By Jess Kelsey
The Mustang Public Schools Board of Education on Monday authorized Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel to close all district schools if a potential teacher walkout comes to fruition April 2.
“This board is behind our teachers,” said Dr. Jim Davis, vice president of the board of education, during Monday night’s monthly meeting.
Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Education Association called for a teacher walkout and school closure starting Monday, April 2 to protest the Oklahoma State Legislature for its refusal to provide Oklahoma public school teachers with a raise for more than a decade along with its decreasing funding of public schools.
More than 600 Mustang teachers were anonymously surveyed regarding the walkout, and according to McDaniel, 529 responded with 95.1 percent of those responses expressing intent to join the walkout.
According to a letter sent to Mustang parents from McDaniel, school will remain closed each day teachers are gone due to safety concerns.
“We are an ‘hours district,’ which means that students and teachers must complete a minimum of 1,080 hours of instructional time over the course of the year to be in compliance with state department regulations,” wrote McDaniel. “If we have to close school due to a teacher walkout, we have enough ‘banked’ or extra hours to miss seven days of school without having to make up those days. If the walkout lasts more than seven school days, we would have to make up any additional time lost. We could do that by adding minutes to days that we are in school or by adding days to the calendar.”
In regards to extracurricular and after school activities, McDaniel said they hope to have a well-defined plan ready by the end of the week following more discussions throughout the state.
Members of the community are also meeting throughout the week to come up with resources to help feed students who rely on school meals, including numerous churches who have offered to provide sack lunches.
McDaniel said graduation will not be affected by the potential walkout. The Mustang High School class of 2018 will have their graduation ceremony as scheduled.
Overall, McDaniel said whatever decision is made by district teachers, officials will support their cause.
“This is really important,” wrote McDaniel. “Your administration, your Board of Education, and your community all support you. Each of you has to make the decision about walking out. If you choose to do so we support you. If you choose not to walk out, we support you equally.”
“Please remember that our legislators; Representative Leslie Osborn, Representative John Paul Jordan, Senator Lonnie Paxton, and Senator Paul Rosino have been supporters of a teacher pay raise,” continued McDaniel. “These four are not a part of this particular problem. They have been working hard to be a part of our solution. Your encouragement of them is important as they consider how they can continue to support us.”
President and Vice President of the Mustang Education Association, Mark Webb and Carnie Cullen, were also in attendance at Monday’s meeting to show support for the district’s teachers.
Webb said the issue of teachers walking out is not new since teachers have been leaving the state for more than a decade to find better opportunities elsewhere.
“Teachers have been walking out of Oklahoma for close to 10 years,” said Webb. “We are opening three new schools in the next two years. We must act to make sure that all students in this district have great teachers…The time has come for us to stand up for our students. If we don’t advocate for them, who will?”
“No one wants to leave their classrooms. In fact, I truly hope our legislators come up with a plan quickly; however, I am no longer willing to sit back and leave it to the legislatures to figure out,” said Cullen. “The bottom line is this, we are doing for our students.”
The walkout will not occur if Oklahoma state leaders create a sustainable plan to better fund education by April 2.