Volunteers Filling Voids At Many Tulsa Schools

Monday, August 29th 2016, 7:53 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The state budget cuts for education have renewed the emphasis on volunteers needed in the schools.

Tulsa's Mayo Demonstration School is one place where volunteers used to be extra help, now they're replacing people cut from the payroll.

Karen Bartholomew works in the library at the school - organizing things, checking out books, helping students - doing whatever is needed.

She started there seven years ago when her grandchildren were in school there.

"And I keep going back even though my grandkids are in high school and college," she said.

Bartholomew is one of the most committed out of dozens of volunteers who help out at the school. She works a regular shift and used to leave at noon, but as Tulsa Public Schools downsized the staff, she's been working more.

Bartholomew said, "Now we're down to two people, the teacher and myself. So I thought I'll stay later on Monday because of the budget cuts."

The nature of the work hasn't changed much, Bartholomew said - and even though new technology, like self-checkout, can cut down on the workload, the children, at this age, still need a lot of guidance.

That's why Principal Ken Joslin said, "I don't think we could survive without our volunteers."

Joslin said volunteers contributed 3,000 hours of time at his school last year. Some, like Bartholomew, are now volunteering to fill jobs that were cut from the budget.

"We're fortunate that we have so many volunteers. And we remind ourselves of that every day because we know not many schools have the volunteers we have," the principal said.

Bartholomew worked at the district in transportation, 28 years before retiring. She has no plans to retire from volunteering.

"It's rewarding, it's very rewarding," she said.

Several principals say they're getting more interest from volunteers, reacting to the need, but all said they could use a lot more volunteers than they have.