Eliot Elementary parents fight to keep teacher

Posted at 11:11 AM, Sep 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-17 12:11:48-04

Just four weeks into the school year, Tulsa Public Schools is moving teachers because of overcrowded classes, and many parents are not happy about the transfers.

Eliot parents were notified this week that one of the three fourth grade teachers is scheduled to leave. Now those parents are doing whatever it takes to keep their teacher.

Jeff Smith's daughter has attended Eliot Elementary since kindergarten, but the beginning of fourth grade hasn't gone as planned.

"She was told yesterday, I believe, that her teacher would be leaving, and her and the rest of the girls, as you would imagine, didn't take it very well. They were sobbing all day," said Smith.

The move eliminates one classroom, dividing 55 students between two teachers. Parents say Eliot's fourth grade enrollment missed the qualifications for a third classroom by just three students.

"We couldn't let that slide," said parent Carrie Gardenhire. "We knew it wasn't just fourth grade that was impacted by losing this teacher, but it was the overall school and our community."

"Test scores will suffer with bigger classrooms and more students," said Smith.

Within hours, parents raised over $20,000 to cover the teacher's yearly salary plus benefits. But they need $39,000 by Thursday.

"If they can do that, we are going to consider doing this again," said Chris Payne with Tulsa Public Schools.
Payne says if the money is raised by 4 p.m. Thursday, that teacher will likely stay put. He blames the reassignment on Oklahoma's teacher shortage and low funding.

"We are doing the best that we can with the resources we have," he said. "These are the same funding issues that every district in Oklahoma is faced with."
But Eliot's students won't feel the effects if parents have their say.

"Not only do we not want to go through the rebalancing, but we don't want to lose this valuable teacher," said Gardenhire.

Every morning when I drop my child off I know she is in good hands and she's going to get a very good education," said Smith. "That's just what you have to do as a parent."

TPS did not say where they're transferring that teacher. Even if she's able to stay, administrators still have to fill the additional position needed to curb overcrowding at the other school.

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