It’s news to no one that our public schools face enormous challenges in virtually every area of operations, including finances. Oklahoma education funding is one of the lowest in the nation and yet mandates remain, leaving schools without the proper resources to support them. Smaller schools and districts feel this more intensely as they don’t often have the funding to support full-time staff in these key areas or are severely understaffed and cannot properly provide the kind of attention these areas need. Because of this, we often see school staff juggling multiple roles to the point where it affects instruction, burnout becomes widespread, and ultimately, students suffer.
This is where the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center (OPSRC) comes in. OPSRC was created as a non-profit center with the goal of supporting small schools—both rural and public charters—across the state in several key areas: finance, legal, technology, communications, teaching & learning, and educational policy.
What does this mean for schools?
OPSRC wants to see administrators focused on their primary role: supporting teachers and providing them a collaborative, encouraging environment where they are successful and students are engaged and excited about learning. The center has highly-skilled staff dedicated to each of these key areas who not only consult with schools on issues they may be facing but also train them so as to increase their knowledge and skills and ensure administrators feel confident to make informed decisions regarding the operations of their schools. Let’s break it down to better understand the full range of OPSRC’s services:
Finance: The Finance staff provides financial consultation and training in school improvement planning, federal and state spending, school financial policy development, employee overtime and salary schedules, purchasing, inventory management, fiscal distress trends and issues, school audits, and issues regarding teacher retirement.
Legal: The Legal staff is available to member schools as an OPSRC in-house general counsel and will provide services including but not limited to the following: legal document creation and review, including those pertaining to personnel, students, grant applications, standards monitoring, and state/federal program compliance, and other professional services; consultations by phone, e-mail, or in-person at the school site or the OPSRC office(s); innovative and updated sharing of legal news and case briefs affecting member schools.
Technology: The Technology staff consults with schools on a variety of technical issues, including hardware and software troubleshooting, technology plans, purchasing advice, e-Rate support, and best practices for technology use in the classroom. They also provide training to ensure technology is used as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Communications: The Communications staff works with schools to create and maintain comprehensive communications and crisis plans and social media policies for staff, students, and parents. The staff also provides consultation on website layout and usage, various marketing tools, and ways to enhance and increase parental engagement. Training and support are also provided on interacting with news media, writing press releases and other community stakeholder communication needs.
Teaching & Learning: The Teaching & Learning staff provide training on a variety of educational technology tools, curriculum resources, and best instructional practices to ensure students are receiving a quality, engaging educational experience and that the schools achieve their highest potential. Professional development is tailored to fit the needs of individual schools.
What else can partner schools expect?
In addition to its staff, the OPSRC will be maintaining a variety of resources readily available with helpful information and ideas schools can implement. These include the following:
- NWEA subsidy: The OPSRC has partnered with NWEA and is offering a subsidy for member schools to use NWEA’s MPG and MAP programs. Member schools will pay $4.00/student (from $13.50/student) in the first year of membership, $6.00 the second year, and $8.00 the third year.
- DonorsChoose matching grant: As an additional bonus for member schools, the OPSRC has partnered with DonorsChoose.org and will match every dollar raised by teachers at member schools.
- Digital learning: The OPSRC has finalized a digital learning catalog that schools can access to offer online courses to students at discounted rates.
- Newsletter—Distributed on a monthly basis, the newsletter will contain valuable insight and information, with contributions from each of the center’s directors and policy advisor.
- Website—The OPSRC maintains a robust website with information about its resources, contact information, its staff, and ways to become a member.
- Blog—Attached to the OPSRC website, the blog is updated on a regular basis, providing schools with interesting articles and helpful educational strategies.
- Social Media—The center maintains Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts to communicate information regarding the center and to provide announcements and celebrations of our partner schools.
- Training videos—The center will compile an online video library of all trainings held with partner schools. This will allow those who are unable to attend to view the videos at their leisure.
- Document repository—The center will provide an online repository of instructional material and resources, available for partner schools to access at any time.
The center provides a support system whereby schools can collaborate with one another to share best practices and new ideas and also to affect positive change across the educational landscape. Regional trainings and professional development will be held on a regular basis.
In addition to the five key areas of support, OPSRC has on staff a policy advisor whose aim is to serve as an advocate for public education policies that support quality public schools in Oklahoma. The advisor will keep school staff informed of current educational legislation and initiatives and how they affect schools directly and will advocate on behalf of schools by maintaining relationships with the State Department of Education and state legislators.
The time is now!
Never has public education needed our help more than at this moment. We must band together to support our struggling public school system and provide the resources and assistance that our educators need. OPSRC strives to help every school become one where administrators and educators feel supported and where students are given every opportunity to achieve their greatest potential for success.