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The Morning Bell: Another teacher rally in the future?

Good Thursday morning. Classes are cancelled today at Southeast High School in Oklahoma City. More on that below. 

But first, nearly all of Oklahoma's major public education advocacy groups, along with the state's two largest school districts, have publicly backed a series of tax hikes being promoted by a statewide coalition of business and civic leaders, largely because of its inclusion of a $5,000 teacher pay raise.

“Bottom line is we are in a crisis situation in education and if we don't address it very quickly ... it is going to be devastating to us," said Rick Garrison, superintendent of Elk City Public Schools and president of the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators, which hosted a legislative conference on Wednesday.

You can read my story on the support education groups are throwing behind the slate of budget increases being called Step Up Oklahoma here. The budget proposal was one of the big topics at yesterday's Oklahoma Association of School Administrators legislative conference, where school leaders were encouraged to lobby in support of the proposal. 

With some of the biggest education advocacy groups supporting the plan that has a defined "win", I would expect significant mobilization at the Capitol in the coming weeks.

It's one thing for ed advocacy groups to rally and lobby in support of teacher pay raises and school funding, but with a specific plan in place it creates more opportunities. One lobbyist yesterday said he gave the plan a 40 percent chance last week. With the education groups on board, he called it 50-50.

I see a large teachers rally in the future. At least if the plan stalls out of the gate, which common political sense says it will.

Tulsa teacher resigns after throwing desk

The teacher recorded on video throwing desks at Edison Preparatory School resigned Wednesday, reports the Tulsa World

Robert Reynolds, an English Language Arts teacher, submitted his letter of resignation to Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist.

School offers support following rig explosion

Following a rig explosion in Pittsburg County on Monday, where five employees on the site were presumed dead, Quinton Public Schools Superintendent Stacey Henderson said the school became a hub of community support.  

Locals brought food, clothing and other items to the school’s event center on Monday for families impacted by the incident. Some relatives of the workers also received grief counseling at the event center, reports the McAlester News Capital.

“We had pillows and blankets within 10 minutes in case they wanted to lay down and rest…because it was going to be a long day,” Henderson said.

OKC schools look into underutilized classrooms

Oklahoma City Public Schools spends about $2.4 million annually to heat and cool nearly 1,000 vacant or underutilized classrooms, district officials reported Monday night.

According to The Oklahoman's Tim Willert, approximately 39 percent of elementary school seats are empty while 26 percent of middle and high school seats are empty, including those in portable classrooms, according to figures presented to school board members.

"About a third of the instructional space that we are paying utilities for is vacant," said Chief of Staff Rebecca Kaye.

Board members did not take any action during a more than two-hour work session at Northeast Academy that included a demographic study and facilities planning update.

Several, however, said the long-range planning discussions — which call for extensive community engagement — are long overdue.

Southeast classes cancelled

Classes are cancelled today for students at Southeast High School in Oklahoma City.

According to the district, construction crews damaged a gas line near Southeast High School which will require the gas be turned off for an extended period of time while repairs are made. Because this will impact the heat and hot water supply to the building, District leaders have chosen to cancel classes for SEHS students tomorrow and will be relocating staff to Metro Tech’s South Bryant Campus. 

The High School Wrestling District Dual and the freshman basketball game vs Northeast Academy will both proceed as scheduled. The OKCPS Food Truck will be on-site at SEHS from 11:00am – 1:00pm to serve lunch to students who choose to drop by the campus.

OKCPS superintendent apologizes for post

Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Aurora Lora apologized Wednesday night for taking to social media the night before to "to vent my frustration," reports The Oklahoman's Tim Willert

In a late-night Facebook post directed at the school board, Lora said, "I had a really hard day today. When you have 8 bosses, there is always at least one that wants to make you feel worthless and who wants to make sure that you bring no value to this world."

Lora's 11:47 p.m. post appeared a little over 24 hours after the eight-member board met behind closed doors to continue evaluating her.

Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›