OKC teacher safety put to the test

District officials says schools are safe despite reports of theft and assault that often accompany classroom disrespect.
by Tim Willert Published: October 21, 2013
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Her alleged attacker, Nsilo Hunter, 36, of Oklahoma City, was charged with assault and battery upon a school employee, a misdemeanor. His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 30. Attempts to reach Hunter for comment were unsuccessful.

Hunter entered the school through a door Goetzinger said was off limits to parents picking up their children after school.

“There are some elementary schools that need a police officer, maybe not all of them,” she said. “They need to look into those high crime areas.”

Kennedy, the district's executive director of communications, said district teachers and students are safe and their concerns are addressed, first by school administrators and then by district officials if the issues are not adequately resolved.

“We strive to make our schools the safest place possible for everyone who enters the door,” she said. “When someone knocks that out of balance then it's up to administration and building leadership to access the problem and provide a solution.”

Others familiar with the urban school district say young teachers are ill-equipped to handle the rigors of working classrooms filled with students who come from broken homes and have behavior problems or struggle to grasp the subject matter.

“A lot of new teachers don't have management skills or discipline skills,” said a district staffer close to the situation who requested anonymity. “They don't know classroom management.”

According to Kennedy, all new teachers receive new teacher orientation that includes classroom management. The district also offers additional classroom management and professional development for teachers with less than five years of experience, she said.

“You have to find a good fit for the school sometimes,” Kennedy said. “When we find those good people we need to equip them with some additional classroom management skills. That way they are set up for success.”

Overcrowding at Jackson

District officials this week acknowledged problems with overcrowding at Jackson Middle School and said they are working to fix the problem by hiring additional staff and bringing in a teacher from another middle school to pick up the slack.

The overcrowding, Kennedy said, is occurring in science and elective classes and not in classrooms where reading, writing and arithmetic are taught.

The district, she added, needs to hire people who are familiar with the challenges that come with teaching in an urban setting.

“We have high poverty in Oklahoma City so our kids come to school and a lot of them are on the free and reduced lunch program,” Kennedy said. “Some of them may have a huge host of problems at home. It's hard for kids to depart some of those problems when they come to school.”

At least two teachers contacted for this story said district schools suffer from poor leadership. Administrators, they said, don't support their teachers and are slow to act on referrals from teachers, particularly when it comes to disruptive or poor-performing students.

Kennedy acknowledged there is room for improvement.

“Our teachers deserve for us to be able to support them as much as we support our students,” she said. “I think they are being supported, but I think there is an opportunity for us to listen to their concerns.”


by Tim Willert
Education Reporter
Tim Willert is a native Californian with Oklahoma ties who covers education. Prior to moving to Oklahoma in June 2011, he was as an editor for FOXSports.com in Century City, Calif., and reported on courts for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and...
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