Providing essential resources to schools without the financial burden (Guest post: Sarah Julian)

by | July 10th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)
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Sarah Julian is the Director of Communications for the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center (OPSRC). On July 16, the OPSRC is hosting an open house for anyone who is interested in learning more about the organization. You can register at http://nwea.us/OkieEdOPSRC.

opsrcIt’s news to no one that our public schools face enormous challenges in virtually every area of operations, including finances.  Oklahoma education funding is among 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 key areas of administration and support services for teachers and students. 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 creating an environment where students are excited about learning. The center has highly-skilled staff dedicated to each of these key areas who consult with and train administrators so they can 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 offers thorough counsel to schools in the areas of personnel issues, contract and policy drafting and review, litigation, State Board of Education item preparation and review and rezoning.  The staff stays abreast of all legal cases affecting education and will assist in ensuring schools understand their legal requirements and boundaries.

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 provides training on a variety of educational technology tools, curriculum resources, and best instructional practices to ensure students are receiving a quality, engaging educational experience. Professional development is tailored to fit the needs of individual schools.

What else can partner schools expect?

In addition to training and support about our staff, the OPSRC will maintain a variety of resources for schools, including matching grants, an online course catalog, training videos, and more. Regional trainings and professional development will be held on a regular basis.

Besides the five key areas of support, OPSRC has on staff a policy advisor who serves as an advocate for public education policies that support quality public schools in Oklahoma.  The advisor will keep school staff informed of current legislation and initiatives affecting schools. The policy advisor will also 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 success.

The opinions stated above are not necessarily those of OK Policy, its staff, or its board. This blog is a venue to help promote the discussion of ideas from various points of view and we invite your comments and contributions. To see our guidelines for blog submissions, click here.

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