There could be a light at the end of the tunnel for Oklahoma teachers still waiting to be vaccinated after Gov. Kevin Stitt announced this week that COVID-19 vaccines would be available to all pre-K through 12th grade educators beginning Feb. 22.
Also this week, voters hit the polls in some local school board elections, including the race for chairperson of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education. Plus, The Oklahoman and StateImpact examined the term “ghost students,” as it was used by Stitt during his State of the State address.
Once you’re done with that, be sure to catch up on the week’s Oklahoma education news with this collection of headlines from reporters around the state.
Oklahoma teachers eligible for vaccine Feb. 22
Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Thursday that pre-K through 12th grade teachers, school staff and Oklahomans with comorbidities younger than 65 will be eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine Feb. 22.
NonDoc’s Andrea DenHoed reported that Deputy Commissioner of Health Keith Reed said the state estimates there are 89,000 teachers and school staff who will be newly eligible for the vaccine.
The vaccines will be distributed through clinics organized in coordination with local school systems.
Starts Feb 22! While in-person school is more dependent on #COVID mitigation strategies such as masks and social distancing, ensuring #vaccination of #teachers is vital to keeping our school doors open. #OklaEd #schoolpersonnel #GetVaccinated 💪 pic.twitter.com/4jU4Mv5OKT
— Joy Hofmeister (@joy4ok) February 11, 2021
Tulsa teachers and school leaders respond to vaccine push
There are about 5,000 Tulsa Public Schools employees awaiting access to COVID-19 vaccines, and despite Gov. Kevin Stitt’s announcement that all teachers will be eligible on Feb. 22, some are still skeptical.
The Tulsa World’s Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton and Andrea Eger spoke with teachers in Tulsa Public Schools and surrounding districts about why they are skeptical of Stitt’s push for teacher vaccinations and why providing teachers with the vaccine is critical for in-person learning.
OKCPS holds vaccine POD for district employees
In partnership with Passport Health, Oklahoma City Public Schools held its first vaccination event for district teachers and staff Friday.
The vaccines were given at no cost, but since they come from the state’s limited vaccine supply, the point of distribution was only open to OKCPS faculty and staff ages 65 and above, school health care workers and school security guards.
“As we’ve said from the very beginning, the best place for our students is in the classroom,” OKCPS Superintendent Sean McDaniel said in a message to the district. “Allowing our teachers and staff to receive the vaccine is a critical piece of our mitigation efforts, and we are delighted to see the eligibility parameters being significantly expanded.”
You can learn more about the teacher vaccination plan for OKCPS on the district’s website.
OKCPS board chairperson election heads to April runoff
On April 6, voters will again head to the polls to choose a chairperson of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education after incumbent Chairwoman Paula Lewis was nearly ousted Tuesday night by Charles Henry, the current District 1 board member.
NonDoc reported that Henry received about 47.8 percent of Tuesday’s primary election vote, with Lewis receiving about 44 percent. Candidate and former board member Wilfredo Santos Rivera received about 8 percent. For the April 6 election, two general OKCPS board seats will also be decided by voters: District 1 between Brett Hayes and Carole Thompson, and District 2 between Lori Bowman and James McHenry.
The race for District 1 representative of the Edmond Public Schools Board of Education will also move to an April 6 runoff. Incumbent District 1 representative Lee Ann Kuhlman received about 27 percent of the vote, with challenger Margaret Best finishing first by receiving about 34 percent of votes.
Also in Oklahoma County, Putnam City Schools voters elected retired educator of 35 years Judy Mullen Hopper to fill Office 3 of the district’s board. She received about 65 percent of the vote.
Also Tuesday night, 14 of the 16 Oklahoma school districts voting on bond issuances approved their proposals.
What are ‘ghost students’ in Oklahoma?
During his State of the State address last week, Gov. Kevin Stitt was critical of “ghost students” in the state’s education funding formula.
The Oklahoman’s Nuria Martinez-Keel and StateImpact’s Robby Korth reported that more than 55,000 “ghost students” are currently in Oklahoma’s education funding formula, and according to the State Department of Education, the number more than tripled this school year.
Stitt used the term to refer to students who have moved to a different school district but are still being counted in enrollment reports by their former district.
While the term was originally used in 2019 court documents regarding the Epic Charter Schools criminal investigation, the new context could have an effect on school funding as legislators look at changing the funding formula from a three-year high to using the most recent school year’s student count.
Oklahoma education tweets of the week
The 2021 OK Teacher of the Year ceremony is just around the corner! In celebration of our 12 finalists, we’re sharing short videos of these amazing educators. #oklaed
Today's spotlight: Melanie Ball, @GuthrieSchools
— OK State Dept of Ed (@oksde) February 11, 2021
Per @HealthyOklahoma commissioner Lance Frye, February 22 will be the first date for #oklaed teachers and support staff in preK-12 schools can begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. All teachers should be able to get the vax by Spring Break.
— Robby Korth (@RobbyKorth) February 11, 2021
Jenks board member @Melissa_M_Abdo shares why singling out #oklaed board members for recall is a bad idea. It's not too late to tell #oksenate ed committee members to vote NO on SB210 https://t.co/CbJLAN2ERC via @tulsaworld #oklaed #okleg
— OSSBA (@OSSBAoklahoma) February 9, 2021