SCHOOLS hunt for special education teachers

Saturday, August 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma school districts still are trying to hire special education teachers even though school starts in less than a week

School administrators also are having a hard time finding teachers for math, science and foreign language.

The Oklahoma City and Tulsa school districts each were searching for as many as 100 teachers this week. School starts Monday in Oklahoma City and Wednesday in Tulsa.

Tulsa school officials might ask state education officials if they can fill the special education classrooms with teachers who have certification but not in that area, said spokesman John Hammill.

Some teachers might be willing to fill in for a year to ``test the special ed waters,'' Hammill said.

The Oklahoma City School District normally has special education teacher vacancies throughout the school year. Warren Gardner, executive director of personnel services, said the shortage likely will be covered with substitute teachers.

State law allows long-term substitute teachers to work in special education classrooms for an unlimited number of days.

``The problem with special education is the burnout is real quick,'' said Douglas Melton, assistant superintendent for Guymon schools. ``To deal with these kids day in, day out, it's exhausting.''

Special education teachers also have to deal with mounds of paperwork, said Art Schofield, regional accreditation officer at the state Education Department. They must write individualized education plans for each student and are subject to numerous state and federal guidelines.

Schofield said a survey of Oklahoma school districts found about 150 special education vacancies statewide, triple the shortage in other areas such as science. More than half of those vacancies are in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties.

Sue Greenfield, principal at Coolidge Elementary in Oklahoma City, said there just aren't enough special education teachers.

``The number of special ed needs are greater than they used to be,'' she said. ``The colleges are just not producing teachers in the special ed area to meet the demand. We contact the colleges and ask if they have anybody on file. We're trying to find them.''

At Millwood schools, Superintendent Gloria Griffin is still looking for a high school science teacher and another high school teacher for English and French.

``We just must do something in Oklahoma to keep our teachers,'' she said. ``If they can make more moving somewhere else without a huge cost of living increase, why wouldn't they?''