TULSA - When the bells ring the new school year into session on August 21st, Tulsa Public Schools will have hundreds of newcomers in the classrooms.
“We’re hiring, probably this year, more than five hundred teachers to start the school year. And that’s a massive recruitment effort, an onboarding effort, getting them all on benefits and payroll, and then of course preparing them to be successful,” TPS Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist told KRMG Wednesday.
It’s not only a lot of work, it’s costly as well.
“We end up spending millions of dollars on the process of hiring teachers, and getting them ready and supporting them, instead of being able to invest that back into our classroom, and back into helping to raise things to a higher level. We’re spending lots and lots of resources just trying to make sure we’re doing what we need to do,” Gist said.
“We have to get on top of this. It is a massive, massive problem that’s affecting our community every day -- Dr. Deborah Gist, TPS Superintendent, on the shortage of teachers in Oklahoma
It’s simply unsustainable, she said, that districts have to replace a huge percentage of personnel every year.
She vows that she will continue to fight for better pay for teachers, which she says is markedly lower than in surrounding states.
“The gap that we have with teachers’ salaries in our surrounding states is massive,” she told KRMG. “We’re going to change it. I’m not going to rest until we resolve the situation. We have so many great people out in our classrooms every day serving our students, and they deserve to be paid as the professionals they are, and I will not rest until we solve that problem. But I need everybody’s help, we all have to work together to make it happen.”
Meanwhile, the district has plans in place to provide as much support and training as possible for new teachers, especially those with little to no actual classroom experience.
Tulsa asked for, and has received, 118 emergency teaching certificates for people who do not hold a certificate or an alternative certificate to teach in Oklahoma.