Metro charter school having an easier time hiring teachers

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- A new survey released this week shows 600 teaching jobs were eliminated since the last school year. A majority of school leaders report that it's becoming more difficult to hire teachers.

But a charter public school is finding success in hiring right now, while others are struggling.

Caylie and Wes Dicken just moved to Oklahoma City from Indiana for a teaching job at John Rex Charter Elementary, despite the fact Oklahoma ranks 49th in the nation for teacher salaries.

"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.

Luckily, it worked for this couple. And more than a fourth of the teachers at John Rex are from out of state. The reason? 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 7 or 8 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," Chairman of John Rex Kirk Humphreys said.

And the Head of school says there's another reason John Rex can pay more than other schools.

"We don't provide transportation for students. The parents provide transportation for students so that gives us some additional flexibility," Head of School Dr. Joe Pierce said.

John Rex is a charter school. That means they are run by a private entity and funded by both private and public dollars.

Kirk Humphreys says the nonprofit OKC 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.

The school's chairman says more parents are choosing to move out of OKC 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 OKC District's school so our success is their success."

Around 380 children attend John Rex schools, and they have a waiting list.

Forty percent of those students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

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