Springer Public Schools plans to join the statewide teacher walkout for three days next week if the state Legislature fails to raise teacher, support staff and state employee pay.
The district’s board of education approved three walkout days in a meeting held March 8, making them one of the first districts in the area to participate. If the walkout lasts longer, the board will meet again to determine if the school will close for longer.
“The biggest thing was the teachers’ desire to advocate,” Springer Superintendent Cynthia Hunter said. “They wanted that time to be able to go up to the Capitol.”
Like other districts, the school board had to weigh the concern for students’ well being, testing and extracurricular activities against the need for a teacher pay raise and increased public education funding.
“I think the goal for most people is to improve Oklahoma,” Hunter said. “We don’t want to be last. We want to provide something better for our kids and our grandkids.”
Hunter said the district scheduled state testing around the walkout dates to prevent the school from losing federal funding. ACT testing will fall on April 3. Hunter said Springer sent teacher delegates to the Capitol this week.
“I haven’t heard a lot from parents, but the ones I have talked to are mixed as well,” Hunter said. “They want to support teachers, but they don’t want to disrupt student learning.”  
Hunter said the school has been in contact with some local groups who might help fill the gap by providing food and childcare for students.
“Our students who receive additional food through the backpack program will be provided with food as well,” Hunter said.
Hunter said her district currently employs 14 support staff and 24 certified teachers who are often stretched thin, taking on additional roles as needed. Hunter served as both superintendent and elementary school principal simultaneously last year. This year, Jason Wright is serving as the elementary, middle and high school principals. Both wear other hats as needed, driving school buses and filling other support roles.
“We have teachers that have taken on additional roles, we have teachers who have given up their planning period to teach another class so we can continue to serve all of our students,” Hunter said.
The teacher shortage has stretched the district even thinner, with positions going unfilled and teachers leaving for other states. In some cases, they leave for neighboring districts.
 “We’re stealing from one another,” she said. “Superintendents recognize it. They’re just going back and forth because there’s not an applicant pool.”