By CHRIS EVERSOLE
Mustang Public Schools were back in session this week following the end of a two-week teachers’ walkout.
Both school officials and members of the teachers’ bargaining unit, the Mustang Education Association, applauded additional funding the Legislature approved in response to the walkout.
However, they said that would work for more funding to maintain quality education in the state.
Mustang Education Association President Mark Webb applauded the average pay raise of $6,100, effective July 1, that will come with new revenue for school operations.
“This puts our salaries on a par with the region,” he said. “We’ll do a lot better in not losing teachers to Arkansas, Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado.”
However, Oklahoma salaries remain below those of Texas teachers, which are $10,000 to $15,000 higher for comparable positions, he said.
“We’re never going to catch Texas,” he said.
Teachers will continue to seek more funding for education, Webb said.
Mustang Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel announced in an email to staff and parents that he is seeking members of 10 “advocacy teams” of 15 members each to meet with legislators.
“While state educators have enjoyed a victory this legislative session, the fight is not over,” he said in the email.
“Legislators have the difficult task of creating legislation on topics for which they only have a surface knowledge,” he continued.
“Only the people whose lives revolve around public education can speak with authority to what is necessary for its success.”
The advocacy teams will explain the statewide need for adequate funding.
“They also will include a clear, detailed picture of what the funding means to you as a school employee or to you as a parent of a child in Mustang Schools,” he wrote.
Deputy Superintendent Charles Bradley said he was encouraged by the interest job candidates are showing in the district.
A total of 166 job candidates attended the district’s job fair last week, an increase from last year.
The raises that the State Legislature approved are helping attract applicants, Bradley said.
“A couple applicants I met at the job fair said they have confidence in staying in Oklahoma rather than moving their families out of state,” he said.
The walkout, which school officials refer to as a work stoppage, helped raise aware of the Legislature does business, Bradley noted.
“Many people became informed about the process and how frustrating it can be,” he said.
The district expects to have ample applicants to fill the 25 to 30 vacancies it will need to staff the two new schools it will open next school and to replace staff who resign or retire, said Deputy Superintendent Charles Bradley.
The two new schools are Riverwood Elementary, located at 44th Street and Czech Hall Road and Meadow Brook Intermediate school (serving fifth and sixth graders) at 15th Street and Czech Hall Road.
Applicant Wendyle Andrews, an aspiring music teacher who is about to graduate from Oklahoma State University, said he is eager to work in Mustang.
“Mustang has a good reputation in the state as a good place to work for supporting the arts and having good students,” he said
Hannah Essington, another music teacher candidate, also said Mustang schools were attractive to her.
“Mustang is one of the fastest growing districts in the state, and it’s very supportive of teachers,” she said.
She noted that she’s been substitute teaching as well as teaching private music lessons since graduating from Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond in December.
“I’m used to working 12-hour days, and I’m young and ambitious,” she said.
Bradley, the deputy superintendent, said the district’s biggest shortage in applicants for bus drivers and cafeteria workers.
Bus drivers, who work a six-hour day, get full benefits, which adds to the attractiveness of the job.
Many drivers are retired teachers and school administrators.
“Having the teacher mentality on the bus is ideal,” he said.