“WE can't have education achievement if we don't have a safe environment for students and teachers.”
Those words from Dave Lopez, interim superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, are indisputable. But as a recent article from The Oklahoman's Tim Willert pointed out, the issue of creating a culture conducive to learning is anything but simple.
Willert reported that since fall 2009, the district recorded 78 reports of students hitting teachers. That includes three such reports this school year. Lopez said the district is looking to hire a chief human resources officer who can make school safety and security a priority. A district spokeswoman said the district needs to hire more teachers familiar with the challenges of teaching in an urban setting.
We can imagine there are specific strategies the district could undertake to improve school safety and culture that may be dependent on the school and its particular challenges. A few teachers cited poor school leadership as an issue. It seems likely that just as teachers need more support and training, so do principals.
School board members have zeroed in recently on the huge array of professional development contracts the district has with vendors and whether the training is effective at boosting student achievement. One obvious question that should stem from the school safety concern is whether teachers are getting the training they think they need in the very important area of classroom management and whether that training is helpful. Another is whether schools have adequate counseling services to assist students.
Some rookie teachers get a more immersive experience in urban classrooms through programs like the Urban Teacher Preparation Academy, but that accounts for only a small number of Oklahoma City's total teaching force.