a child for $20.