Oklahoma school administrators are more optimistic as another school year gets underway. That's according to the Oklahoma State School Board Association, who released new survey results Tuesday, August 20.
The OSSBA surveyed 305 school districts across the state asking them specific questions about teacher vacancies and if it was easier or harder to fill those positions.
In Edmond this year, teachers started the school year with another raise of $1,745. But Randy Decker, who is in charge of hiring teachers, said he doesn’t think it made a difference when it came to hiring teachers.
“No,” said Decker. “I think that the raises help in future years.”
Decker said this year they had to bring in more emergency certified teachers than last year. But over the last two years, they have added 122 teaching positions. So, class sizes are smaller, and they are hiring more certified teachers. But there's still not enough.
“I think we’re starting to see that we’re about to turn a corner,” Decker laughed.
But the OSSBA said a majority of those they surveyed believe things are looking up.
According to the survey, schools started the school year with 596 teaching vacancies statewide -- that's up over last year. But 392 districts said they have added positions.
About half the superintendents said hiring was as difficult this year as last year, and 38% said it was worse. OSSBA said that number is actually lower than in years past.
“The biggest takeaway is optimism,” said OSSBA Executive Director Shawn Hime. “School leaders, teachers even the community feels more optimistic this year than they have in decades.”
Hime said a majority of districts now start teachers at more than $40,000 a year. But he agreed with Decker that this is a pipeline issue, and there's still a lot of work to be done.
“We need to have a number of years of sustained progress in the area of salaries and those things to cause people to choose teaching as a profession,” said Decker.
Hime said morale among teachers is also up.