School Leaders' Mixed Reactions Over Gov. Stitt's Executive Order

Tuesday, January 18th 2022, 10:39 pm

Governor Kevin Stitt is calling on 32,000 state employees to step in and substitute teach as the state deals with a COVID surge.

Staff absences have forced schools all over Green Country to return to distance learning.

The response is mixed.

Districts are happy for any help, but they're also worried.

Their concern is that the people coming in to substitute won't be qualified and won't do much to help Oklahoma kids learn.

Governor Kevin Stitt has a message for his 30,000 plus state employees: start teaching.

"I'm authorizing state agencies to allow their employees to help keep kids in school by substitute teaching all over the state," said Governor Stitt.

In his executive order, Stitt said this is a creative way to put people in classrooms, to avoid distance learning with so many people out sick.

"Teachers need help to cover their classes so the teachers can continue teaching," said Secretary of Education Ryan Walters.

Walters is running for state Superintendent.

And State superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who's running for governor, said students need to keep learning in person, but this isn't the way to do it.

"I appreciate the governor finally recognizes this crisis," she said. "Unfortunately, he has brought a cup of water to a raging fire."

Hofmeister said the state department of education wasn't briefed on the plan.

She thinks it would be better to deploy the national guard to handle transportation and staff cafeterias.

"This is something the governor has control of," Hofmeister said. "It can be funded with federal relief dollars.”

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent, Deborah Gist, said their teachers are tired and any help will gladly be taken.

However, she said it doesn't solve the bigger problem.

"It's been all hands-on deck for months and months and months and people are really exhausted," Gist said. "So anything that can happen that will give us extra hands is very welcome."

Governor Stitt said this plan will speed up the process to get state employees in the classroom quick.

The employees do have to pass a background check and follow individual district requirements.

"I'm asking all state employees to see what they can do," Stitt said.

Many districts across the state don't want to comment yet because they simply don't know how this plan will work.