TULSA - Monday, Tulsa teachers announced a first step in what they say will be an escalating campaign to draw attention to the plight of educators in Oklahoma.
TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist, Tulsa PTA Council President Tina Kaminski, TPS Board President Suzanne Schreiber, and Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association President Patti Ferguson-Palmer held a news conference to announce what they’re calling “work the contract.”
Teachers get paid for seven hours and 50 minutes a day, and for the rest of March, that’s how much time they’ll spend working.
They won’t be doing any extra planning, gathering supplies, grading papers, or taking texts or phone calls from students and parents.
That, the educators told KRMG, won’t be easy for many of the teachers.
“So far, people are being very enthusiastic and saying ‘thank you, I’ve been waiting, it’s about time,’” Ferguson-Palmer said. “But we’ve had others who’ve just said ‘I can’t possibly not be available to my students 24-7.’ I get that, I’ve been that teacher. But, because of that attitude, that’s how we got here...teachers being willing to do whatever it took to serve the students. And we’ve protected students and parents from a lot of the bad stuff. Teachers have covered up, but if we don’t stop that, it’s not ever going to get any better.”
They believe the “work the contract” protest will have an impact, and admittedly, not always a positive impact, but they feel it’s important to make a statement.
And they’re prepared to take more drastic steps if necessary, including a possible district-wide walkout.
But, Gist said, first they want to have something specific to support - if not an actual bill, then at least a plan to address teacher pay, and education funding in general.
“We know that it’s really important for us to first have a specific plan or a bill that we are asking for. So what we plan to do is the ‘work the contract’ in March, and then starting in April, we’ll start the advocacy at the Capitol,” she told KRMG.
Schreiber said she hopes it doesn’t come to that, and that the “work the contract” move will suffice.
“It is important that we make this statement to the legislature, and I’m hopeful that’s the only step we have to take,” she said.
“I think we’re all on the same page,” Kaminski added. “We want what’s best for our teachers, and the most we can get for them, with the least impact on our kids.”
“Work the contract,” which is voluntary, goes into effect Monday, and lasts through the end of the month.