Most Western Heights teachers return Tuesday; others ‘violating’ contract

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OKLAHOMA CITY – On day two of the walk out, many teachers said they are at the state capitol for the long haul. But, on Monday night, Western Heights told teachers they were required come back to class on Tuesday.

“We were so encouraged when you said you would support us, because we are still fighting,” said teacher Rhonda Simonson. “I’m grateful for a raise, but I want my classroom funded. We stop now, they don’t hear our voice.”

According to a letter from the school district’s attorney, employees were allowed to walk out on Monday as part of a “paid advocacy” so they could express their political beliefs at the capitol, something the school board approved.

But, that was not the agreement on Tuesday. The attorney’s letter to the district said abandoning contracted work to achieve more money and other benefits is a violation of the no strike clause.

So, on Tuesday, did teachers return?

“We have about, it looks to me at this point in time, about 80 percent and a great level with the support personnel,” said Western Heights Superintendent Joe Kitchens.

Kitchens said he encouraged his staff to be there for the students as ACT testing is underway.

“I can’t let them miss that because, and our board can’t let them miss the day because that is preparation for college and so many of our students, almost 90 percent plus are economically disadvantaged and it becomes hard for them to get the money to take an ACT,” Kitchens said. “It’s not cheap, and this is a test that’s paid for by the state.”

Despite some push back from teachers, Kitchens said he has nothing but support for his educators and is thrilled a bill was actually passed.

“I was elated. I still am,” Kitchens said. “My heart is full for the teachers. I think it should be there, that the legislature did a fine thing. Could we do more? Absolutely.”

Any disciplinary actions for the teachers who didn’t return will be up to the school board.

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