BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - The potential for shutting down classes in Bartlesville's district schools in April to petition legislators to address education financial problems seems to be gaining support after a special meeting of the Board of Education on Wednesday night.
According to Bartlesville Education Association President Heather Boyle, the idea of canceling classes in April gained support at the meeting. She said the board heard from 20 community members in an open forum and every person showed support for the closure.
The board held an open public discussion, and logistical issues such as the impact of missed school days and concerns about what the students would do came up.
Boyle said she has been approached by people who would be willing to step up and volunteer to get the kids into projects while classes were suspended.
The next regularly scheduled board meeting is March 12 and an official vote on closure could happen then.
Bartlesville citizens showed an overwhelming interest in this issue at the Feb. 19 meeting when more than 330 citizens signed in at the meeting. There were even more in the building who did not sign in.
Citizens and educators would like to shine a light on the education problem in the state and help persuade the state legislature to finally address the teacher shortage with a significant teacher pay raise.
The board first discussed a possible suspension back in September, given the worsening teacher shortage. The state is approaching 2,000 emergency certified teachers, with 12 of them in Bartlesville.
Bartlesville Public Schools is in danger of losing another $125,000 with further state cuts, according to Bartlesville administrators.
"The teacher shortage is the biggest threat to our public schools," said Bartlesville Superintendent Chuck McCauley. "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 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."
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