Bruce Niemi, candidate for Tulsa Tech board

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Bruce Niemi is one of three candidates for the board of Tulsa Technology Center. He wrote to respond to my comments about Tulsa's forgotten election -- this Tuesday's school board elections and Tulsa Tech board election. I promised that if school board candidates had some information they wanted to get to the voters, I'd post it here. Here's the question I asked:

For Tulsa Technology Center candidates: Tulsa County has a community college with four campuses, campuses for state universities (OSU, NSU, OU, and Langston), two major private universities, satellite campuses for at least three other private colleges (St. Gregory, Oklahoma Wesleyan, Southern Nazarene), and a plethora of private technical schools, such as Spartan School of Aeronautics. In the midst of all these opportunities for post-high-school education, what should Tulsa Technology Center's mission be? What is TTC's niche?

Here is Bruce Niemi's response, in full:


Thank you for your coverage of the TTC school boad election and for the opportunity to comment on the questions you raised concerning TTC role in education. Career and technical education is a hybrid system in Oklahoma. Our state is unique because of a “dual” system that places TTC and other area technical institutes under separate governance from other public educational institutions.

Academic high schools are a part of the K-12 common schools system, while public higher education is overseen by the chancellor and Oklahoma State Board of Regents for Higher Education. This dual system was established in 1966 with the passage of an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution authorizing joint cooperation between common school districts for careertech education. The Oklahoma measure was a part of a federal vocational education initiative to fund training for scientific technicians in the wake of Sputnik and efforts to reduce chronic unemployment due to automation and rural poverty. Today, TTC serves over 5,000 full-time high school and post-secondary students in a variety of programs ranging from culinary arts to CISCO networking.

When I turn on daytime television, however, I am amazed by the number of commercial spots for private vocational schools. I have also followed the trend by universities such as Phoenix, Southern Nazarene, OCU, and St. Gregory’s moving into this market. If TTC is doing its job then why all of the competition?

Like many government agencies, TTC has not been telling its story to the public. Why isn’t TTC doing as effective a job at marketing its programs? Why is it when my daughter wanted to become a licensed massage therapist did she have to attend a private school to get this training at three times the tuition? TTC has a Business and Career Development Division that is geared to offer short courses, serving over 155,000 enrollees per year. This BCD division should receive greater emphasis to provide flexible, anytime/anyplace career education.

My reason for entering the TTC School Board Election is to improve access to career and technical training for the Tulsa County workforce. The voters of Tulsa County need accountability, transparency, and accountability for the people in the governance of our technical school system. Tulsa Technology Center spends $65 million per year received from federal and state sources, plus local property tax funds paid by Tulsa County taxpayers, which constitutes about 80 percent of the District’s revenues. These revenues should be used to help our young people find real opportunities for gainful employment in our community by the time they graduate from TTC.

Immediately north of Lemley Tech campus at the Broken Arrow Expressway & Memorial is a bus transfer station. The bus station is set back from Memorial Drive behind an abandoned car dealership. Between the bus station and the campus is a 15-foot chain link fence with no gate. So if a student must rely on public transit and disembarks at the station, he, or more likely she, has to walk all the way around the abandoned car lot and down Memorial to get to class. That fence is a symbol of the difficult access our kids, our veterans, and our underprivileged have to our tech school system and its programs and to do something about it is why I am running.

We can begin to accomplish improved academic accommodation through career counseling in cooperation with area public school districts to connect with children beginning in elementary school. I advocate a Tech Prep and Career Clusters program beginning in elementary school and continuing through high school, linking academic subjects to occupational training programs that include not only introductions to technical subjects, such as the sciences, engineering and information technology, but also the arts, business and the professions, as well as studies on the critical impact technological developments have on our society. I support a Tulsa Technology Center District Plan for establishing a technical high school and operating it in conjunction with the Tulsa Public Schools.

I support Tulsa Tech leading an economic development initiative for incorporating entrepreneurship skills training in all its trade and technical curriculum. So many students graduate from programs that are well suited to pursuing meaningful careers in small business enterprises that, armed with fundamental business skills, Tulsa Tech graduates can go out and create their own enterprises and significantly add to Tulsa’s economy. Why continue to crucify our youth on a Cross of Aimlessness? Tulsa Tech must also create a facilities-based, small business incubator program - as a number of other technical schools in Oklahoma have already done - on its campuses to assist both its graduates and other local entrepreneurs in getting a “head start” in business.

We must work to make Tulsa Tech a more active player in providing a seamless transition for students going from academic high schools through the tech school system and into degree-granting higher education institutions.

Tulsa Tech must do its part to support our Iraq Troops. I propose an immediate program of career and technical training provided free of charge to veterans of the Persian Gulf War II. We have an obligation to help our returning servicemen and servicewomen to readjust to civilian life after serving In Harm’s Way. An investment in veterans’ education can only reap dividends for the next generation.

Finally, we can pay for these new technical and vocational education programs without raising taxes by keeping a watchful eye on current expenditures and getting funds from the innovative sources that are out there for the asking.

I hope that this answers some of your concerns

Bruce Niemi

Thanks to Bruce Niemi for such a thoughtful answer. If any of the other candidates wish to respond to my question, e-mail me at blog AT batesline DOT com.


susan said:

What a terrific response, Bruce! He is absolutely correct in everything he states above.

Tulsa Tech is not the same as OSSM (Oklahoma School of Science and Math) but the OKLAHOMA STATE SENATE could really use some push from the citizens of Oklahoma to stop VOTING to think of OSSM as a public high school when it is really run like a PRIVATE BOARDING SCHOOL. It is outrageous spending they (our state legislature and state senate) approve and those students are just as able to attend TCC as a concurrent honors student as every other high school junior or senior in the state of Oklahoma.
Junior and Senior High School students qualify as concurrent students through their grades and ACT score, same as OSSM students qualify through their ACT score and grades. If you cut out the outrageous spending of Oklahoma tax dollars at OSSM and turn it into a 'PRIVATE' school where those parents pay for all of the boarding school privileges, or if those attending OSSM don't want to pay for private boarding school prices, those students could also start at TCC Honors clases or OSU/OU satellite campuses.

One Senator commented he supported OSSM because those kids made it through such a hard audition process. Is it fair for this public school to have their administration hand pick who it wants (actually not that many apply considering it is in a selection pool from the entire state of Okla. high school juniors and seniors) and all over Oklahoma you will find plenty of juniors and seniors that score just as high in their science and math ACT scores as these hand-picked kids that as a bonus for being hand picked
get to be babysat for their junior and senior year. No need for their mom or dad to pick the up at night. They also get all three meals provided free by the taxpayers of Oklahoma as well as everything else -- outstanding professors -- teachers we would seldom if ever see in the normal public high schools in the state of Oklahoma.
It's almost as though the Oklahoma State Regents were trying to falsely boost the academic OK ratings by showing this one "PUBLIC" Oklahoma high school as being over the top with outstanding academics. These kids get free room and board and also free tutoring, so if they need help with their homework at night or need prompting to make sure they do it, they have a
teacher/staff member right there in the dorm facility the students can get help.

Now don't you think all Oklahoma high school juniors and seniors could benefits massively from that type of pampering!

The Oklahoma taxpayers are not educated on the things that they are paying for. Yes, as Bruce stated above, they need to start much younger than high school with education what Tulsa Tech offers instead of sending home a few information sheets at the end of 8th grade or the beginning of 9th grade and saying you have a couple of weeks to look over it and decide if you want your child to sign up for it.

It's confusing to parents because they have no idea who is the better science teacher. Will it be your high school science teacher or will it be the Tulsa Tech science and math teachers that can make your child love and understand science and math better so they can go on to careers that need high level science and math advanced courses?

Of course you can't go to your counselor because do you really think they are going to come right out and tell you a certain teacher on the high school payroll is flunking on their teaching skills? Or will the counselor tell you a math high school teacher has given "honors students" a test 7 times over one math chapter because even though they have been teaching a very long time, they have lost their ability to teach the subject in a creative
way so that they can get 95% of the class to pass successfully?

Bruce has some great ideas for Tulsa Tech!

susan said:

Bruce Niemi also has impressive credentials.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 11, 2006 6:28 PM.

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