Lawton teachers express mixed feelings about returning to school
Teachers for Lawton Public Schools said they have mixed feelings about the district's decision to return to classes after a two-week, statewide teacher walkout.
LPS administrators announced the action late Thursday, saying teachers would return to school on Friday and students will come back Monday. The decision, made by administrators after meeting with school principals, followed an announcement by the Oklahoma Education Association to end the walkout that began April 2.
Leslie Brennan, music teacher at Pat Henry Elementary, said she was at the Capitol seven of the nine days that LPS had a presence there.
"I personally felt like I talked with those I needed to, some on more than one occasion," she said, of the goal she set for herself as she attended rallies over the last two weeks. "I needed to be there, to be aware of what's going on."
But, she said she also knows teachers need to be here for students, and LPS teachers' stated goal of keeping an advocacy group going to the Capitol each day, beginning Monday, made the decision to return to the classroom easier.
"We are not giving up," she said. "We're just changing strategy. And, we'll be back with our kids."
Brennan said it was always a difficult choice "We'd love to be in the classroom" but teachers knew the walkout was a battle worth fighting. And, she said teachers remain committed to the cause. In addition to the advocacy group, she said teachers will remain watchful and involved in the legislative process. And, "November is coming," she said.
Brennan said the experience was a learning process about exactly how the political process works. She was one of the teachers who made it into the House chambers last week and, like others, was upset that legislators opened the session, then adjourned it. She made a point of asking questions and got an explanation of why it happened (it was a procedural maneuver than would have allowed Gov. Mary Fallin to sign legislation that day, she said).
"We went and we asked questions and we were able to learn," she said.
Brennan said she wants to go back to her students.
"I'm ready," she said, adding that she's also going to have to wait another day because she's one of the 98 teachers who will go to Oklahoma City Monday as part of LPS' advocacy group.
Donna Cook, test coordinator at Eisenhower Middle School, said she's also going to Oklahoma City Monday to advocate.
"Coming back, for me, brought a lot of mixed emotions," Cook said of the district's decision, adding that while it was a long two weeks, it also was something teachers needed to do to advocate for their students. "I'm glad LPS had the fortitude to step up."
Cook said the walkout was successful because of the support offered by colleagues and by district administrators. While she has mixed feelings about the decision to resume classes, it was time to bring students back to school. But, not until Monday. Teachers needed Friday to themselves, she said.
"We needed to cry and do some things that the kids didn't need to see. And, we needed to plan the celebration," she said, with a smile about how the school will welcome back its students Monday. "We're returning out of love for our children."
Like Brennan, Cook fully supports the idea of the advocacy team, even though she said it weighs on her heart that she won't see her students until Tuesday. But, she said it is important to continue advocating for education and students. Taking a small number of teachers to the Capitol will allow that to continue to happen, she said, explaining that each school will determine how it will cover for any faculty member who will participate in the advocacy group.
She said while it was time to pull back because teachers weren't making any more progress with legislators, she promises teachers won't completely step back because although it disrupted school, the walkout achieved results.