Posted Date: 01/19/2022
As Governor Kevin Stitt signed an executive order encouraging state employees to serve as substitute teachers due to the recent Covid-19 surge, Union says it has a plan to quickly place these volunteers in the classroom. Stitt has directed state agencies to create mechanisms for state employees to substitute teach. State employees would not be paid a substitute teaching rate but would be paid by their respective agencies. Oklahoma has 32,000 state employees, according to the governor. The order is effective for 120 days. See related story.
“We will graciously accept these volunteers, as we have done everything in our power to keep classrooms open,” Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler said. “We’ve streamlined our on-boarding process to enable us to have a volunteer in the classroom within one day of signing up. We will use the Raptor program to vet these volunteers – a program we already have in place – so we can ensure the safety of our children. My office eagerly awaits to hear from these volunteers. We just have to hope that this most recent surge will peak at some point in time, sooner rather than later.”
All volunteers will need to undergo a background check. There is a sex offender check as well, which can be performed using Raptor.
Hartzler said he’s been informed by Dr. Dale Bratzler of the University of Oklahoma’s College of Public Health that Oklahoma might start seeing the peak in Covid numbers sometime this week, “and that it should then drop precipitously.”
“I think there is still a very acute teacher shortage in Oklahoma and a staffing shortage that we will continue to have to deal with,” said Hartzler. “We need to continue to pay our teachers at a very competitive rate. I want to be #1 in teacher pay. Our support staff are also extremely important to our wellbeing. We’ve never seen such a shortage of support service workers that we are experiencing right now.”
According to Associate Superintendent Charlie Bushyhead, Union has about 20 percent of Support Services open as of this writing. “Four out of 10 child nutrition workers are not in place.”