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Morning Bell: Teachers gain partner for possible strike

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Thousands of Oklahoma teachers picketed the Legislature on April 16, 1990. Staff Photo by Jim Beckel.
Thousands of Oklahoma teachers picketed the Legislature on April 16, 1990. Staff Photo by Jim Beckel.

Good Monday Morning! Oklahoma City Public Schools begins its two-week spring break today, a production of "Peter Pan" shows the power of inclusion at an Edmond elementary school and educators in Okemah consider arming teachers as a way to keep students safe. 

But first, if Oklahoma teachers strike on April 2 they will probably have state employees joining them. 

"We are going to have to design different plans for different types of (state agency) work sites, and that's what we are going to be doing over the next week," said Tom Dunning, communications director for the Oklahoma Public Employees Association.

The OPEA board voted on Saturday to move forward with plans to join teachers for an April strike if funding demands are not met, including $213 million for state employee pay raises. 

The alliance with state employees may put more pressure on lawmakers, but it also raises the amount of money those lawmakers will have to come up with to meet all of the union's demands. You can read more about that in this story from Saturday

If teachers strike next month for the first time in 28 years there will be some key differences between now and 1990, when a four-day walkout resulted in teacher pay raises and school funding increases. On Sunday, I looked at at some of those differences, which include today's power of social media, and how 1990 included the target of a specific bill. 

If schools close because of a strike, where will students go? The Oklahoman's Tim Willert recently reported on efforts to ensure that students are provided for. 

Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy announced Friday that it is working with community leaders from across the state to compile a list of organizations that will provide child care and meals during the planned walkout.

What strike? If you're looking to catch up on last week's developments over a potential teacher walkout, start here

R.L. Vick, the principal at Okemah High School. Photo by Dave Morris. 
R.L. Vick, the principal at Okemah High School. Photo by Dave Morris. 

Arming staff seen as way to keep students safe

Okemah Public Schools is one of the few districts in Oklahoma where some staff carry firearms.  Superintendent Tony Dean first raised the idea of arming teachers two years ago, unsure how the board would react.

“I thought it was a no-brainer,” said Jim Bill Copeland, an 11-year member of the school board, which unanimously backed Dean's proposal.

In addition to the state requirements, the Okemah district requires staff who want to carry to a firearm to complete two hours of weapon retention training with the local police department and to shoot a qualifying score on the firing range.

Edmond school becomes Neverland

Edmond's Washington Irving Elementary School transformed briefly into the magical land of Neverland as special needs children and their teachers entertained hundreds with an inspirational production of "Peter Pan."

Special-education teacher Robin Mills, last year's district Teacher of the Year, said this was the seventh consecutive year the school had put on such a play.

"You can really see it on the children's faces, how much this means to them," said Mills, who played Peter Pan. "They all have such heart."

Some of the special needs students were confined to wheelchairs, and yet were an integral part of the day's program.

Muskogee schools face lawsuit over officer pay

Muskogee Public School District was sued this week by six former district police officers for more than $34,000 in salary underpayments in what Superintendent Mike Garde called a "friendly" lawsuit, reports the Muskogee Phoenix

"An error was made in our human resources department, and we admit it," Garde said. 

The underpayments took place over three fiscal years, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17. Garde said the discrepancy arose as the number of law officers employed by the district increased.

That does it for today's Morning Bell. Have a great Monday!

Related Photos
20th ANNIVERSARY OF HB-1017. Thousands of Oklahoma teachers skipped school Monday to march at the state Capitol for education reforms. The Oklahoma Education Association, which called for the strike, estimated more than 10,000 teachers picketed the Legislature. April 16, 1990. Staff Photo by Jim Beckel.  ORG XMIT: kod

20th ANNIVERSARY OF HB-1017. Thousands of Oklahoma teachers skipped school Monday to march at the state Capitol for education reforms. The Oklahoma Education Association, which called for the strike, estimated more than 10,000 teachers picketed the Legislature. April 16, 1990. Staff Photo by Jim...

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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 ›

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