Vincent Adkins, 23, said he learned a valuable lesson in his first year of teaching: "you really do need to look at the politics and you need to keep up.”
Adkins is one of 360 first-year teachers in Oklahoma City Public Schools who received notices this week that they may not have jobs next year as the district looks to close a $22.5 million funding gap.
"It's unsettling and it's hard to make ends meet, but for me personally, either way it goes, I was very, very thankful for the opportunity to teach in Oklahoma City Public Schools,” Adkins said. "I've truly made a difference in the lives of my students.”
Adkins accepted a job teaching kindergarten at Buchanan Elementary School in December after graduating from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford.
He's one example of the hundreds of young, energetic first-year teachers, Superintendent Karl Springer said he hopes to retain but realistically might have to let go.
Teachers in their first year with a school district — regardless of how many years of experience they may have in other districts — are hired on probationary status.
And in times of budget cuts and layoffs, they are often the first out the door.
Oklahoma City Public Schools has earmarked the possibility of releasing 300 non-renewing contracts for fiscal year 2011 to save $12 million in personnel costs. The district employs approximately 2,500 certified teachers.
The number the district lets go will depend on how many other reductions can be made toward the district's goal of cutting at least $16.8 million.
In response to the threat of losing his job, Adkins applied to graduate school at Oklahoma State University and was accepted to study educational technology. He ultimately hopes to return to teaching.
Springer said layoffs will increase class sizes and boost teacher work loads, something kindergarten teacher Jessica Oaks said she is concerned about in her class of 25 students.