MOST teachers are good at what they do, Oklahoma City schools' acting superintendent Sandra Park says. But when teachers don't make the grade, students, parents and other educators are sharply affected. "The majority are doing a great job, but when they're bad it is so devastating to the group of kids that has them,” Park said. "When someone makes the comment, ‘I would not let my child or my grandchild be in that teacher's class,' we've got a problem if we don't have a way of removing that teacher from the classroom.” That method of removal is the Teacher Due Process Act. But under the system, just one teacher in the last five years has been terminated from Oklahoma City Public Schools for unsatisfactory teaching performance. Park said resignations and transfers likely account for the singular figure. "The fact is, no legal issue is more expensive in terms of a school district's time, money and resources than teacher due process actions,” said Craig Crimmins, director of legal information for the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. Those were driving factors in the decision by the Vian School Board to accept last-minute resignations from two teachers accused of having inappropriate relationships with students. "The board took this very seriously,” Vian Superintendent Lawrence Barnes said. "It was just best for the district for them to resign. There's finality to it. We don't have to go through the termination hearings or prolonged litigation.” The board's decision frustrated Vian parents, but theirs is just one source of dissatisfaction with the process tied to teacher quality. Another is the role unions are perceived to take on as defenders of defenseless teachers. A handful of teachers in Oklahoma City have resigned their union memberships as a result. "And teachers are the only employees in the state that have such a system in place to preserve their employment,” Crimmins said. The president of the state's largest union, the Oklahoma Education Association, said the process is in place for a reason. "If the process is followed correctly and done right, then a teacher that isn't worthy to be in the classroom isn't there in the end,” Roy Bishop said. "It's just set up so teachers can't lose their job on a personal and political whim.” Teachers are paid throughout the multistep termination process, including teachers charged with a sexual or felony offense. Teachers convicted of a felony are not paid from the time of the verdict, as the state Education Department will revoke their teaching certificates. Felony convictions led the department to revoke the teaching certificates of more than 30 educators from 2003 through 2007, according to records obtained by The Oklahoman. More than half of those convictions — 19 out of 31 — were for sexually tinged crimes including rape, lewd acts with a minor and child pornography. Other teachers' felony convictions ranged from drug manufacturing to witness intimidation. Contributing: Staff Writer Julie Bisbee
Felony convictions•30 educators from 2003 through 2007 had teaching certificates revoked from the state Education Department because of felony convictions. •More than half — 19 out of 31 — were convictions for sexual crimes including rape, lewd acts with a minor and child pornography. • Other convictions ranged from drug manufacturing to witness intimidation.