It has been a couple of years since teachers put together a movement to walkout of their classrooms and advocate for their students. Now, a local Duncan teacher has taken over to run that same group.
Jami Jackson Cole, a fifth grade teacher at Duncan Public Schools, was chosen by the Oklahoma Edvocates group to take over the teacher walkout group that was created by Alberto Morejon.
Morejon, back in May, was arrested for allegedly making lewd proposals to a minor who was a former student of his and the group quickly came together to choose a new leader.
Forming an editorial board, the group reached out to Cole and between them and the board, the group quickly made some changes.
Cole said she is glad to bring the page and teachers together.
“Since I have taken over we have a whole new look and we have a whole new name. At first the walkout page was started and the main purpose was to begin the walkout. What we are trying to do now is unite,” Cole said. “I have been trying to turn it more to a unification message and I have reached out to all of the association leaders. From OEA, to Professional Oklahoma Educators who is ran by Alicia Priest and Ginger Tinney who run the associations. I know in the past the previous person who started the walkout page he had a contentious relationship with both and we had really good talks and we want to have a united working relationship.”
The new editorial board, according to Cole, is comprised of educators, parents and has one board member from another town. All of the educators have over 150 years of teaching experience.
“We feel like we bring a lot of experience to the table and the walkout page served its purpose while doing a great thing. When everything went down with Alberto, there was a lot of concern that the page was going to be disbanded,” Cole said. “So many people reached out to me and I couldn’t even tell you how many people from parents, teachers, to legislators telling me how happy that I have taken this challenge on and everyone has been very, very supportive.”
While the major issue has changed, Cole said the page right now is trying to be a sounding board for educators and kids to discuss items relating to the new school year.
Cole said the COVID-19 situation has made teachers wonder how the new school year will begin for their districts. The group will use the page to post the latest information about schools in Oklahoma.
“We are trying to put in surveys for educators to answer and every single article that comes across, even if it is not necessarily from Oklahoma of how other teachers in other states have handled the crisis, we put those on our page,” Cole said. “Any time any school in Oklahoma, whether it be Oklahoma City or Duncan or anywhere, when any information about changes schools … we are really quick about putting those on the page. That is the biggest concerns for educators is, we just want to know and keep us updated and apprised of what is going on. I see a lot of frustration with teachers saying that my district hasn’t put anything out but we need to be patient because there is so many moving parts to this and a lot of people are working on it and they are working very hard.”
The main focus of the page has always been about serving as the voice for public education and Cole said that is still their focus. With the upcoming general election, they will focus on putting pro-public education in the spotlight.
“What we are working on today is getting a list of all the candidates that won and the runoff elections. As you know, we have a runoff that will be held locally so we are keeping people apprised,” Cole said. “What we do is we give a symbol, which is like a gold star, and that represents the people who are for public education and in the past, who have also been for public education. We also have a scale that we worked really hard on and we looked at every single vote that every single current legislator has made and we put a rating scale for that. That is why we work hard to get pro-education legislators and that is our main goal is to keep and continue policies that affect pro-public education.”
Cole has worked with the page for weeks and she is happy to work to gain the trust of teachers and act as a place to be a voice for students.
“I have had three weeks and it is a learning curve to me. I did make a mistake the other day and I owned my mistake and I apologized and I think that I earned the respect of more people by doing that,” Cole said. “We are going to make mistakes, it is a new thing for me and I’m doing it all for free. I hope people hang in there with me and understand that my heart is 100% supporting our 703,000 public school kids and we are going to keep moving forward doing the best we can for everybody.”