Board seeks community input on possible suspension of school

posted Feb 20, 2018, 8:14 AM by Granger Meador   [ updated Feb 20, 2018, 5:23 PM ]

Prompted by overwhelming support at its regular meeting on February 19 for a future suspension of school, the Bartlesville Board of Education has scheduled a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 28 at the Bartlesville Community Center. The board is asking for community input, concerns, and ideas regarding a possible prolonged suspension of classes in early April. The board would not vote to consider a suspension until its next regular meeting on March 12.

SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BARTLESVILLE BOARD OF EDUCATION

To hear public input, concerns, and ideas regarding a possible suspension of schools in early April

Wednesday, February 28
5:30 p.m.
Community Hall of the Bartlesville Community Center
300 SE Adams Blvd

Over 330 citizens signed in at the meeting on February 19, with even more in the building and in the parking lot who did not sign in. Over a dozen teachers, students, parents, and community professionals voiced their support for an organized statewide suspension of schools in the coming weeks to help persuade the state legislature to finally address the teacher shortage with a significant teacher pay raise. The crowd filled the boardroom, spilled out into the corridor, and filled the auditorium across the hall where a Facebook Live video of the meeting by the Examiner-Enterprise was on view.

The board first discussed a possible suspension back in September, given the worsening teacher shortage. The concept harkens back to when the district schools were shut down for a week in April 1990 as teachers and parents lobbied the legislature to pass the House Bill 1017 education reform bill. Thousands of teachers descended on the state capitol on April 16, 1990 and picketed there and locally until the state senate passed the bill on April 19, which Governor Bellmon signed the next week.

Now the state is approaching 2,000 emergency certified teachers, with 12 of them in Bartlesville. In two consecutive special sessions, the legislature has failed to pass revenue measures to fund teacher raises by the required 75% super-majority. Now the legislature is moving forward with yet another reduction in state funding, after years of revenue failures and cuts impacting the public schools and state agencies. The latest plan would cut all state agencies by 2% across the board for the remainder of the fiscal year. Bartlesville Public Schools would lose another $125,000.

Bartlesville Superintendent Chuck McCauley has stated, “The teacher shortage is the biggest threat to our public schools. We really are at a tipping point. In addition to the five teachers we lost to Kansas last year, we have 12 teachers who are emergency certified. We are hiring people we wouldn’t have even interviewed just a few years ago because there aren’t more qualified applicants. Bottom line, that’s impacting kids and it’s below the standard of what’s expected in our community.”

Regarding a possible suspension of classes, McCauley has stated, “I’m not orchestrating it. All different groups — parents, teachers, etc. — have come forward to say this is a last resort we should consider. This conversation needs to be happening across our state. It will take sustained support and sacrifice from parents, teachers, administrators, and school boards across the state to successfully persuade our legislature to finally compromise on a funding bill to address the teacher shortage.”

Vanessa Drummond makes public comment
Parent Vanessa Drummond was among those speaking during the public comment portion of the Bartlesville Board of Education meeting on February 19
[extract from Facebook live video by Examiner-Enterprise]

Auditorium
The crowd overflowed into and filled the auditorium, where they watched a Facebook Live feed of the meeting across the hall
[photo courtesy of Stephen Walden]

Corridor
The corridor was also packed with people
[photo courtesy of Stephen Walden]