LAWTON, OK (KSWO) –All of the teachers for Lawton Public Schools are deemed highly qualified, despite having a massive teacher shortage before the start of the school year.
In March 2015, the district was facing a massive teacher shortage that left them with more than 150 open positions to fill by August with qualified candidates. They received a letter from the state in recognition of their 100 percent highly qualified status during the last week of December.
For months, Jean Hastings says she received calls from potential teachers who were not qualified and parents who worried the district would hire anyone to fill the jobs.
"It was very disappointing for several people that called. We weren't desperate, we were just diligent," Hastings said.
However, with more than 1,000 teacher vacancies in the state, she knew it wouldn't be an easy task. After four months of job fairs and partnering with Cameron University and Fort Sill, the district hired about 100 teachers. They moved on to an emergency hiring situation that allowed them to hire good teachers, but bend the rules a little
"Someone that has a substantial background in the core area, those classes in their degree, they may have a physics degree but they didn't have the education degree, the pedagogues classes, the art of teaching…so they have the content, they just don't have the degree," Hastings explained.
The district hired 47 emergency teachers who still have to complete the teaching certifications, which consist of four exams, but the difference is they do it in a year time span while teaching in a classroom. The teachers are also assigned a mentor to help them with lesson plans and the administration is always watching to make sure standards are being met.
"Our instruction leadership through our principals they do a lot of walk through and time in the classrooms so they can identify strengths and weaknesses," Hastings said.
Hastings says their accreditation is directly tied to funding.
"Through the federal funding, which is in the most jeopardy if we do not meet highly qualified. That's $23.8 million, so that is almost a quarter of our funding that might be lost," Hastings said.
Money that is used for everyday tools in the classroom.
"The mimeographs, whiteborads, the software programs…all of them have a user fee that has to be paid each year. For our students that are unable to bring supplies each year in our Title I schools. For that to be there for them to have engaging instruction," Hastings said.
As of right now, there are currently six positions open for the 2016 school year. Hastings says she believes they will be filled no later than Tuesday.
If you are interested in a teaching position with Lawton Public Schools, just head to lawtonps.org.