Teachers needed at most local, area schools

Aug. 6—Finding certified teachers has become harder than it used to be, area superintendents said.

“When I first went to Warner in 2001, I’d have 75 elementary applications on my desk for any position that I had,” said Monte Madewell, now superintendent at Checotah Public Schools. “Now, if we have an elementary position, I have to call around and ask if there are anybody who has any applications.”

Hilldale Superintendent Erik Puckett said “a lot of teachers don’t want to be teachers anymore.”

“We are very lucky in our openings if we get one applicant that is certified,” Puckett said. “Even in the past five years, it was hard in certain subject areas such as special education or foreign language, math and science. That has progressed now where we are struggling to get certified elementary teachers.”

Muskogee Public Schools Communications Director Brandon Irby said MPS had 18 classroom teacher job openings earlier this month. On Friday, the MPS website posted nine vacancies in elementary school teaching, 13 in high school teaching and four in mid-level teaching. There were also three vacancies for special education teachers and six for electives including art, computers, Spanish and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

Irby said special education, math, science and foreign language positions are the hardest to fill. He said MPS offers $5,000 hiring bonuses for hard to fill positions.

When MPS had an in-person hiring event July 22, the district was able to hire more than 18 percent of those who attended, Irby said.

Oktaha Superintendent Jerry Needham said the elementary has openings for a kindergarten teacher and a fifth-grade teacher.

“We don’t have the resumes or applications to contact people. Solicitations for employment aren’t there,” Needham said. “Through the years, we’ve always had candidates for employment.”

He said Oktaha has had trouble finding qualified teaching candidates over the past two or three years.

Fort Gibson Superintendent Scott Farmer said it has gotten harder to find certified teachers each year for the past 10 years.

“We need to start getting that needle moved the other way,” he said, adding there seems to be a lot of uncertainty this year.

“The legislature did not appropriate any more revenue, and it’s a political year, people were uneasy about moving,” Farmer said. “I think the legislature needs to continue to move the needle in education to pay teachers what they’re worth and make it a respected business.”

Districts are relying more on alternative certification, or are hiring teachers pending Oklahoma State Department of Education Certification.

Madewell says the district has five or six teachers going through alternative certification. For example, a person with a criminal justice degree in criminal justice wants to teach elementary, or someone might have a degree in psychology, but not in education, he said.

“What we have is varying certifications,” he said.

Irby said the district has 38 emergency certifications, down from 49 for the 2022 school year.

Puckett said nine teachers are on emergency certification at Hilldale.

“They’re not all new. You can have an emergency certification for more than one year. All it means is that they haven’t passed all their test requirements to have a teaching certificate yet,” Hilldale said.

Hilldale’s website listed an opening for a middle school and high school librarian, but there have been no certified applicants, Puckett said.

“So we’ll have to ask the state to deregulate us on a librarian unless we can find one,” he said. “I’ve been at Hilldale for, this is going on my 25th year, and we’ve never had to I was a high school librarian before. So we are in some uncharted water on doing some things we don’t want to do.”

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