TPS 'Teacher Shuffle' Causing Disruption

Wednesday, September 16th 2015, 6:22 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Tulsa Public Schools is moving teachers this week; 26 are being re-assigned from schools that have enough teachers to schools that need more.

About a third of the schools in Tulsa will either lose teachers or get new ones; and either way, it's a big disruption for kids in the classroom.

Eliot Elementary is trying to avoid that by paying the salary of the teacher they have - allowing the district to hire someone else to move to the school that needs another teacher.

Eliot Elementary Go Fund Me

Parents like Carrie Gardenhire don't want to lose a teacher and increase class sizes as the district plans to cut one of three teachers in 4th grade and divide the students between the other two.

"We understood this was a possibility, but we had no idea that just lacking three students in 4th grade would have such a dramatic impact," she said.

The battle at Eliot isn't unique.

In what TPS now calls "rebalancing," the district plans to move 26 teachers to new schools - 17 schools will lose one or two teachers, and 19 will gain one, two, or three.

The district does it every year.

TPS Spokesperson, Chris Payne said, “It's based on where people move and how many children they have and in what grade, and you begin to see the complexity of it.”

Superintendent Deborah Gist sent a video to teachers apologizing for the disruption, explaining, as a teacher it happened to her and promises to help teachers make the move.

“No matter what you call it, this is a really difficult time and a difficult decision for everyone in the district,” Gist said.

The shift is dramatic, even in schools not that far apart.

Kerr Elementary is getting three more teachers, while Lewis & Clark, the next school over, is losing two of theirs.

Payne said, "We need every teacher we've got, but because of these enrollment swings, sometimes we've got schools that have more teachers, but their enrollment is flat and we have to move them to other schools because they've had growth.”

At Eliot, parents are raising money to pay the teacher’s salary and keep the classes they have.

Petition To Save Eliot Elementary's 4th Grade Class Size

Their effort would give the district another salary to work with to fill a classroom somewhere else, but they don't want to make it a permanent deal.

“And we're not just going to write checks, but we need to raise attention to the highest levels and make sure everyone is aware of the problem with Oklahoma funding,” Gardenhire said.

The Eliot parents have raised over $20,000 of the $39,000 they need, but the school foundation has committed to make up the difference, regardless, and said the district has committed to let them keep the teacher if they pay the salary.