The forgotten election: School board vote on Valentine's Day

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All the attention is going to the city elections, but several area districts have an election for school board coming up on Tuesday, February 14. One of those seats is on the Tulsa School Board: Incumbent Matthew Livingood faces challenger Frances Skonicki. There's a three-way race for seat 4 on the Tulsa Technology Center board: John Bernardine, Bruce Niemi, and Robert Price. (You old-timers know it as Vo-Tech.) And there are board races in Skiatook, Sperry, and Owasso.

If you need help understanding why school board elections are important, read Tulsa Chigger's report on this Monday's Tulsa school board meeting, dealing with charter schools. The attorney for Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) argued that the charter school's act is unconstitutional. In Oklahoma, charter schools -- schools that are governed by a board of parents but funded by the state -- are under contract to the local school district. TPS has been very uncooperative with charter schools, and on Monday the board nearly made life even more difficult for Tulsa's three charters by reducing the contract renewal period from three years to one year. TPS, which calls itself the "District of Choice," offers parents a choice between eight non-performing high schools (the ninth has a selective admission process), and is doing its best to eliminate the option of a charter school. Tulsa Chigger notes that the Oklahoma City school district has been much more accommodating, and they have 10 charter schools in operation.

Operation: Information asked candidates to respond to 17 questions and they've posted the responses. That questionnaire page also has a contact phone number for each candidate. Feel free to call those numbers; when I ran for office, I was excited to get calls from voters who wanted to ask me about the issues.

As in the past, if you're running for school board and have some info you'd like to get out to the voters, e-mail me at blog at batesline dot com, and I'll publish it.

There are a couple of questions I wish had been on the survey.

For Tulsa school board candidates: Do you pledge to be as accommodating and supportive as possible to existing and new charter schools?

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?

Even if you don't have kids in school, even if your focus is on the city elections, you should care and you should vote in the school board election. Tulsa's school board needs a complete housecleaning. The board members seem to regard themselves as boosters serving the administration, not as watchdogs serving the taxpayers and parents and holding the administration accountable. Although there are good teachers in the system, the district's fad-driven approach to education isn't working. Parents perceive the school system bureaucracy as unresponsive to their concerns, and it's driving young families out to the suburbs. If we want to retain and attract families to the City of Tulsa, the Tulsa school district needs to be the District of Good Choices, not the District of Hobson's Choice.

To find out which school district and board election district you live in, here's the Tulsa County Election Board's precinct locator. (Unfortunately, it doesn't report Tulsa Technology Center board district.)


susan said:

The Tulsa World's article dated Feb.7, "Board OK's Charter School Moratorium for 2007" (existing schools will still be allowed to seek three-year contracts. It quotes "charter schools receive public funds through sponsoring school districts but are governed by independent boards."

I would urge each one that votes to look up the performance of how students are doing in each school. I may be wrong, but I think the last time I glanced at Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences, they had low ACT scores.

They wanted to go to school uniforms because there are problems in some Tulsa public high schools with "gangs". One teacher said you know something bad is about to happen when groups wear different gang colors and they are the trouble makers. In some Tulsa schools, some teachers also feel pressed to pass students on to higher level subjects when they have not accomplished the lower level such
as pre-algebra students that go on to algebra. Then the algebra teacher is faced with students that never mastered pre-algebra.

There was an article about a disobedient and very disruptive student that was acting up in class. Her teacher is or has served in the national guard. At that school, there is obviously a problem with student conduct in general according to the teacher.

That type of conduct or disruptive conduct never would have been allowed when I was in public school. More and more students are rude, curse,disruptive, talk in class when the teacher is trying to teach, many students don't try to do their homework and the parents are not helpful in making sure their child completes their homework.

I am having a problem right now with the Geometry teacher having to give a test 7 times over the same chapter because that teacher is not easlily explaining the chapter so that the students can understand. First time the students took this particular chapter geometry test, I think everyone made an F. There is only one Geometry teacher so the students are stuck and the students are the ones that will suffer with their grade. What's worse is the teacher just went on to the next several chapters without mastering the previous chapter where the students are still taking the same test. We could use a "George Abshire" that teaches math in a way almost all his students seem to do well.

Michael Bates is correct. Get involved. It not only makes your schools better where you live, it will increase your property value with a trusted school.

Katy said:


You are wrong about Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences. My daughter attended there the first year it opened and graduated the next year.

The 2005 Oklahoma School Accountability Data Report is out and Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences had the highest API (Academic Performance Index) of ANY Tulsa High School including Booker T Washington. ACT scores are a part of this rating.

Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences had the HIGHEST ACT scores for 2005 for any high school in the area including all TPS schools, Jenks, Union, etc. They rank 7th in the state in ACT composite scores.

TSAS is a wonderful school and honestly, David Sawyer has been trying to do away with charter schools since his fiasco with Pentagon Academy.

Since TSAS is out performing all of the high schools under David Sawyer's administration it shouldn't surprise anyone that TPS wants to get rid of charter schools. Charter schools are the first step towards alternative education options and possibly educational vouchers. Obviously the "District of Choice" is afraid of what will happen if parents have a choice in where their children attend school.

I'm not sure if you support the idea of charter schools or not but I know from reading that most posters here would find the idea of a parent's right to choose a quality alternative education being taken away unacceptable.

Good luck with the geometry teacher and you might want to take a look at TSAS when you child reaches 9th grade.

susan said:

Katy, I had "glanced" at a different report than what is now showing for the Tulsa schools.
Congratulations for TSAS!

The "gangs" I referred to go to a different Tulsa high school. A former Tulsa high school teacher told me about that. She had all she could take of Tulsa public high school and is now teaching at a private school where they have students that are very respectful, are disciplined, the students dress in uniforms, the students are kind and respectful to each other and want to learn, and "parent involvement" which she said MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE!

Out of all of the school districts, it is interesting for parents to look at some of the very low scores at some schools. They do not seeem to test for Geometry unfortunately with the "accountability report" when comparing to other schools and this particular class I am complaining about are honors students. This particular child took advanced math earlier than the norm. They don't have any other choice but to have this particular teacher at this time. First session with this Geometry teacher was fine, but the second session has been horrible for the majority of the class and one of the students in this class has a mother that teaches high school math.

I suppose things could be worse. Algebra I students in Skiatook and Sperry have ranked really low in an accountability report -- Skiatook 2%, Sperry 8%, highest score on one report was Jenks with George Abshire math teacher at 58%. When the reports say "Tulsa" they must not be including TSAS.
We have a wonderful Algebra II teacher and that has made smooth sailing with all A's in college algebra. My kids have taken pre A/P and then advanced placement classes in high school. You have to qualify and have the teachers sign off to be accepted in these classes.
Concurrent students are accepted based on their
ACT scores and their grades and principal and counselor approval. There are a LOT of concurrent high school students!
I currently have another child in this program and it has been a wonderful school year.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 9, 2006 12:44 AM.

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