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Students and teachers at Peavine

Public Schools will experience learn-
ing in new and innovative ways
thanks to a $65,000 grant from the
Oklahoma Educational Technology
Trust (OETT). The school will receive
$40,000 to purchase new technology
equipment in addition to professional
teacher development training valued
at $25,000.
New mobile iPads labs with hand-
held response systems will create a
new Tech Tracks Center at Peavine
School thanks to OETT grant funding,
iPads will be used with existing cur-
riculum and new apps will create an
interactive method of teaching core
curriculum. Funds from OETT, com-
bined with a separate grant program
and district funds, will make the one-
to-one personalized computer envi-
ronment a reality at Peavine School.
In total, OETT is awarding $1.2 million
to 19 Oklahoma schools in 2014.
“Through the OETT grants, we are
focused on creating long-term change
in our schools,” said Phil Berkenbile,
OETT Board of Trustee chair. “Our
goal is to improve overall student
achievement and learning through the
use of technology and getting the tech-
nology in the students’ hand.”
OETT was established in 2001 as a
result of an agreement between then-
attorney general, Drew Edmondson,
and AT&T Oklahoma. As part of the
agreement, AT&T contributed $30 mil-
lion OETT. Since its creation, the trust
has distributed more than $16 million
to 207 schools. The professional devel-
opment that is provided with the grant
has reached more than 5,000 teachers
and impacted more than 75,000 stu-
dents.
The mission of the Oklahoma
Educational Technology Trust is to
equip Oklahoma common and
CareerTech students with the technol-
ogy and technological skills necessary
to compete in the global marketplace.
The trust provides funds for equip-
ment, infrastructure, leadership and
professional development to imple-
ment and advance integration of tech-
nology into classroom instruction.
OETT trustees are Phil Berkenbile
appointed by the Oklahoma State
Board of Career & Technology
Education, Steven Crawford appoint-
ed by the Cooperative Council for
Oklahoma School Administration,
Robert Franklin appointed by the
Oklahoma State Senate Education
Committee, Shawn Hime appointed
by the Oklahoma State School Boards
Association, Lela Odom appointed by
the Oklahoma Education Association,
Scott Parks appointed by the
Oklahoma State Superintendent of
Public Instruction, Bob Stafford
appointed by AT&T, and John A.
Wright appointed by the Oklahoma
State House of Representative
Committee on Education.
OETT is administered by
Communities Foundation of
Oklahoma and the professional devel-
opment is coordinated through the
University of Oklahoma’s K20 Center.
For additional information visit
www.oett.org
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 Stilwell (OK) Democrat-Journal Page 3 Section B
Accepting the award for Peavine School were Johnny Hensley, Jack Ritchie
and Diane England.
School
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Peavine Public Schools receives $65K technology award
State school districts struggling with teacher shortage
Oklahoma school districts are hundreds of teach-
ers short as the school year begins, and school lead-
ers say students are paying the price, according to
results from a new survey conducted by the
Oklahoma State School Boards Association.
Districts representing nearly three-fourths of the
state’s public school enrollment completed the sur-
vey during the first two weeks in August. Among
the findings:
• Districts reported more than 800 teaching
vacancies.
• More than half of districts with vacancies said
they have sought emergency certification for teach-
ers who aren’t fully qualified to teach the subject
and/or grade level for which they were hired.
• About half of the districts also said they will use
long- or short-term substitute teachers to fill vacan-
cies.
• Even many districts that reported no vacancies
said they have hired short- and long-term substitutes
in place of full-time teachers.
• The shortage is hitting districts of all sizes in
every area of the state.
• Special education is the most difficult teaching
area to fill, followed by elementary education, high
school science and high school math.
• A handful of districts offer incentives to
improve teacher recruitment and retention, but most
districts do not, citing financial constraints.
• Not only are local school officials deeply con-
cerned about the scarcity of applicants, they are wor-
ried about the quality of educators who do apply.
“Local school officials have been saying for a
while that finding qualified teachers is difficult,”
said Shawn Hime, executive director of the OSSBA.
“This survey put actual numbers to the problem —
and the results should concern every parent and pol-
icymaker in the state. Having a highly qualified
teacher in every classroom is the most effective strat-
egy for academic improvement, but as a state, that’s
not where we’ve chosen to invest our time, energy or
resources. It’s short-sighted because it limits the
effectiveness of any other plan Oklahoma puts it
place.”
State education officials approved 71 emergency
certifications in July. They have received 175
requests that could be considered by the state Board
of Education this month, according to the state
Education Department. If approved, the total for
those two months would exceed the number of
emergency certificates approved for all of last school
year.
In addition to seeking emergency certifications
and substitutes, some districts said they are simply
“absorbing” teaching vacancies and hiring class-
room assistants to help teachers manage the larger
class sizes. More students may also be placed in
online classes. In the words of Choctaw-Nicoma
Park Schools Superintendent Jim McCharen: “We’re
doing a little bit of everything to fill vacancies. None
of them are great for kids.”
Hime said common and higher education offi-
cials and policymakers need short- and long-term
solutions to a number of issues raised by school offi-
cials in the survey, including:
• The lack of reciprocity of teacher and adminis-
trator certification between Oklahoma and contigu-
ous states.
• The timing of certification test results that aren’t
available until after the school year has begun.
• Teacher compensation packages that allow dis-
tricts to successfully compete with other states and
other professions.
• Restrictions on the earnings of education
retirees who want to return to the profession, partic-
ularly in hard-to-fill positions.
• The dearth of early childhood-certified teachers
to staff the growth of full day pre-kindergarten and
kindergarten programs.
• Incentives to increase recruitment of students
into colleges of education and to keep college gradu-
ates teaching in Oklahoma public schools.
“We are asking our students to know more and
do more than ever before — and that’s absolutely the
right thing to do,” Hime said. “But the question is
whether we as a state are providing school districts
the support they need to make that happen. The
obvious answer is no and that has to change to truly
reach the goal of providing quality educational expe-
riences for every child."
The vacancy numbers change daily as districts
desperately search for teachers. Together, the state’s
two largest districts — Oklahoma City and Tulsa —
reported about 200 vacancies as classes started for
the year. Tulsa schools Superintendent Keith Ballard
mentioned the shortage last week and how it might
have impacted student achievement as measured by
test scores.
The shortage has been less severe in many of the
state’s high-performing suburban districts. But even
in those districts, officials said they are struggling
like never before to find highly qualified teachers at
the same time academic expectations for students
are on the rise.
“Our district faced a significant challenge this
year in that we didn’t have nearly as many quality
applicants as we have had in the past,” said Norman
schools Superintendent Joseph Siano.
He said Norman principals worked hard
throughout the summer to find high-quality teach-
ers, but he’s worried about the future.
“This seems to be a trend in our state, and with-
out significant attention to teacher recruitment and
retention, the state is going to find itself in a very
challenging position to meet the academic bench-
marks we’ve set for students.”
Rural districts throughout the state — particular-
ly those along the state line — say it’s just too simple
for teachers cross the border for higher pay, and
often, lower class sizes. In western Oklahoma where
the oil business is booming, local superintendents
said they couldn’t match salaries when educators
can easily double their pay or more by working in
the energy industry.
Only a handful of districts reported they have the
financial wherewithal to offer special incentives to
recruit or retain employees. In the tiny Reydon dis-
trict that borders the Texas panhandle, the district
has more than a dozen housing units where district
teachers can live rent-free. Last year, employees
received a $5,000 Christmas bonus. Teachers also
receive free dental insurance and a $50,000 life insur-
ance policy.
Maegan Fletcher, the daughter of Jody and Gina
Fletcher and a Stilwell High School graduate has
been awarded a pair of scholarships to attend Carl
Albert State College. The first scholarship is the
Sallisaw Committee for Excellence and the second is
the Lynn and Ruth Yarbrough Memorial Scholarship.
Fletcher awarded scholarships
at Carl Albert State College
See School, page B4