Yukon prepares for new school year

By TERRY GROOVER
tgroover@theyukonreview.com

The number of new teachers hired by the Yukon School District in preparation for the upcoming school year is down significantly from previous years.
Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth said the district hired fewer than 100 new teachers over the summer. That is well below the 150 who were hired at the beginning of last year. Of those, only 10 are considered to be “emergency certified” by the Oklahoma Department of Education.
Simeroth said as of this week, the district only had four positions that were vacant on the teaching staff.
Surrey Hills Elementary School will see the largest turnover in staff this year. According to the school district, 24 of the school’s teachers will be new.
Simeroth said that the school had the “perfect storm,” where several teachers either moved, accepted other positions, including promotions, or decided to start families.
“It was the perfect scenario where you had so many people who had opportunities at one time that it seems like a big hit to them. Bill hired lots of good people,” he said.
Simeroth said the principal, Bill Pierce, was able to bring back some of his student-teachers from last year, as well as hire others who had previously sought positions.
“They will be fine, and hopefully we will be able to give them even more support this year,” Simeroth said.
That is because the district replaced a deputy superintendent’s position that became vacant with the resignation of Sheli McAdoo, with two positions that will focus directly on elementary and secondary education.
McAdoo, who had been with the district for several years, was named the superintendent in Purcell.
In return, the district named Lance Wilson, the longtime principal at Parkland Elementary School, to oversee elementary education and Diana Lebsack, the former middle school principal, to lead secondary education.
The district now has almost 600 certified staff members, so when a large number of staff members are replaced, it stands out, Simeroth said.
However, he also pointed out that the district hired some exceptional new teachers.
The district has among the highest starting pays in the state, which helps. Teachers with no experience have a starting pay of more than $40,000.
“You combine the culture of the district with the fact that we are paying well. It is kind of a hard to deny that if you want to be in a good place and make good money, Yukon is a very attractive place to be,” he said.
Statistically, he said, when a teacher leaves, it is not likely about money.
“It is generally your culture, or your supervisors are why people leave,” Simeroth said. “We’ve been working on improving the culture for the last five years. … We can always do better. That is the nature of the beast.”
This year, the high school has the most new teachers with 24, while the middle school has 21 new educators.
The lowest number of new hires was at Lakeview, Myers and Ranchwood, where only three of the teachers are new at each school.
One of those is Clair Dent, who will teach art and is replacing Becky Oglesby, who is this year’s state teacher of the year. She is on a one-year leave of absence that began July 1.
With only a few openings remaining, Simeroth said the district is a little ahead in the hiring process.
“Last year and this year, we’ve done a pretty good job of filling positions well in advance of school starting,” Simeroth said. “They do a good job of recruiting at job fairs and making our presence known. … We’re making an effort.”
The new teachers report for duty on Monday and will be honored Tuesday at a luncheon hosted by the Yukon Chamber of Commerce.
Yukon’s first day of class is Aug. 15.

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