The Edmond Sun

July 1, 2013

Wanted: Special education teachers

Teacher shortages causing concern in district

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — As Edmond continues to look for the best and brightest teachers, it is getting harder and harder to find them. They are out there, but many are heading out of Oklahoma to find jobs in other states. In the area of special education, the number of job openings has been unusually high.

“Our special education departments were down 30 teachers a week ago, and we still have 18 positions to fill,” said Randy Decker, who recently returned as executive director of human resources for Edmond Public Schools. “There is just not very many special education teachers out there to choose from.”

Decker added this is a problem nationwide and especially in Oklahoma.

“There are two things making it hard to find special education teachers for the fall,” Decker said. “We have had a large number of retirees in the past few years added to the fact that there are fewer teachers going into the field of special education.”

Decker said Oklahoma doesn’t have the salaries to match other states.

“Higher education and Oklahoma State Department of Education stakeholders encouraged lawmakers to pass HB 1233 which would give students a non-traditional road to become certified in special education,” Decker said. “This House bill really addresses mild to moderately disabled students typically in elementary schools.”

One area Decker said the district has had success in is encouraging teacher assistants helping in special education classes to go back to school and get their special education degrees.

“We have also been looking at certified teachers and encouraging them to go back and take the special education certification test,” Decker said. “We may have to look at long-term substitutes to fill special education openings in our classrooms.”

Decker said one thing that has helped is high school class sizes in the mildly disabled classes have been raised from 10 to 15 students a class.

In some ways it is becoming harder to be certified, he said. “In the mildly disabled classes a special education teacher who is teaching math must have math certification as well as special education certification.”

Superintendent David Goin said 12-13 percent of the student population in Edmond has some type of disability. Last year there were about 22,500 students attending school in the district. That number is expected to increase by about 400 more students, which also includes growth with the opening of Frontier Elementary on Covell in August. Goin said 70 new students enrolled during the first week of pre-enrollment.

For core and elective classes throughout the district there are still 10 high school teacher openings, seven middle school teacher openings and 30 elementary teacher openings to be filled before school begins in August.