Downtown Oklahoma City school brings in out-of-state teachers with salary incentive

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Caylie and Wes Dicken just moved to Oklahoma City from Indiana to become teachers at John Rex Charter Elementary.

The couple says they knew about Oklahoma’s dismal ranking for teacher salaries compared to other states.

“When you look across the board at what teachers get paid, you look at a place like this and think, ‘This is a great school, but can I realistically work there?” Wes Dicken, a kindergarten teacher, said.

However, it worked out for these teachers.

And more than a fourth of the teachers at John Rex Elementary are from out-of-state.

School leaders say these teachers get paid about 20 percent more than others in surrounding districts, and even other states, like Indiana.

“Our school day is longer. Our kids are going to school seven or eight hours a day, so our days are longer. We have about 10 more school days in a year, so our teachers are earning that extra money,” Kirk Humphreys, a chairman at the school, said.

School officials say they save in other areas so they can pay more for teachers.

“We don’t provide transportation for students. The parents provide transportation for students, so that gives us some additional flexibility,” Dr. Joe Pierce, the head of school, said.

John Rex is a public charter school, meaning they are run by a private entity and funded by both private and public money.

Kirk Humphreys says the nonprofit Oklahoma City Quality Schools pays for about 15-20 percent of the school’s budget.

“What’s different about John Rex is that we have boundaries just like every other school. We have attendance boundaries, and if you live in that attendance boundary, we’re going to enroll you. We must enroll you,” Humphreys said.

Humphreys says more parents are choosing to move out of Oklahoma City schools and into suburban schools.

He says he wants to change that way of thinking and believes creating this charter school will help.

“When we succeed as a charter school, we’re Oklahoma City district’s school, so our success is their success,” Humphreys said.

About 380 children attend John Rex Elementary.

Forty-four percent qualify for free or reduced lunch.

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