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Green Country school districts working to hire hundreds of employees before the start of school

Posted at 3:24 PM, Jul 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-27 18:46:05-04

TULSA, Okla. — Many school districts across Green Country are working to fill several critical positions before the school year starts in August.

“It’s been more of a challenge than I ever knew was going to be out there,” said Muskogee Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jarod Mendenhall. “I really did not think I would have to go through that kind of process to find teachers.

Mendenhall has been working in education for 32 years.

The Muskogee Public School District needs to hire 58 employees for the upcoming school year.That number includes 18 classroom teachers.

“We’re seeing more retirements,” Mendenhall said. “We’re seeing people go into other professions, people leaving.”

Mendenhall says they’re offering incentives to get employees in the door, including a $10,000 stipend for new employees who move into the City of Muskogee.

Muskogee Public Schools partnered with the Port of Muskogee and the city of Muskogee to provide the stipend.

They’re also offering some sign-on bonuses for new teachers in science, math, and special education. Mendenhall says those are the most difficult certifications to find staff to fill, and they’re having to take more emergency-certified teachers to put in the classroom because of staff shortages.

For the upcoming school year, they have 38 emergency certified teachers. That number is down from 49 emergency certified teachers last school year.

Mendenhall says because those emergency certifications don’t come with training for the classroom, sometimes those teachers can struggle.

“That’s what we’re seeing with these emergency certifications,” said Dr. Mendenhall. “People are struggling. They struggle with classroom management. They struggle with all of the work they’ve got to do besides just teaching the subject and the content. We’re having more and more of those conversations to talk about what are those things we can do to help people through that.”

Muskogee Public Schools isn’t the only district dealing with staffing shortages.

“I’ve been doing human resources for more than a decade and this is probably the most difficult hiring season that we’ve ever had in just simply having enough candidates for the jobs that we have open,” said Dana Ezell.

Ezell is the Chief Human Resources Officer at Jenks Public Schools. Ezell says the district is looking to fill 10 certified positions including teachers and speech pathologists.

Jenks Public Schools also has 113 support staff openings. That includes 45 paraprofessionals, 21 child nutrition workers, 18 child care workers, 7 bus drivers and several business office and other support staff.

“There are more jobs than people available to work them,” said Dana Ezell. “It’s not just an education issue, it’s an issue for every employer.”

They also need to fill their substitute pool. They need about 300 substitute teachers. They currently have about 100.

Ezell says paraprofessionals are a critical need. If the jobs go unfilled, the district could go without.

“I think in a time of shortage everyone just picks up more and unfortunately you can’t offer maybe everything you could if you were fully staffed,” said Dana Ezell.

We checked with other districts to see their vacancies.

Tulsa Public Schools has 380 site-level vacancies, including 194 certified openings which include teachers.

Owasso Public Schools has 26 positions to fill including teachers, campus support, custodians, maintenance workers, bus drivers, and a crossing guard.

Bixby Public Schools needs 7 certified teachers, 13 classroom and school support staff, and 3 bus drivers.

Broken Arrow Public Schools needs 11 bus drivers, 25 child nutrition workers, 25 classroom support professionals, and 30 teachers.

“We are all vying for the same candidates so we’re hoping the people in our community will step up,” Ezell said.

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