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Green Country districts scramble to fill support staff slots before school year begins

Posted at 8:41 PM, Jul 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-24 23:17:47-04

TULSA, Okla. -- It's a job that doesn't stop for summer break or the holidays.

Support staff work year round, and sometimes for 17 hour days. Jamil Haynes said they pick up the slack during shortages.

"You wake up in the morning and you go to work. You expect that at a certain time you'll get off, but you have to stay later to cover a position just so the school will be ready for the kids the next day, the parents the next day, the children the next day," the former custodian said.

Now schools face a dire need to fill these positions. This follows the teacher walkout, when many support employees went unpaid. Some said they struggled to make rent and turned to food assistance.

But for Haynes, a Tulsa Public Schools custodian turned electrical apprentice, he said the focus is always on the students.

"To keep your building clean, that defines who you are. Taking care of your building, that defines who you are, how well you're ready to do your job," Haynes said.

Five different districts told 2 Works for You they desperately need bus drivers right now. If they're unable to fill the positions, routes will be changed. That means buses will carry more students longer distances.

"We're constantly competing with other school districts as well as the state funding has had an impact on the wages that can be paid to support staff across all school districts in Oklahoma," TPS maintenance manager Jason Coan said.

Support staff will get about a $1200 raise from the walkout, less than what they hoped for. Despite the disappointment, these employees said their mission is continuing to make schools a safe space.

"Students come from different environments all across the city. It's important to me to make sure that each student has a sound, safe, secure, clean environment as an opportunity for them to be successful as students," Coan said.

TPS is looking to hire about 21 different custodians and 20 bus drivers before the school year begins.

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