Kiwanians discuss 4-day school week

Roseanne McKeeJ-C Correspondent

During a recent Kiwanis meeting, several Kiwanis Club members shared their views on the four-day school week, and the Pawhuska school system. Some chose to speak off the record to maintain their anonymity.

Kiwanian Jenny Perrier said, “I am a supporter of the five-day school week, but my biggest fear is that we vote five-day and we’ll have a lot of mad teachers who don’t feel appreciated, because they’re not, and don’t feel well compensated, because they’re not. They don’t get paid enough and they do work a thankless job and I feel like it’s the right thing for the students to stay for the five days but it’s the right thing for the teachers to go to the four and where is the happy medium? I was talking to my sister who works at Jenks, I’m not trying to compare to Jenks, and she was saying that Jenks announced that they will never go to a four-day week, and they’re actually going to extend their days longer because they feel that the kids need that….I don’t think it’s a money saving issue, I think it’s just a teacher recruitment issue.”

School Board member Christi McNeil, who was in the audience, addressed the recruitment issue.

“It’s a statewide issue. There are just not the people going into the teaching field that there used to be,” said McNeil. “I can’t recall if it was this past summer or the summer before, when we needed a secondary math teacher. Dr. Berry (superintendent) told us that he called Tahlequah to get names of graduates that graduated in secondary teaching math and there were two graduates. Especially in the secondary area, there are people who can go into the private sector and make more money.”

The money available for schools is tied to the state’s economy, Kiwanis member Ed Ward said.

Ward explained, the state superintendent “is advocating a $2,000 raise for the teachers and five extra school days, but that’s not going to come from the state legislature this year and probably not next year. A lot of that depends on Oklahoma’s economy. Oil was over $100 a barrel. Now oil is less than half of what it was.”

Perrier said that her biggest concern was teacher burn-out.

“Talking to my kids’ teachers, they are so burnt out because they have no parental backup,” said Perrier. “If their kids are in trouble, the parents come up there and ream out the teachers and they don’t back up what the teachers say on the punishment. And that’s part of the burn-out cycle.”

Perrier continued, “I also think there’s two groups of people in our town. There are some people that have some drug problems and don’t work and live off the system and I think there are some great hard-working people and there’s not a lot of middle. And I feel like the four-day week would not benefit the working people because they’d have to find daycare. I feel like the four-day week would not benefit the other people because those kids are going to be unattended because the parents of those kids don’t care enough to do anything with them. I know it’s not about the parents, but with the kids at stake you’ve either got one or the other.”

Perrier said she knew of a family that had recently moved to Pawhuska and they are driving to Wynona for their children’s daycare, which she found disappointing.

Also, regarding the extracurricular activities, Perrier expressed concern that although many parents will make sure their kids still get to practice on that fifth day, but some parents won’t take their kids to practice if there is a four-day school week.

Kiwanis member Bob Kelly, a former Pawhuska School Board member adressed the issue.

“Regardless of the good teachers you have, unless you have parents at home that want their kids to learn, they will not learn,” said Kelly. “If the school itself can somehow motivate the parents to want better things for their kids, then they’ll do it, but if they don’t – it won’t.”

Although the agenda will not be posted until March 20, which is the required notice period, according to a Board of Education representative, the vote on the four-day school week will be on the agenda of a special school board meeting to be held March 23 at 5:30 p.m. in the Administrative Office Board Room at 1801 McKenzie, Pawhuska.