Tulsa::Education Category

No_More_Dam_Taxes-logo.pngAmong the many flaws in the Vision Tulsa dam tax proposal (on the April 5, 2016, ballot) are what I've decided to call the Payola Projects -- projects that involve giving a chunk of money to various institutions in hopes of winning their constituents' votes for the dam tax.

A Payola Project typically involves a suspiciously round sum of money which the city will transfer to another governmental entity (which often has its own source of funding). The amount of money may or may not be enough to pay for a specific construction project. They may not even have even a specific project in mind, or the project might be contingent on a string of approvals yet to be obtained. The important thing is for the target constituency of the Payola Project to think that the small amount of money they're getting is worth wasting $128 million on dams in the Arkansas River.

A Payola Project is all about symbolism over substance: "We haven't allocated enough money to do anything meaningful about this issue that matters to you, dear voter, but we want you to think that we care, so you'll vote for our Dam Tax."

On four separate occasions, voters have rejected taxpayer-funded low-water dams in the Arkansas River, but city mis-leaders like G. T. Bynum and Dewey Bartlett Jr. insist that they'll be a game-changer, so they're back on the ballot for a fifth time, surrounded by a collection of Payola Projects. Think of a Payola Project as an electoral flotation device for the big, expensive dam project, which would otherwise sink at the ballot box as fast as Luca Brasi in concrete overshoes sank in the East River.

The Payola Project for voters concerned about public education is listed this way in Title 43-K, the ordinance that (vaguely) regulates how money in Vision Tulsa Proposition No. 3 for "Economic Development" must be spent:

Public Schools - Partnership with Union, Jenks & Tulsa Public Schools in Teacher Retention, Recruitment, and Training Efforts: $10,000,000

(I wonder why they didn't include the rest of the public school districts that serve the City of Tulsa: the Broken Arrow School District, which serves growing new Tulsa subdivisions southeast of 31st and 145th East Ave, or Catoosa School District, which serves recently annexed areas in Wagoner County.)

Here's how Tulsa City Councilor and former Tulsa school board member Anna America answered a question about the project on March 24 -- a mere 12 days before the election, showing the vague and unsettled state of the proposal

Jeff, we are still working on the final details. The original proposal was for $50 million for two pieces -- housing incentives that could be used for homebuyers or renters, and stipends for continuous learning in the summer. It was scaled back to $10 million, so we are discussing exactly how that would look -- my hope that we do it in the way that has the most impact with the most teacher. There has been some discussion of using the housing part in conjunction with some property the city owns to create a "teacher town" but there are a lot of moving pieces on that., so it may not work out. This was the document submitted as part of the orignal proposal (although it looks to me like they issed a page in the scanning) and we will bascially be doing a scaled back version, although we purposefully took out language specific to housing and made it "attraction and rettention" so we have more flexibility on allowing the district use the money for other kinds of incentives for teachers.. https://www.cityoftulsa.org/media/432235/Teach-Live-T-Town-Presentation.pdf

According to State Department of Education reports the Tulsa district had, in school year 2014-2015, 3,118 teachers, Jenks had 819, and Union had 1,109. That's a total of 5,046 teachers. If you divided that "attraction and rettention[sic]" bonus among those teachers for the 15 years of the tax, it would amount to $132.11 per teacher per year, or about 73¢ per instructional day. It's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, as my grandma used to say, but it wouldn't buy a decent cup of coffee, and it's hard to see how that will succeed in attracting or retaining anyone who isn't otherwise determined to be here.

Voters who care about funding for public education ought to lobby the legislature or petition to raise the cap on the local property tax levies for schools or to find some other local basis for increasing funding if local voters want to do so. Voters who care about attracting and retaining teachers should lobby their school boards to reduce the administrative burden so that funds already available to the school will go to the classroom instead.

Keep in mind that you have the option of voting yes or no on four different propositions on April 5. Keep in mind that the current Vision tax doesn't expire until December 31, 2016. There's plenty of time for the City Council to develop a sound plan, and three more opportunities this year to put it before the voters.

If you care about funding for public education, you should vote down Proposition 3, which includes this insulting attempt at a bribe, and tell the City Council to put together a better plan.

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It's apparent that our public schools are headed in the wrong direction, and money won't fix what's wrong. If a train is going the wrong way on the track, shoveling more coal in the firebox only takes you further away from your goal faster. We must first elect board members who see that we're headed in the wrong direction.

At a recent school board candidate forum, one of the candidates rattled off a list of things that every child needs in order to learn -- a good night's sleep, three meals a day, appropriate clothing for the weather, "a parent that will make you go to bed at night, even if you don't want to." The candidate went on to indicate that the schools "have to educate the parents about the importance of sleep and routines" and then listed all the non-educational support that Tulsa Public Schools offers to students: breakfast, lunch, food to take home for the weekend, clothes. So this is the fruit of the Great Society and a half-century of Federal interference in local schools, by way of the carrot of federal funding and the stick of judicial activism -- two generations of parents who don't know how to manage their time and money to keep their children fed, clothed, and ready for school. What we're doing isn't working.

Although every school district in the state has at least one vacancy each year, most of them go unchallenged. In all of Tulsa County, only one board seat will be on the ballot this coming Tuesday, February 9, 2016. In election district 5, Republican challenger Stan Minor will face Democrat incumbent Cindy Decker. I live in the district, and I plan to vote for Stan Minor. Minor would bring to the job a deep love for the Tulsa school system, an understanding that TPS's current direction hasn't been working, and a businessman's perspective on the school budget. He understands that TPS cannot survive, much less thrive, if it continues to drain enrollment to suburban districts and other educational options.

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Stan Minor is a petroleum landman. He attended Tulsa Public Schools all the way through, spending some time at Nathan Hale High School before graduating at Memorial High School. He has been involved for several years in an alumni fundraising committee for Nathan Hale.

Stan Minor wants to shake things up -- to "say no to the status quo" -- but in the nicest possible way. As a person, he is affable and positive, but he's saddened to see the decline in the Tulsa school system from his day, when everyone wanted their kids to a TPS school, to today, with declining enrollments and parents moving to the suburbs, enrolling their children in private schools, or educating them at home. Minor points out that enrollment matters in the state funding formula, and it wastes money to have so many school buildings, many of them renovated or with added features thanks to the generosity of taxpayers, running so far below capacity. Minor notes that enrollment is now near the level of 1952, about half the size of the system at its peak, and it's continuing to shrink.

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Minor, who played football in junior high and high school, remembers how school sports helped create a sense of community within the school and connected a school with its surrounding neighborhood. All that added up to an emotional investment by students, parents, and patrons in their schools -- something that doesn't seem to exist any more.

Minor sees football as having a particularly important role in knitting together the school community at the beginning of each academic year, A competitive team can bring the whole school together -- players, marching band members, cheerleaders, parents, faculty, alumni, and neighbors, sharing the experience of cheering on the team. That school spirit carries on to other sports, music, drama, and other activities as the year rolls on. For neighbors and alumni, school spirit translates into volunteer involvement. For younger kids, it translates into an attachment to their future high school. All of that can

Community spirit is nothing without educational excellence. Minor opposes Common Core, with its extreme focus on high-stakes testing and the straitjacket it places on teachers. (His opponent is backed by pro-Common Core pressure groups like Stand with Children.)

Stan Minor supports fairness in magnet school admissions. He argues that admission to academically competitive magnet schools (Carver MS, Washington HS, Edison MS and HS) should be by lottery among all applicants that meet the academic qualifications. The current system opens the door to favoritism.

Stan Minor is married and has a son and a daughter. While I've only recently gotten to know Stan, I met his son when he was a high school senior applying to MIT. His son has gone on to graduate from MIT and to a successful career in computer science.

The other candidate in the race, Cindy Decker, was appointed to the post a few months ago by the other members of the board. While she has an impressive resume, it seems fair to assume that they didn't pick her to shake things up. (There's a regrettable practice, for those offices where replacements are appointed, for the office holder to quit early and allow a like-minded successor to be appointed, giving the replacement the advantage of incumbency and depriving voters of an open election.)

Decker proudly wears her endorsement from Stand for Children, the group that lobbied the legislature to keep Common Core ("a wonderful group," she said), and Tulsa Regional Chamber, which endorsed Common Core in its OneVoice legislative platform and lobbied for Common Core at the Capitol.

When asked about the strengths of the Tulsa Public Schools, Decker could only point to the new superintendent, Deborah Gist, citing her resume, credentials, and the number of work. That's a common problem for leftists: measuring success by inputs, not outcomes.

Tulsa Public Schools desperately needs new leadership. If you live in Election District 5 (the yellow area in the map below), please go to your polling place on Tuesday and join me in voting for Stan Minor.

If you have questions for Stan Minor or would like a yard sign, call or text him at 918-605-8006 or email him at vote.4.stanminor@gmail.com

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Election District 5 stretches from the river to Harvard, 21st to 51st, plus 11th to 21st, Utica to Yale, and 11th to 41st, Harvard to Yale, and the part of precinct 68 south of I-44.

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Next Monday through Wednesday, December 7 - 9, 2015, is the filing period for public school board positions in Oklahoma. Most school districts will have a single seat, Position No. 1 up for election to a five-year term. Skiatook will have one additional seat on the ballot to fill an unexpired term, and Glenpool will have two additional seats. (Here is the Tulsa County Election Board press release listing the school board offices up for election. And here's where you'll find maps showing school district and election district boundaries.)

School board filing always comes at a busy and distracted time of year. As I wrote last year, it's almost as if school board elections were deliberately scheduled to escape the notice of potential candidates and voters.

If you're a conservative, you should give serious consideration to running.

The Tulsa district, largest in the state, has two out of seven seats up for election to a four-year term, Posts No. 5 and 6. The election will be held on February 9, 2016, with runoffs on April 5, 2016, for those seats where no candidate won a majority of the vote in the February election.

Tulsa Election District 5 covers Riverside to Yale from 21st to 41st, plus Riverside to Harvard between 41st and I-44, plus Utica to Yale from 11th to 21st, plus a small section just south of I-44 between Peoria and Riverside. The current member, Cindy Decker, was appointed to the post in May 2015. Her bio suggests that she's part of the problem with American education, tied in with the social services non-profit and educational consulting world. "Decker has been an education researcher since 2002. She is passionate about ensuring all children have a quality education. She works as Director of Research and Accountability at CAP Tulsa while also consulting for various groups including the U.S. Department of Education and Howard County Public School System in Maryland. She is Chair of the Board of Moto, Inc., a family-owned business based in Illinois. Formerly, she was a Senior Economist working with the education team at the U.S. Government Accountability Office." Cynthia Gustafson Decker is a registered Democrat.

Tulsa Election District 6 covers, roughly, I-244 to 51st Street from Yale to Mingo, plus 51st to 61st, Sheridan to Memorial, plus (oddly) Memorial Park Cemetery. The incumbent is Ruth Ann Fate, who was first elected to the seat in 1996. Ruth Ann Fate is also a registered Democrat.

Looking through the online biographies, I think it's fair to assume that there is not a single conservative on the Tulsa School Board. One member is a Democrat political consultant. Another is a former Democrat County Commissioner. One of the members is a teacher in a different school district and a member of the OEA, the far-left teachers union.

In addition, Tulsa Technology Center board seat 5 is up for a seven-year term, representing northern and western Tulsa County beyond the Tulsa city limits, plus those parts of Creek, Pawnee, Osage, and Washington Counties within the TTC boundaries. TTC seems to have more money than it knows what to do with; it would be lovely to have a fiscal conservative on the board who could curb their building spree.

If you're a conservative, you should give serious thought to running, even if you have no school-aged children, even if you have children that are homeschooled or in private school, even if you've never had a child in the public schools. The public school system exists to serve all citizens by educating the children of the community, so every citizen has an interest in the curriculum being used, the way discipline is handled, the condition of the school buildings, and the credentials, skills, and philosophical presuppositions of the teachers, principals, and administrators. Property owners support the school system through ad valorem taxes, and so they have a reasonable interest in the proper and efficient expenditure of those funds. So do all citizens who pay state income and sales taxes, which provide funds to supplement local property taxes.

If you are, like me, a homeschool or private school parent, you will have experience and valuable insights with successful, classical alternatives to the faddish and failing teaching methods, priorities, and content currently in use in the public schools.

I ran some numbers, comparing 2010 census data, broken down by age, with the closest school attendance data I could find, from the 2010-2011 school year. In the Tulsa school district, the average daily attendance was only 67.2% of the number of school-aged children (5-18) who lived in the district on Census Day 2010. That means about a third of school-aged kids were either homeschooled or in private schools, the highest proportion of any district in the metro area. The Tulsa district also had the lowest percentage of residents in the 5-18 bracket -- 17.9%. Compare that to the Sperry district, where 91% of school-aged residents attended the public school, and where 22.6% of the residents were school-aged.

It seems that a substantial number of families move from the Tulsa district to the suburbs when their children reach kindergarten, or, if they stay, many opt for homeschooling or private schools. Those numbers make a strong case for new leaders in the Tulsa district. And if the school board is going to be strictly representative, at least two of the seven members should have children in homeschool or private school, and a majority should be conservative.

Filing is simple: A notarized declaration of candidacy, and a signed copy of the statutory requirements for school board candidates. For this office there is no filing fee. You can view the Oklahoma school board filing packet online. And although school board elections are officially non-partisan, the local and state Republican Party organizations will provide assistance to registered Republicans who are candidates for non-partisan office. (I suspect the same is true of the Democrats.)

There was a time when it was generally agreed that schools existed to transmit knowledge and the values of the community to the rising generation, working alongside parents. At some point, as part of the Gramscian long march through the institutions, the public schools were infiltrated by Leftists who saw them as a venue for missionary work, converting children away from the values of their parents, away from the ideals that made America a prosperous and peaceful nation. The Left has influence over schools of education, textbook publishers, teachers' unions, and continuing education for teachers, administrators, and board members.

There are, it must be said, many good conservatives, many devout Christians serving in Oklahoma's public schools. But they need support in the form of school board members who will set policy and curriculum and ensure that the paid staff adhere to it. Conservative school board members should not give undue deference to "professionals" who have been trained to see education through a Leftist lens. The subject matter taught, the methods used, and the values undergirding it all should be firmly under the control of our elected representatives on the school board.

Education is necessarily ideological, because it rests on presuppositions about knowledge, truth, goodness, and beauty. The ideology of the public schools should reflect the ideology of the community.

If I were running -- and for family and business reasons I can't -- here are some of the planks that would be in my platform:

  • Introduce the classical trivium as the philosophy and method of instruction in schools that are currently failing. That includes a heavy emphasis on memorizing facts in the elementary years, which gives children a sense of mastery and accomplishment and provides a solid foundation for subsequent learning.
  • Instill pride in our city, state, and country. America has its flaws, but it is a beacon of liberty and opportunity that inspires hope in hundreds of millions of people around the world who wish they could live and work here. Our children should understand the aspects of our culture and history that have made our country prosperous and peaceful.
  • Keep the Land Run re-enactments in our elementary schools. It's a fun and memorable way to introduce students to our state's unique history. There is an activist in Oklahoma City who managed to convince historically ignorant principals and school board members there that the '89 Land Run was an act of genocide. Oklahoma City, founded by the '89 Land Run, no longer has reenactments of that event, because of a zealot who pushed her slanderous revision of history on ignoramuses in charge of the schools.
  • Return music to the elementary grades. An early introduction to classical music and learning to make music by singing have tremendous developmental and behavioral benefits.
  • Review all federal grants and determine whether the cost of compliance and the loss of independence is worth the money.
  • Young people who foolishly believe that swapping sexes will solve their deep unhappiness deserve pity and guidance. It is utter cruelty to humor their misplaced hope that "changing gender identity" will cure their misery. Leadership at each school should craft a way to accommodate these deluded young people with compassion and dignity, while protecting the dignity of everyone else, and while affirming the biologically undeniable reality of the two sexes.

On that last point, doing the wise thing will require resisting Federal pressure. If the U. S. Department of Education refuses funding based on its perverted interpretation of Title IX, the school should sue the DoE.

Our public schools need principled, intelligent conservative leadership. Will you step forward to serve?

RELATED:

Stella Morabito writes, "Ask Not Who's Running For President, Ask Who's Running For School Board," and she cites the recent battle in Fairfax County, Virginia, over transgender policy as one among many reasons:

The board voted 10-1 with one abstention to shove the policy down the throats of startled parents. There was no discussion and no consideration given to the concerns expressed. Instead, the parents were in effect smeared as intolerant bigots.

The ten board members voting in compliance with this federal harassment behaved like a bunch of cronies who seemed most interested in securing their places of privilege in a coming nomenklatura by regurgitating Orwellian-style talking points about "equality" and "non-discrimination."...

When informed citizens of goodwill vote en masse locally, they can provide an effective check on corruption and force government to be more responsive to its citizens. This kind of citizen activism serves as a buffer that can prevent state and federal governments from absorbing local governments.

As we've seen from the Fairfax County case, our distraction from local elections and neglect of local politics is fertile ground for growing laws under the radar on issues that have not been debated or thought through.

More than ever, we need to push back against the use of local elections as a back door to enforcing agendas established by central, national, or even international agendas.

Walt Heyer, a man who underwent sex-change surgery and then, realizing that the change failed to give him the happiness he had hoped for, changed back, writes that the Obama Administration is using its perverted interpretation of Title IX to force public schools to trample their students in the transgender war against science and reason.

Let's look back and unmask the founders who started the gender madness we see infiltrating into our public schools today. As I detail in "Paper Genders," changing boys into girls started in the perverted minds of three abhorrent pedophile activists from the 1950s who were at the forefront of promoting a movement for sexual and gender experimentation... [Alfred Kinsey, Harry Benjamin, and John Money]....

Public schools are becoming centers for gay, lesbian, and gender-pretender activists and only secondarily fulfilling their purpose as institutions for sound academics. The laws are being interpreted far beyond the original intent of non-discrimination based on gender to where they protect gender pretenders at the expense of the rights of non-trans kids. Gender pretenders are assured access to every school facility and program available to the opposite gender, up to and including girls-only dressing rooms and showers.

Every child's rights to privacy and protection from exposure to inappropriate opposite-sex nudity are now in jeopardy. According to these new legal interpretations, if you like your gender and want to keep your gender that's fine, but you cannot keep your freedom, rights, or protections in public-school dressing rooms or restrooms. The current conflict of interest playing out in school locker rooms between girls born as girls and the self-acknowledged gender pretender trans-kids is real and it is not funny. Non-trans students have lost their right to privacy and parents have lost the freedom to parent and protect their children....

Studies show that people with gender issues also have other psychological issues 62.7 percent of the time. When the co-existing illness is treated, often the desire to change gender dissipates. By not treating the co-existing illnesses first and instead putting the patient through gender reassignment--hormones and surgery--the medical community does irrevocable harm to the patient's body and long-lasting harm to his mind.

The harm is deeper for impressionable children and adolescents who experiment with gender-change behaviors and hormones or hormone blockers. Studies have shown that the majority of kids who are gender confused will grow out of it if they are left alone....

Gender pretenders--also known as trans-kids, crossdressers, or transvestites--should get counseling, not encouragement. Social terrorists who use child transvestites to advance an agenda of sexual perversion should be shut down, not be guiding public school policy.

It's time for parents and kids to fight against the social terrorism of gender change. It's time to take schools back from males who wish to expose themselves with impunity in the girls' locker room.

Tulsa Library CEO Gary Shaffer is an overpaid, left-wing twit.

This is admittedly a snap judgement, but when I saw Shaffer's rationale for a change to the summer reading program that halved participation over the previous year (33,194 down to 16,013) I felt confident in making it.

The summer reading program has been a fun way to encourage children to keep reading and to get to know the Tulsa Library system over the three-month school break. Kids and parents keep track of the books they've read, then turn in their reading card at the end of the summer to receive toys and coupons, donated by sponsors, as rewards for completing the specified number of books.

Here's the apparent cause of the drastic drop, which cut participation to its lowest level since 1985, according to Kelly Jennings, the former coordinator of the program:

Jennings said a change of requiring a library card for each child resulted in children's groups turning away from the program, as did parents of multiple children not wanting to keep up with a lot of cards.

She said the larger groups usually opted for one card for easy tracking of the books checked out.

Shaffer's response:

Shaffer said the change was made to encourage children to get a library card, which he called a "social justice issue."

With the quoted phrase, Shaffer brands himself as a left-wing twit. "Social justice issue" is a Duckspeak phrase. It is designed not to stimulate thought and discussion but to bypass the brain and halt discussion. A public agency's policy could be debated as to its prudence and effectiveness, but as soon as it is labeled a "social justice issue," all discussion must cease. To oppose the policy is to oppose "social justice," and if you oppose social justice, you're a bad person. By using the phrase, Shaffer outs himself as a left-winger, and by using it to stop a discussion about a failure under his leadership, Shaffer outs himself as a twit.

As for overpaid:

Shaffer is an at-will employee who will now earn $171,966 annually. The raise reflects the same cost-of-living increase given to employees earlier this year. He will continue to be paid while finishing his degree.

Shaffer will take a sabbatical starting Sept. 15 and ending in mid-December. He will be paid the equivalent of two months of his salary and will also receive $1,000 for payroll deductions such as health and life insurance for the period between July 1 and Dec. 31.

Other benefits include a $450 monthly car allowance for his private vehicle and three electronic devices (cellphone, home computer and iPad) for work use....

Shaffer was hired in January 2011 at a salary of about $140,000, which was increased to $145,596 in September 2012. Three months later, he was given a raise, bringing his salary to $154,475. A year later, the commission approved a 7 percent bump in pay to $165,288.

The story mentions that he would be one of only four library CEOs in the nation with a doctorate.

We have a great, well-funded library system, with some terrific employees. I particularly appreciate the researchers who have helped me over the years. They, and the taxpayers, deserve better leadership.

A commenter on one of the Tulsa World stories described the move to individual library cards as "nothing but a membership drive. He wanted to make it look like he had increased readership big time and all it did was drive people away." Does this overpaid, left-wing twit have a bonus clause for increasing the number of active library cards?

It sneaks up on us every year -- the filing period for next spring's school board elections across Oklahoma. It's the first Monday in December and the two days following, at the start of the Christmas season as popularly defined. This year the timing of the filing period is the worst possible as it comes right on the heels of the long Thanksgiving weekend. The elections themselves will be the second Tuesday next February, followed by a runoff, if necessary, the first Tuesday in April. It's almost as if school board elections were deliberately scheduled to escape the notice of potential candidates and voters.

The filing period for the 2015 school board elections will close on Wednesday, December 3, 2014, at 5:00 p.m. So far no seat in Tulsa County has drawn more than one candidate, and seats in Skiatook, Liberty, and Keystone have no candidates at all so far.

Conservatives shouldn't overlook these races. Oklahoma's tax-funded schools can and should be reformed to reflect the priorities and values of Oklahoma's conservative majority.

When public schools were founded by local communities, they were designed to prepare students to function capably as free and equal adult citizens in the community and to assist the parents of the community in propagating their ideals and values to the next generation. Schools had high expectations of their students, regardless of their wealth or ethnic backgrounds, and students graduated ready to make their own way in the world and contribute to the betterment of the community.

As part of the Left's Gramscian Long March through the nation's institutions, the Left has come to claim public schools as its own mission stations among the benighted and savage conservatives of Flyover Country. Since, in the Left's view, the American civilization established by our Founders is utterly corrupt and in need of fundamental transformation, the political, social, and moral values that built American civilization and American liberty must be junked. The schools can be used to alienate children from their parents and their community's values and to prepare children to accept the Left's political and moral indoctrination. Court decisions divorcing schools from community values have abetted the transformation, as have the public's neglect of the school board as a tool for accountability. Too often, a school board can see itself as enablers and servants of the "professionals" in the administration, rather than as the public's proxy as bosses of the paid staff.

There are many good teachers, administrators, and board members in the public schools who are not on the side of the Left. They are attempting to carry on the traditional purpose of the public schools. They deserve our appreciation and our help in obtaining reinforcements.

Gifted teachers are often frustrated by the bureaucratic tendency for the mediocre to rise to the top. Testing, often imposed out of a well-intentioned desire to hold schools accountable for results, instead inhibits creativity and pushes curriculum toward centralized conformity -- providing another channel for Leftist suppression of local values.

Adding to the corrupt mess, curriculum decisions are driven by textbook publishers and test makers who are pushing new products, trying to make a buck at the expense of school children who would benefit from time-tested teaching methods instead of the latest fad.

Grants are another source of distortion. Grant money comes with strings, and schools may divert other funds to meet the conditions required to receive a grant. Our Oklahoma legislators and governor had the courage to reject a short-term boost of Obamacare funds because of the long-term harm the program would do and the long-term costs the deal would incur. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had public school boards filled with men and women who had the courage to reject federal, state, or private grants that would distract from the school's mission or compromise the school's support for the community's values?

Every school district in Oklahoma has at least one seat up for election every year. All but the very largest independent districts are on a five-year cycle -- five board members, each serving a five-year term. This time the Office 5 seat is up for election. In Tulsa County, that affects every school district except Tulsa and Keystone.

Dependent (K-8) districts have three members each serving a three-year term; Office 1 is up this year.

The Tulsa district is a special case; its board has seven members, elected by district to four-year terms. Most years, Tulsa elects two members, but this year only one seat is up: District 1, currently held by Democrat incumbent Gary Percefull, who is so far the only candidate to file. The election district covers the part of the Tulsa school district southwest of the Arkansas River, plus downtown Tulsa and precincts to the north, west, south, and southeast, and the precincts along the Sand Springs Line.

Some districts may also have an additional seat on the ballot to fill an unexpired term.

One seat on the Tulsa Technology Center board, Zone 3, is also on the ballot. This board has seven members, serving rotating seven-year terms. Zone 3 consists of 31st to 81st Street, Yale to 129th East Ave, plus 81st to 101st, Memorial to 129th East Ave, plus 31st to 41st, 129th to 145th East Ave, plus a triangular area bounded by 129th, 71st, and the railroad. Tim Bradley is the incumbent, but only one candidate, Guy Mark Griffin, has filed. (Mark your calendar: Kathy Taylor's daughter, the Zone 4 incumbent, will be up for re-election in the 2015-2016 cycle.)

Tulsa Technology Center has been in a massive expansion mode for many years. Since 2011, TTC has opened new campuses in Owasso and Sand Springs and renovated its Broken Arrow campus. It would be nice if at least one board member was willing to look at long-range financial sustainability of all the new facilities and whether TTC could let the voters decide to reduce its millage rate, allowing voters to decide whether to add that millage to meet more pressing needs via another taxing entity or to put it back in property taxpayers' pockets.

Please take a few minutes to look at the maps of school districts and board zones and the list of offices to be filled and candidate filings to see whether your district, ward, or zone has an election this year. If you don't live in a district up for election, think about good men and women you know who do. Take a look at the official school board candidate filing packet and fill it out, then get yourself or someone else down to the county election board by 5:00 p.m.

These are winnable races. School elections have low turnout, and, although the races are non-partisan, the Oklahoma Republican Party and county GOP organizations make their resources available and help mobilize volunteers and donors for registered Republicans running for school and municipal offices. Some good organization and hard work could be enough to win, but the first step is to file.

The Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs (OCPA) and Americans for Prosperity Foundation are celebrating the 102nd birthday of Nobel Laureate and educational-choice champion Milton Friedman with snowcones at Tulsa's Mohawk Park Pavilion 2, tomorrow, Thursday, July 31, 2014, from 4 pm to 6 pm. It's a come-and-go event for the whole family, and door prizes will be awarded.

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Friedman, with his wife Rose, wrote the best-selling book Free to Choose and hosted a PBS TV series of the same name, showing the essential connection between personal liberty and prosperity. Throughout his career, Friedman argued that meaningful parental choice in education would produce better schools better suited to students. Some quotes on the topic (links to original sources and context at the link):

"It is only the tyranny of the status quo that leads us to take it for granted that in schooling, government monopoly is the best way for the government to achieve its objective."
-- "The School Choice Advocate," January 2004

"Our goal is to have a system in which every family in the U.S. will be able to choose for itself the school to which its children go. We are far from that ultimate result. If we had that -- a system of free choice -- we would also have a system of competition, innovation, which would change the character of education."

-- CNBC Interview Transcript, March 2003

"Improved education is offering a hope of narrowing the gap between the less and more skilled workers, of fending off the prior prospect of a society divided between the "haves" and "have nots," of a class society in which an educated elite provided welfare for a permanent class of unemployables."

-- "The School Choice Advocate," July 1998

Ballard and Ballard

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Interesting coincidence:

Keith Ballard is the Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools. He was appointed to the post in 2008.

Tulsa Public Schools is a client of the law firm of Rosenstein, Fist, and Ringold. According to the firm's website, that relationship began in 1932. In 2011, questions were asked about the amount of money -- over a half million a year -- the district spends with the firm each year.

Matt Ballard is an attorney with Rosenstein, Fist, and Ringold. He joined the firm in 2008 and was made a member in 2011. He is the Republican nominee for District Attorney in Rogers, Mayes, and Craig counties.

Keith Ballard is Matt Ballard's father.

Over on Conversation Catoosa on Facebook, there's a rumor about moving the City of Tulsa's Rolling Hills subdivisions from the Tulsa school district to the Catoosa school district.

This is an area southwest of Admiral and 193rd East Avenue that has been in the City of Tulsa since the massive 1966 annexation and has been in the Tulsa school district since the independent East Central school district was annexed into the Tulsa district in 1964. It is bordered by the City of Catoosa and the Catoosa School District on the north (across I-44 in Rogers County) and east (across 193rd East Ave. in Wagoner County).

Such a transfer would benefit the neighborhood, both school districts, and the City of Tulsa. The neighborhood once had Carl Sandburg Elementary School in the TPS system, but Sandburg closed in 2011. The "neighborhood" school is Kerr Elementary, over five miles away. I'm told that many students in the neighborhood transfer to Catoosa schools, where the furthest building is about three miles away, and the middle and high schools are barely a mile away. The neighborhood has always had strong cultural and economic ties to Catoosa.

Beyond this one half-section, it would make sense to move everything east of 145th East Ave. out of the Tulsa School District. The area was also home to Lynn Lane School and several never-developed TPS sites. East of 145th East Ave and south of 31st is already in the Broken Arrow School District, and that area has seen many new subdivisions in recent years. Transferring the area north of 31st and east of 145th to Catoosa would encourage new residential development within the Tulsa city limits and would increase the value of existing homes, and that increase in value would benefit all Tulsa taxpayers, by spreading the property tax sinking fund burden across a higher assessed value. City of Tulsa leaders would be smart to encourage the move.

Part of the City of Tulsa is already in the Catoosa district: part of the area in Wagoner County annexed in 2001 and the fenceline in Rogers County that extends to the Tulsa Port of Catoosa.

TPS would benefit, too, by no longer having to run bus service to the isolated subdivisions and acreages of east Tulsa. TPS might even be able to sell the Sandburg building and proposed school locations to Catoosa schools for their future expansion.

If I'm reading 70 O.S. 7-101 correctly, voters in the affected area could submit a petition requesting an election, and it wouldn't take many of them. Subsection B reads:

B. An annexation election shall be called by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction without the concurrence of the board of education of the school district which is proposed to be annexed, upon the filing of a petition with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for annexation that is signed by a majority of the school district electors in the territory proposed to be annexed, hereinafter referred to as the area affected, said majority being applied to the highest number of voters voting in a regular school district election in the district in the preceding five (5) years as determined by the secretary of the county election board, who shall certify the adequacy of the number of signatures on the petition. The petition shall contain such information as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction may require.

The TPS board could choose to limit the election to the affected area or, if they wanted to give the petitioners a bigger hill to climb, could have the entire school district vote. I'd hope that TPS would see the benefit of ceding this sprawling territory with its attendant expenses.

Once upon a time, developers wanted to move rural school territory into the Tulsa district to attract suburban homebuyers. In the early 1950s, voters transferred a large section of the Union district into the Tulsa district -- everything now in the Tulsa district southeast of 21st and Yale.

But for several decades now, smaller suburban and rural districts have been more attractive to househunting parents than Oklahoma's largest single school district. Parents feel that suburban board members and administrators are more accessible and responsive, and a district with one high school is more of a cohesive community than a district with nine where the boundaries seem to be constantly changing. Parts of the City of Tulsa in suburban districts have thrived, while I suspect it's been over 30 years since a new middle-income housing development has been built within TPS boundaries.

MORE: A November 21, 2010 Tulsa World story lists earlier waves of school closings in the Tulsa district.

Emerson Elementary School, north of downtown Tulsa at 909 N. Boston Ave, will celebrate its centennial this Friday night, May 2, 2014, from 6 to 8 pm. Dinner will be provided by Elote and music by Muskogee's Wild Card Band. There will be a silent auction to benefit the school's Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) initiative. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children 11-17. Visit Emerson's "purchases and donations" page to buy tickets and centennial T-shirts.

In researching a story about the neighborhood south of Emerson, I've enjoyed talking to a number of alumni who attended the school in the '40s and '50s and getting to know the school's long and fascinating history.

Emerson School dates its birth from its authorization in Tulsa's 1913 school bond issue. A April 14, 1915, story, headlined "BUILD NEW SCHOOL ON THE NORTH SIDE: Buy Block In Kirkpatrick Heights for a Unit Building," reported:

Amicably settling the slight dissention [sic] which recently arose between the North Side Improvement association and the city school board, it was decided at the meeting of the school board last night to purchase a block of ground in the Kirkpatrick Heights addition for a new school site and build an entirely new unit school at that place. In view of the unsafe condition of the Sequoyah school, for a large number of children, it was decided to diminish the attendance there as well as repair the building and render it safe as far as possible.

It is thought probable that the Osage school, which is a grade school, would never likely grow very much, shall be made the location for the manual training and domestic science departments for the more advanced students of the north side. This will prevent their having to go as far south as the central high school or as far east as Washington school to take that course of study. Members of the North Side Improvement association present expressed themselves before the board and privately as being entirely satisfied with the arrangement.

(On the same page, a box score and news story announced that the Tulsa World-Democrat newsboys baseball team, the Newsies, had defeated Bellview (Lincoln) elementary school 7-6 and Horace Mann elementary 10-2 in a Sunday afternoon double header. For more information about the concerns of this period for school building soundness and safety, see "'JITNEY' SCHOOLS ARE 'ALL BLOWED UP'" in the September 8, 1915, Tulsa World.)

A month later, on May 19, 1915, the school board approved, with one member dissenting, the purchase of a block in Kirkpatrick Heights and rejecting the Mary Davis site. (That may be a reference to the Davis-Wilson Heights Addition, on the east side of Cincinnati at the top of Sunset Hill. The same page discusses work on the Detention Home and has an ad from the Tulsa Theatre Managers Association about a wildcat strike by union musicians, stagehands and operators.)

A Sunday, September 19, 1915, news story about the reopening of the school year the following day announces that enrollment for the new school in Kirkpatrick Heights would be held at Osage (Fairview west of Denver) and Sequoyah Schools (Boston and Easton) "A separation of the district will be made, as soon as the building is completed." A January 4, 1916, story reports that Emerson school "will be occupied tomorrow," with only one further school from the last bond issue to be completed (Riverview).

Tulsa Emerson elementary school, original building

NOTE: It appears that the Oklahoma Historical Society had the photo backwards. Based on aerial photos, the auditorium was on King Street, second building east of Boston. When reversed, the photo matches the slope of the land.

Emerson has had two incarnations. Its first was as a campus on the east side of Boston between King and Latimer Streets, occupying about half a block and built according to the "unit plan" devised by school board member H. O. McClure, namesake of a Tulsa park and school. Each unit consisted of two classrooms with its own restrooms and cloakrooms. As enrollment grew, additional units would be built, gradually enclosing an inner courtyard. One two-story building housed the auditorium and school offices. The plan was innovative and received national attention. While many unit plan schools, including Emerson, have been demolished, a few remain, and most have been put to other purposes: Lee School at 21st and Cincinnati, Irving School at 1st and Nogales, Pershing School in Owen Park neighborhood, and Lincoln School at 15th and Peoria. In some cases, like Lincoln and Irving, units were constructed around multistory school buildings.

The courtyard wasn't big enough for baseball; little league games were played several blocks north at Cheyenne Playground.

Tulsa school unit plan conceptual drawing

Prior to school desegregation, Emerson was a school for whites only. After Brown v. Board of Education, starting in 1955, a few African-American children enrolled in the school. Bill Leighty, who was an Emerson student at the time, remembers that the change was uneventful and the new students were welcomed. Over the next 20 years, changing school boundaries and changing residential patterns (influenced in part by the urban renewal demolition of Greenwood and the displacement of its residents) resulted in Emerson becoming a majority African-American school; 87.4% in the 1975-1976 school year.

The second, modern incarnation of Emerson began in 1975, as part of a plan to desegregate schools without forced busing. Tulsa proposed, and the Federal judge accepted, a plan to build a new Emerson School as a magnet, to complement new magnet schools at Carver Middle School and Washington High School. Charles Johnson Elementary, located in the old Washington building in the Greenwood district, and which had been one of the segregated "separate" schools for African-Americans, would be closed and merged into Emerson. Longfellow, at 6th and Peoria, had been closed and merged into Johnson for the 1972-1973, to try to create a balanced student body.

Building this superschool involved the creation of a superblock, demolishing the original buildings and the houses on the rest of its block, the block to the south, and two blocks to the west. Forty-six single-family homes, three duplexes, seven apartment buildings, and a small retail building at 14 E. Latimer (home in in 1957 to Tulsa Nozzle and Valve, in 1967 to the Edge of Night beer joint) were removed. King Street was closed between Cincinnati Ave (now MLKJr Blvd) and Main, and Boston Ave was closed between Jasper Street and Latimer Street.

The new Emerson, which opened its doors in 1976, had a brand new, modern building, innovative curriculum offerings, and highly-credentialed teachers. From a 1977 report to the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights about the desegregation of Tulsa schools:

On April 24, 1975, District Judge Frederick Daugherty issued an order with regard to Emerson Elementary School. The order approved the school districts request to build a new elementary school based on an expansion of the existing Emerson campus. Student assignment changes were made by consolidating the enrollments of Emerson and Johnson Elementary Schools. The court stipulated that the new Emerson must maintain a black enrollment of not more than 50 percent. The school district, expanding on its previous successes at Burroughs Little School, Carver Middle School, and Washington High School, sought voluntary white student enrollment. The court had made it quite clear that, if the voluntary approach did not work, the district would have to take other action to maintain the prescribed racial enrollment in the new school.

The new Emerson Elementary, which opened in September 1976, formed the final link in a complete K-12 alternative school program where students can experience individualized, continuous-progress learning in a racially desegregated environment. The total enrollment of 700, with a 50-50 black-white ratio, consists of approximately 500 neighborhood children and an additional 200 white student volunteers. Children in grades K-3 are located in a special area with ready access to other activity areas. The curriculum emphasizes communication skills and mathematics taught by a team of teachers. Enrichment experiences include music, drama, and creative arts at this level.
Children in grades three through six have three time blocks of 110 minutes each allotted to communication skills, math-science, physical education, and humanities. Additional instruction in music is available on the violin, guitar, and piano beginning at the third-grade level.

Although the main emphasis is on basic skills geared for individualized instruction, the curriculum stresses a humanities program. Children at Emerson have access to a piano laboratory, a potter's wheel, instruction in dance and drama, and a miniature television studio where they can produce their own shows. The curriculum features a creative learning center where children may engage in enrichment experiences in the arts, crafts, plant growing, and creative writing. This component of the curriculum is closely articulated with the exploratory curriculum at Carver Middle School so that Emerson students can continue their entire public school education through similar programs at Carver Middle School and Washington High School.

Today, Emerson is the neighborhood school for a three-square mile area that includes all of downtown within the Inner Dispersal Loop plus an area bounded by the L. L. Tisdale Expressway, Peoria Avenue, Pine Street and 11th Street. It feeds into Central Junior and Senior high schools. At the start of this academic year, Emerson had 311 students and 23 teachers. 95% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. 70% of the students are African-American. Student attendance rate last year was 94%.

TulsaNow is hosting a forum for candidates for the upcoming Tulsa School Board election. The forum will be at Foolish Things Coffee, 1001 S Main Street in downtown Tulsa, at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, February 5, 2014.

The League of Women Voters has posted its 2014 Tulsa area school board candidate questionnaire with responses for candidates for Tulsa offices 4 and 7, Bixby office 4, and Tulsa Technology Center Office 6. The voter guide also includes the ballot titles for bond issues in Jenks and Union districts.

As usual, most school board positions in Tulsa County drew only a single candidate during the December filing period. Filing was held the first week in December, when most people are focused on the end of the school semester and the upcoming Christmas holiday.

Bixby Office 4: Helen Bolton, Lisa Owens

Tulsa Office 4: Bobbie Gray-Elliott (incumbent), Shawna Keller, William D. Bickerstaff

Tulsa Office 7: Gene Beach, Suzanne Schreiber

Tulsa Technology Center Offce 6: Sharon A. Whelpley, Paul J. Kroutter

The primary and bond issue election will be held on Tuesday, February 11, 2014. In races with three or more candidates in which no candidate receives a majority of the primary vote, a runoff will be held on the April 1, 2014.

MORE: Here is the Tulsa County Election Board election calendar for 2014. Note that the first half of next week, February 3-5, 2014, is the filing period for city elections in Bixby, Collinsville, and Owasso. Those cities have a primary on March 4 and a runoff on April 1. April 9-11, 2014, is the filing period for state and county posts; April 13-15 is the filing period for City of Tulsa council (all nine) and auditor positions. 2014 will be the first year for City of Tulsa elections to coincide with state elections.

STILL MORE: The Oklahoma Republican Party will be holding a day-long campaign training school for candidates and volunteers in Tulsa on February 22, 2014. Contact the state party HQ for details and registration.

Deborah Brown Community School, a elementary school in downtown Tulsa chartered under the aegis of Langston University (a historically black state university), has come under attack as a result of a misleading Fox 23 report about a parent's decision to remove his daughter from the school because the school prohibited his daughter's preferred hairstyle.

The Fox 23 story and descriptions linking the story on their Facebook page state that the girl was sent home because of hairstyle and that the girl was told directly by school officials that her hairstyle was unacceptable. The Fox 23 story had the girl on camera, sobbing, "They don't like my dreads." Facebook commenters reacted with outrage: How dare they make a little girl cry! How dare these racist school officials ban a natural, culturally significant hairstyle!

What actually happened is that the school reminded the girl's parent that the hairstyle was expressly against the school rules, and the parent chose to move the girl to a different school. This is according to a statement from the school sent in response to a question from the Huffington Post.

So the school did NOT kick the student out, did NOT send the student home, did NOT confront the little girl about her hair.

The point of a school uniform and dress code is that an elementary school is not a place to make a fashion statement or express your personal style. Elementary school is a place to be taught the basics -- reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history (names and dates) -- the grammar of learning, the foundation for further education in every subject. The overarching theme of the school's policy on hair is that hairstyles should be plain and simple.

Here is the Deborah Brown Community School parent/student handbook. And here is the entire section on the dress code:

Our philosophy and program aspires to raise the level of academic excellence through respect for learning. The students, therefore, dress in a uniform to encourage respect and seriousness of school. Students attending DBCS are required to wear black or brown shoes and the appropriate uniform as designated by the Executive Director. BLACK OR BROWN TENNIS SHOES ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE. It is suggested that each child have a minimum of four complete sets of uniforms. Any student not wearing the proper uniform Monday through Friday will be sent home for non-compliance to the school dress code. Hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros and other faddish styles are unacceptable. For safety reasons, girls weaved hair should be no longer than shoulder length. Boy's hair is to be short and neatly trimmed. Boys are not allowed to wear earrings.

If it is necessary to wear non-uniform clothing not only for emergency reasons, but Free Dress Day, students will not be allowed to wear letters, numbers or pictures on their garments. This rule applies to all students. Student dress should be conservative and modest. Free Dress Day will always be announced in writing.

Some online commenters declared that the school must be racist, because they are discriminating against "natural" ethnic hairstyles like dreadlocks and afros. When I pointed out to someone on Twitter that the founder/director of the school, the entire board and administration, and most of the faculty are African-American, the response was, "Phyllis Schlafly is female. Self-loathing is a terrible thing. Worse when it's projected onto members of one's own demographic."

Anyone who knows Phyllis Schlafly knows that there isn't an ounce of self-loathing in her.
She disagrees with leftists about what policies are in the best interests of American women, and she believes that women (and men) are best served by traditional family structures and values. It's a typical and ridiculous leftist tactic to strip an opponent of her worth and humanity and to discount her views by labeling her as self-loathing.

By the way, there's nothing natural about dreadlocks, afros, or mohawks for any hair type or ethnicity. Dreadlocks -- consisting of deliberately matted hair -- require a great deal of work to create and maintain, as do bushy afros and mohawks. Dreadlocks have cultural meaning to Rastafarians, who reject cutting and combing hair, but not to those of African descent generally. I was amused to find this September 1970 Los Angeles Times wire service story about fashionable Tanzanian women adopting the Afro fad in imitation of Americans, to the dismay of local nationalist leaders who considered it an example of Western cultural imperialism.

So here we have a group of African-Americans, led by a woman, who had a vision of doing a better job than the public schools at educating African-American children. A part of that vision is structure and discipline, an emphasis reflected in the school's dress code.

deborah_brown_school_board.PNG

By all accounts, the Deborah Brown Community School is succeeding: DBCS received a "B" grade for 2011-2012. Of the Tulsa Public School district's 53 elementary schools, only 8 did as well or better.

The point of a charter school is to encourage innovation in education and to provide parents with tuition-free options so they can find the best educational approach for their children.

From a Tulsa World story on the Deborah Brown Community School and its plans to expand to include middle school grades:

The Deborah Brown school is sponsored by Langston University. About 250 students are enrolled, and 110 are on a waiting list.

By virtue of its location, 95 percent of its students are black, Mikel said. ...

The Deborah Brown school has high academic and behavioral expectations for its students.

As students walk down the hallways to wash their hands before lunch, they are quiet and well-mannered. Teachers place graded papers along the hallway for all to see. Most received A's.

The school uses an instructional method developed by its founder and namesake, and the curriculum is focused on reading, writing and math.

It also has a mandatory uniform policy and strict discipline policy and requires a strong commitment from parents to help their children reach their potential.

Mikel said that when he first came to the school, he heard children reciting something but wasn't sure what it was. It turns out, students were reciting the chemical elements from memory.

"I thought they were speaking a foreign language," he said with a laugh.

Shame on Fox 23 for damaging the reputation of a successful school serving African-American children by presenting this story in such a slanted and emotionally manipulative fashion.

MORE: Here's a more specific reference to the Tanzanian writer who dissed the American-style afro, from the February 1973 issue of Ebony, in an article entitled, "Is the Afro on Its Way Out?"

Surprisingly, one of the most vitriolic denouncements has come from an East African writer, Kadji Konde, who sees little resemblance between the big bush and the short styles worn by many African women. Rejecting it as a symbol of imperialist American decadence as purveyed by Westernized blacks, Konde wrote in a Tanzanian newspaper: "How natural these nests are is a mystery to me. In the United States, where this hairdo comes from, it is called an Afro style. This implies a link with Africa, although I fail to see how this keeping of wild oiled bush on the skull has anything to do with dear mother Africa." The attack as published was accompanied by a picture of Angela Davis.

Other common complaints are limitations on the types of hairstyles one might attempt with a 'fro, the difficulty of wearing a hat over a very large one in winter which means a whole recombing process each time the hat is removed and the gripes of both 'fro and non-'fro wearers who have found themselves seated in theaters or concert halls behind those whose towering bushes obscured any view of the stage.

And a story in the October 25, 1971, edition of Time, began:

From the time that it first appeared on the scene five years ago, the "natural" or Afro hair style closely paralleled the growth of black pride. Becoming a political statement and a symbol of racial identity as much as a popular hair style, it gradually billowed from close-cropped cuts into dramatic, spherical clouds that framed the heads of both women and men. Now that blacks feel more secure about their identity and are achieving some of their political goals, the popularity of the Afro has begun to wane.

If you're asking if a recently popular hairstyle is "on its way out" -- that's pretty much the definition of "faddish," isn't it?

STILL MORE:

Here is a playlist of videos about DBCS: A promotional video aimed at potential donors, a couple of news stories, and a couple of home videos. I don't get the impression that these students are being steeped in self-loathing.

Philbrook Museum and Gardens by Michael Bates

Tulsa's Philbrook Museum of Art is holding a reception for homeschooling parents on Saturday, June 29, 2013, from 2 to 4 pm. The event is free.

Learn all about the growing Philbrook Homeschool Art program. Enjoy light refreshments, guided tours, and the announcement of the Fall 2013 curriculum.

For questions call 918.748.5352

Philbrook has had a homeschool art program since Fall 2011. An article about the program notes, "According to the National Home Education Research Institute, there are over 2 million home-educated school age children in the United States."

Tulsa has a strong homeschooling community, with an infrastructure that includes cooperatives and communities, conferences, and even a textbook and curriculum consignment store. There's a great deal of diversity in methods and motivations among Tulsa homeschoolers, but homeschooling parents are always on the lookout for activities and classes that complement their children's studies at home. Really, it ought to be called tailor-made education -- it's all about finding the right combination of materials and teaching methods to suit your child's gifts and abilities. It's smart for Philbrook to reach out and offer an enrichment opportunity to Tulsa area homeschool families and in the process build a new generation of museum patrons.

Philbrook would not only be valuable to a homeschool family as a place to study art, but the works on display would complement the study of European history (ancient Greece, ancient Rome, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance), American history, Native American peoples, and the Bible, among other subjects.

This Land Press has posted photos of every page of the Booker T. Washington High School Yearbook from 1921, the year of the race riot that destroyed the community which Washington High served.

Tulsa-Booker_T_Washington_High_School-1921-Curriculum.jpg

Faculty: Nine men, six women, and all appear to be African-American.

Course of Study

Freshman Class

Latin
English
Algebra
Drawing
Domestic Science and Art
Manual Training
Ancient History
Vocal Music

Sophomore Class

Latin
English
Geometry
Domestic Art
Drawing
Medieval and Modern History
Economics
Music
Domestic Science
Manual Training

Junior Class

English
Algebra
Commercial Arithmetic
Drawing
Manual Training
Business Spelling
Chemistry
English History
Civics
Domestic Art
Domestic Science
Vocal Music

Senior Class

English
Physics
Geometry Solid
Typewriting
Vocal Music
Domestic Science
Manual Training
American History
Psychology
Trigonometry Plain
Book Keeping
Drawing
Domestic Art
Shorthand

"All classes are required to take part in some form of Athletics."

acalogo.jpgAs we near the midpoint of the second semester, it's a good time to consider whether your current schooling arrangement best suits your children's needs. Never before have there been so many options. If you want an academically rigorous but caring environment, grounded in the Christian worldview, taught in accordance with the classical approach to education, you need to consider Augustine Christian Academy. Two open houses in the next few weeks and a banquet this Friday evening are ways to get acquainted with ACA.

Augustine Christian Academy is a non-denominational classical Christian school. The distinctives page on the website gives you a good sense of what the school is all about. A few excerpts:

Whereas public schools are prohibited from presenting a Christian emphasis in any subject and most Christian schools present only a single sectarian doctrine, ACA exposes its students to a variety of viewpoints training them through logic to question the truth and validity of each.

Rather than limiting the expression of their Christianity to traditional religious activity, ACA seeks to train students to expand their expression of faith through an integrated Biblical worldview. Students are taught to bring Biblical principles to every sphere of life and learning in order to completely reflect the glory of God in their life and culture.

Augustine Christian Academy has two upcoming open houses on Tuesday evening, February 26, 2013, 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm, and Wednesday afternoon, March 6, 2013, 2:00 - 3:30 pm. It's an opportunity to tour the school, ask questions, and meet teachers. The school is at 6310 E. 30th St., just west of Sheridan.

Prospective students are also encouraged to shadow a student for a day, and school tours can be arranged at other times. Call the ACA office at 918-832-4600 to schedule a visit.

The ACA annual banquet, this Friday night, February 22, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. at the Tulsa Renaissance Hotel, is another fine way to get to know the school. The speaker for the event is Arthur Greeno, author of Dysfunctional Inspiration.

ACA not only offers an excellent academic environment, but we've also found it to be a warm, welcoming community. Beyond the classroom, there's a strong performing arts program and a "house" system that builds community across the grades through service projects and intramural competition.

One of ACA's notable characteristics is its flexibility in working with the circumstances of a student and his family. Homeschool students in grades 6 through 12 can enroll part-time to supplement their homeschool curriculum and to participate in school activities. Younger homeschoolers can enroll in extracurricular programs at ACA. Some financial aid is available. After-care is available at the school (for a fee) to accommodate parental work schedules.

Our family has been part of the ACA community for the last six years, and this year I'm also teaching first-year Ancient Greek at the school. The more I've gotten to know this school, its leadership, its teachers, and its students, the more impressed I am, not just by the commitment to academic excellence, but by the spirit of community.

Back in early January, I participated in an in-service day for the faculty, which included a discussion of Anthony Esolen's ironically-titled Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. The comments of the teachers revealed a desire to impart a lifelong love of learning and a sense of imagination and possibility that will produce leaders, not mere cogs in a machine.

If you have school-aged children, you owe it to them and yourself to get acquainted with all that Augustine Christian Academy has to offer.

Here's a brief video introduction:

MORE: The performing arts are a particular strength at ACA, and if your children enjoy music and theater, they'll find kindred spirits here. Annual high school and junior high musicals are major productions, and students can take courses in drama, stagecraft, Shakespeare, and vocal music. Here's a clip from last year's production of Hello, Dolly, followed by a montage of scenes from the dress rehearsal:

This Saturday is the first of four informational meetings in the Tulsa area for the Classical Conversations homeschool community and curriculum:

Saturday, February 16, 2013, 1:00-3:00 pm: Mardels, 71st & Mingo
Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 7:00-8:30 pm: Panera, 71st & Lewis
Monday, February 25, 2013, 6:30-8:00 pm: Mardels, 71st & Mingo
Thursday, February 28, 2013, 1:00-2:30 pm: First United Methodist Church Tulsa, Youth and Family Center

Classical Conversations is a national homeschooling organization that develops curriculum and structure for organizing local communities of homeschooling families with a commitment to the classical approach to education and the Christian faith. CC families school at home but gather one day a week for instruction from tutors and review of that week's work, plus special group activities.

(Dorothy L. Sayers's essay, "The Lost Tools of Learning," is a foundational text in the modern resurgence of the classical model of education, describing the three stages of the classical Trivium -- grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric -- and their suitability to the stages of a child's intellectual development.)

Tulsa's first CC community was organized at Reed Park in 2007-2008 and moved to Asbury United Methodist Church the following year. The Tulsa metro area now has 10 communities, in downtown Tulsa, south central Tulsa (2), southeast Tulsa, Bartlesville (2), Broken Arrow, Collinsville, Owasso, and Mannford, with one more being organized in Broken Arrow. CC is also in Oklahoma City, Edmond, Lawton, Enid, Kingfisher, Arcadia, Elk City, Shawnee, and Ponca City, with a new community being organized in Stillwater.

Our family is now in our sixth year in a Classical Conversations community. CC has given all of our kids a strong academic grounding. They have a temporal and geographical framework for understanding world history and current events. They've learned how to organize their thoughts into coherent and articulate essays. They've learned to read and enjoy classic fiction and to analyze and respond to what they're reading. My wife particularly enjoys the fellowship with other homeschooling families and the accountability and pacing of the weekly gatherings.

Click here to find a complete calendar of Classical Conversations informational meetings in Oklahoma.

Click the poster to view it full-sized.

Classical_Conversations_Tulsa_2013_Poster.jpg

Last night I received an email from Gretchen Bohnert of Houston in reply to my recent blog entry about the mysterious and sudden dismissal of University of Tulsa President Geoffrey Orsak after only 74 days in office. Mrs. Bohnert is the mother of Orsak's wife Cate, and she wrote to thank me for noting the impact of Orsak's firing on his wife, a psychiatrist who left behind a successful career in Dallas so that her husband could serve as TU's president and who now is uprooted once again.

Mrs. Bohnert wanted me to know more about her daughter and son-in-law, about the solid character and accomplishments of these two people who have had their lives turned upside down, "the people that TU so precipitously fired," as she put it. With her permission, I'm sharing Mrs. Bohnert's thoughts with you.

She offered only one brief remark about the firing itself. As a retired employment lawyer and a former Director of the Dispute Resolution Center of Houston, she writes that she is "appalled" at how TU dealt with the firing. "A committee of first-year law students could have handled this matter more equitably and sensitively."

Mrs. Bohnert concluded the note with praise for those connected with Holland Hall (where the Orsaks' young children were starting school) and the University of Tulsa who showed special kindness and consideration to the Orsak family during this tough time.

Here is her email in full:

I am Cate Bohnert Orsak's mother and I want to thank you for mentioning that Geoff's firing uprooted a professional spouse. I would like to tell you more about Cate and Geoff.

Cate graduated first in her class at The Kinkaid School in Houston. While at Kinkaid she was president of KOCI, a club formed to offer Kinkaidians the opportunity to work with disadvantaged kids. She spent her Sat. mornings playing softball with blind kids and others similarly situated. She was the first freshman girl to make the varsity in tennis. She went on to Yale where she was an active volunteer at the Yale-New Haven Hospital, working with college students who were admitted to the psych unit. After Yale, she went to Baylor Med School here in Houston. She took her psychiatric residency at George Washington U. in D.C., where she was chief resident. She then was employed full time as an asst. professor in psychiatry at Georgetown Med School. When Geoff was hired at SMU, she was employed as an asst. professor at Southwestern Med School, eventually becoming a full professor. She was Chief of Mental Services for north Texas with the V.A. One year she was named "Professor of the Year." She resigned this position to go to Tulsa.

Geoff is the kindest man on the planet, in addition to being so brilliant. While a student at Rice, he rescued a cat who was hit by a car in front of his garage apartment. Though he was subsisting on grants and loans, he paid over $800 to get the cat surgery, and then adopted her. During his time at SMU, one of his staff members died. He went to the trustees and persuaded them to give the children full scholarships to SMU. While a Dean at SMU, he found time to spearhead a building drive for the DaVinci pre-school where his son Peter was a student. DaVinci now has a handsome new facility. When Peter went on to St. Mark's, Geoff took his turn behind the steam table at lunch, making sure the boys took a spoonful of veggies.

Cate and Geoff's daughter Mary was a student at Hockaday. Geoff co-coached her basketball team for several years. They eventually were league champions. Cate organized and coached Mary's volleyball team for several years, also to a winning season. Cate taught Sunday school for several years in Dallas.

These are the people that the TU trustees so precipitously fired. As a former Director of the Dispute Resolution Center of Houston and an employment lawyer, I am appalled. A committee of first-year law students could have handled this matter more equitably and sensitively. As a grandparent, I am heartsick.

There were many kind people in Tulsa, particularly the teachers and coaches at Holland Hall. Parents expressed their regrets when the Orsaks left. An art restorer at TU helped repair a painting damaged in the move to Tulsa. A tennis coach at TU helped Cate and the children with their tennis strokes. Most importantly, "Miss Camey", the housekeeper at the Skelly House, who was unfailingly cheerful and professional, even as she went about washing every window in that very large residence.

Thank you for your time.

Very sincerely,

Gretchen Bohnert

Many thanks to Mrs. Bohnert for taking the time to write and allowing me to share her thoughts with BatesLine readers.

On Wednesday, September 12, 2012, the University of Tulsa suddenly fired President Geoffrey Orsak just 74 days after he took the post. The former SMU Dean of Engineering had been granted a leave of absence the day before to be with his father, reported to be in hospice care in Dallas. A story in the Huffington Post quotes Orsak:

My family and I made significant professional and personal sacrifices when we uprooted from Dallas so that I would have the special opportunity to lead the University of Tulsa. In my time here, I was truly excited to be doing the very hard work of transforming the university into a nationally recognized force that would bring pride to the TU community and city. I am very disappointed given the lengthy due diligence process for the position that within such a short period of time the board has decided to go in a different direction.

It's the second sudden and mysterious departure for a Tulsa educational leader this year. In March, John D. Marshall, the Head of School at my alma mater, Holland Hall, suddenly resigned in this middle of his first year in the role. In his resignation notice, Marshall wrote, "I have come to recognize that this has not been the best fit, and a change in head leadership at this time would be best for all concerned." Marshall's appointment had been announced in October 2010, and he began his service on July 1, 2011.

In both cases, there had been a lengthy, nationwide search process involving national consultants. In both cases, the new leaders had uprooted a professional spouse (Mrs. Marshall, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist; Mrs. Orsak, Chief of Mental Health for the Veterans Affairs North Texas Health Care System and Professor of Psychiatry at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas) and young children to move from other states (Marshall from Georgia, Orsak from Texas) to Tulsa.

Both Holland Hall and the University of Tulsa have boards filled with accomplished business and civic leaders who have undoubtedly had to deal with the executive search process and succession planning in their own businesses and non-profit involvements. There's even some overlap between the two boards. How could two prominent institutions manage to pick leaders that had to be dumped so quickly and so mysteriously? How could the executive search process have failed so spectacularly twice in the same year in the same city?

Some background on Orsak and his selection as TU president:

Steadman Upham announced on April 12, 2011, that he would retire as TU president at the end of June 2012, and the chairman of the Board of Trustees said that the board would hire an outside firm to conduct a nationwide search for a replacement. Upham was subsequently inducted into the Tulsa Historical Society and University of Tulsa Halls of Fame.

In September 2011, the university announced the leadership of the search committee and the consulting firm that would facilitate the search process:

The university's Board of Trustees has appointed L. Duane Wilson (BS '62) to head the search committee, which will be working with the national search firm of R. William Funk & Associates of Dallas, Texas, to identify top candidates who would help build upon the momentum developed during Upham's administration.

On May 2, 2012, the Board of Trustees named Orsak the 18th president of the University of Tulsa, and the press release heralded a match made in heaven:

"Geoffrey Orsak shares our vision for the next stage in the advancement of The University of Tulsa," said Duane Wilson (BS '62), chairman-elect of the TU Board of Trustees and chairman of the presidential search committee. "His strategic insight and proven leadership will be tremendous assets, helping to drive TU to new levels of national distinction."

Orsak has been called one of this nation's key leaders in engineering research and education, with a keen grasp of their impact on economic development and global competitiveness. In his role as dean, Orsak has led the Lyle School of Engineering to national prominence built on achievement at all levels, including growth in faculty and physical facilities, some of the nation's highest levels of research funding per faculty member, and the development of innovative engineering education outreach for children in grades K-12.

A visionary administrator and concise communicator, Orsak supports higher education's role in applying scholarship to social needs both locally and globally - goals that mesh perfectly with TU initiatives such as True Blue Neighbors and Make A Difference Engineering (MADE at TU)....

"Geoffrey Orsak has been a creative and energetic leader at every stage of his professional life. He is an accomplished engineer and respected academic executive," said Steadman Upham. "Peggy and I warmly welcome Geoffrey, Catherine, and their children to the City of Tulsa and The University of Tulsa family. We look forward to their leadership."

There were positive stories galore about Orsak as he was welcomed into the community. Just a week ago, Urban Tulsa Weekly ran a profile, featuring Orsak and his son on the cover, throwing out the first pitch at a Tulsa Drillers game:

Summer was over for Orsak and the students toting belongings into dorm rooms all over the TU campus. By late afternoon, when Orsak sat down to visit with a reporter inside his well-appointed office, he had already met with a visiting Gov. Mary Fallin and attended a luncheon for the football team downtown.

A busy day, to be sure, but also a continuation of a frenetic several weeks for Orsak since being announced as school president. He had travelled literally coast to coast to visit with alumni and others, attending events in Washington, D.C. and the Los Angeles area.

In the UTW story, Orsak spoke at length and in depth about his ambitions for TU to increase in national prominence and in impact on the problems that challenge Oklahoma.

So now, without even giving him a full year to live up to the high hopes that led the trustees to hire him, they've shown Geoffrey Orsak the door.

There's a ridiculous rumor circulating in the comment section on the mainstream media websites about the reason for Orsak's dismissal. It doesn't seem the least bit plausible that a leader with Orsak's resume and record would become so publicly drunk that he would relieve himself in the middle of Utica Square and would do so just two months after starting a new job in a new town.

I could imagine a politician who had been in office for many years becoming complacent and abandoning his morals for the pleasures of the flesh (e.g., King David, Bill Clinton), but I can't imagine an engineer -- an engineer, for Planck's sake -- climbing to a brand new level of opportunity and professional accomplishment and throwing it all away for want of a convenient port-a-potty. Asparagus or no asparagus, it doesn't pass the smell test.

And suppose it were true? If the Board of Trustees wanted to keep him, don't you suppose they would be able to squelch the story, discredit it, or at least tamp down any public outrage? An apology, an excuse (overwhelmed by my father's illness, I overindulged and made a serious error in judgment) would have been enough to smooth things over, don't you think? It's not as if he were alleged to have tweeted a picture of Anthony Weiner to the entire world.

I have absolutely no inside info about the TU/Orsak situation (or the HH/Marshall situation, for that matter), but it just seems very strange that a prominent, stable institution would invest months and hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in finding and hiring a new president, then cut him loose before he's had a chance to prove himself. Perhaps the search process was deeply flawed. Perhaps someone powerful was offended by the newcomer. Perhaps some sacred cows felt threatened.

Some will say that what happens at TU is none of our business. I will point out that TU has been the beneficiary of the City of Tulsa's power of eminent domain in expanding its campus over the last 20 years. Just 7 years ago, there were businesses along the northside of 11th Street, where now a "grand entrance" is surrounded by new but tacky apartment buildings. Property owners were given the choice of selling to TU or being condemned by the city in the name of "urban renewal." Whole chunks of the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood have disappeared. If you went to Roughnecks games in the late '70s and early '80s you'll remember the neighborhood of attractive Tudor Revival houses where the Reynolds Center now stands.

Like the Tulsa Metro Chamber, TU seems to have this dual nature: Virtually a public utility when it wants something out of city government, but strictly private when it comes to scrutiny of its internal affairs. That might have been a justifiable position when TU was the only higher ed game in town, but that hasn't been true for nearly a half century. I'd be happy to ignore TU's internal affairs if they never again ask for more land to be added to the urban renewal plan and otherwise get the university's fingers out of local government. I'm sure I'm not the only Tulsan somewhat nervous that the City of Tulsa's priceless Gilcrease collection of art and artifacts is now in the hands of an institution with no public accountability.

It's worth remembering that some of the same people who picked this now-ousted leader -- some of them deeply involved in promoting and running the spectacular disaster that was Great Plains Airlines -- will soon be urging us to pass Vision2.

MORE:

G. W. Schulz's 2005 UTW story on Starship Records being forced by TU-driven urban renewal to relocate

Jamie Pierson's 2007 UTW column on TU as The Thing That Ate 11th Street, and how TU's expanding campus isolates students from the community.

From BatesLine, 2009: Comments and some historical perspective on a TU student's op-ed: "TU has lost a sense of belonging to Tulsa"

Statement by the chairman of the University of Tulsa Board of Trustees:

Dear TU Family and Friends,

The news of the university's decision to release Dr. Geoffrey Orsak from his duties as president has occasioned intense interest and many questions from members of the TU family and the general public. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to tell you as much as I am permitted and to assure you that The University of Tulsa has the governance and administration in place to ensure a smooth course forward.

As already announced, the board has authorized Executive Vice President Kevan Buck to handle the day-to-day administrative affairs of the university. Kevan has a wealth of experience overseeing the university's business functions and core operating units. We are moving forward with business as usual and foresee no problems with our interim arrangement.

The board is discussing next steps as we work toward identifying TU's 19th president. We will keep you informed as this process moves forward.

Discretion and university policy dictate that I not discuss the specific circumstances surrounding the decision, except to underscore my confidence in the collective wisdom of The University of Tulsa Board of Trustees. Our board comprises some of the most experienced leaders of our community, who have successfully managed through a wide range of challenges. I appreciate and applaud the serious and thoughtful insight that each trustee brought to these deliberations, and I am confident that the board reached the conclusion that best serves our students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and many partners.

Although unavoidable, the timing of this decision was particularly unfortunate, given the additional challenges that the Orsak family faces with the care of Dr. Orsak's ailing father. We wish all of them well during this difficult time and in their future endeavors.

We recognize the public's significant interest in this development, but in accordance with our personnel policies and status as a private institution, we will not discuss the details behind the board's decision.

Finally, on behalf of the board, I thank each of you for the part you play in the success of The University of Tulsa. Our shared dedication to the power of learning and the duty of service will continue to keep us moving forward.

Sincerely,
Duane Wilson
Chairman, Board of Trustees

STILL MORE:

From the movie, High Anxiety:

DR. THORNDYKE (Mel Brooks): Yes, as I was saying, it came to my attention that... just before Dr. Ashley's untimely death...he was planning to make some very big changes here at the Institute. Do any of you know specifically what those changes might be?

DR. WENTWORTH (Dick Van Patten): Well, for one thing he wanted to change...

NURSE DIESEL (Cloris Leachman): The drapes.

PROF. THORNDYKE: The drapes?

NURSE DIESEL: The drapes. He wanted to change the drapes in the psychotic game room.

PROF. THORNDYKE: That was the extent of the big change? The drapes?

NURSE DIESEL: Yes, Dr. Ashley felt that color... has a lot to do with the well-being of the emotionally disturbed.

UPDATE 2012/10/05: Blogger Christopher B. King wonders (tongue in cheek?) if the Urban Tulsa Weekly cover the previous week was the trigger for the dismissal. The cover (follow the link to see it) was an oddly cropped photo of Orsak throwing out the first pitch at the Drillers game. I say oddly cropped because it showed another photographer standing behind the pitcher's mound and, off to the side, Orsak's young son, who is grabbing at something about waist-high under a too-big Drillers jersey. (I thought he might be holding up baggy shorts or just holding onto his shirt because it kept him from sticking his hands in his pockets.) The photo could have been cropped to show only Geoff Orsak. When the issue was published, a former UTW colleague complained that it was tacky for UTW to show a kid seeming to grope himself in public and to put his name right there. Just a day or two later Orsak was fired. Perhaps the "kid gropes himself in public" interpretation of the photo morphed into the "president exposes himself in public" rumor.

King also mentions TU's use/abuse of eminent domain for campus expansion. I'd only correct him in one point -- TU's eminent domain-fueled expansion pre-dates the Kelo v. New London case, and it should be unconstitutional under Oklahoma's stricter "public use" standard, notwithstanding the U. S. Supreme Court's decision in Kelo.

A serendipitous find: LIFE magazine's April 13, 1942, issue included a six-page story about high school education in Tulsa, with photos by Alfred Eisenstaedt. The story, "Tulsa High Schools: They Are Making Progressive Education Work," highlighted non-traditional classes and teaching techniques at three of Tulsa's four high schools -- Central, Daniel Webster, and Will Rogers:

And, according to the caption, Central student Charlene Houston had a figure problem and had to do exercises with her pelvis in a vise to fix it.

Charlene_Houston-Tulsa-1942-Central_High_School.jpg

There are many more photos from Eisenstaedt's visit in Google's image archive, above and beyond those that made it to print. Unfortunately and surprisingly, Google doesn't make it easy to search by the photographer and location tags attached to each image, and there's no way to get to a complete set of related photos. Best thing to do is to click on Miss Houston and then click on thumbnails of related photos. Where I could find them, I've linked my description (above) of photos that appeared in the story to the online image.

The story itself hints that as early as 70 years ago, the Tulsa school district was beginning to abandon basics for "progressive" fads. Which is not to say that these students were poorly educated. I suspect that, by the end of 8th grade, these students would have received as much education in the basics of math, grammar, and history as today's students get by the time they graduate.

The U. S. Census Bureau has just released 2010 Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finance Data: attendance, revenue, and expenditure data from each public school district in the country. You can download the data in Excel along with a key to each field. Revenue is broken down by federal, state, and local source and by subcategories for each source. Spending is broken down by instructional and administrative costs, among many other categories.

acalogo.jpgIt's back-to-school time for the Bates family. In years past, that applied to our three kids and Mom, who homeschools the youngest two. This year it applies to Dad, too.

This morning I taught my first session of Ancient Greek I at Augustine Christian Academy (ACA) as part-time teacher. There was a need, and with clearance from my employer, I offered to teach the class.

We began today with the basics: The alphabet, accents, breathings, consonant categories, vowels and diphthongs, punctuation and capitalization. Homework included some worksheets for practicing Greek handwriting.

There's room for a few more in the class, and this is an opportunity for homeschooled students who want to learn ancient Greek. ACA allows homeschooled students in grades 6-12 to sign up for individual classes.

Becoming a part-time student at ACA also opens the door for optional participation in other aspects of school life: chapel and Bible studies, membership in one of the school's four houses, school musicals, school trips, the school's annual formal banquet, and more. To learn more about ACA's options for homeschool families, contact the school office at 918-832-4600.

The Greek I course I teach is offered two days a week at the beginning of the school day, a great way to get your homeschooler off to a good start. ACA also offers Latin and Hebrew, art, music, theater, logic, philosophy, economics, Biblical exegesis, history, literature, and the full range of math and science. Here's the full list of ACA classes for 2012-2013.

ParthenonThe Parthenon by Konstantinos Dafalias on Flickr, Creative Commons attribution license.

A bit about my background in this subject: I studied Greek at MIT, part of my self-designed dual major in classics and computer science. During my time there, MIT offered a few modern languages (French, German, Russian, Spanish, and Japanese), but Greek was the only ancient language offered. (For Latin, you had to cross-register up the street at Harvard.)The Greek courses were taught by MIT's only classics professor, Harald Anton Thrap Olsen Reiche. Prof. Reiche served on the MIT faculty from 1955 until his retirement in 1991. In addition to formal courses, I was in a small group -- myself, one other student, and a literature professor -- reading through Plato's Apology in Greek, and I took an IAP course in New Testament Greek taught by an engineering grad student who insisted on using modern Greek pronunciation, very different from the classical pronunciation I'd learned.

Niemi_School_Board.jpgAlthough two Tulsa school board seats are expiring, only one has a contested election next Tuesday, February 14, 2012. That's in School Board Office 5, where former State Rep. Bruce Niemi faces Leigh Goodson in a contest to replace incumbent Brian Hunt, who chose not to run for re-election.

Election DIstrict 5 can be described as 11th to I-44, Yale to the Arkansas River, minus everything northwest of 21st and Utica, and minus everything southeast of 41st and Harvard, plus a bit south of I-44 between Riverside and Peoria. (Here's a map showing all of Tulsa School's election districts.)

I wish I could tell you that a conservative Republican reformer is on the ballot, but both candidates are registered Democrats. One, Niemi, is an outsider running an issue-driven campaign fueled by a lifetime of involvement in education; the other, Goodson, is an insider running a personality-driven campaign -- pretty four-color pictures and glib generalities.

Without a doubt, Bruce Niemi is a liberal, and he and I disagree not only on national issues, but on some local and school issues as well.

But Niemi is not afraid to deviate from the party line. He was a vocal and visible supporter of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, pointing out that state spending had doubled between 1992, his last year in office, and 2005, when the TABOR initiative petition was being circulated. Niemi also supports limits on eminent domain, backing a state proposal that would have expressly prohibited government from using eminent domain to transfer property to a private entity.

Often, on matters of government transparency, accountability, and openness, conservatives and liberals can be allies, working together to defeat the insiders who nominally belong to the left or the right, but whose real driving interest is working the system for their own benefit.

Bruce Niemi believes that the school board should act as the governing body of the school system, overseeing and holding the administration accountable. That seems obvious, but too often a school board serves as a rubber stamp for the current superintendent and administration. (That's when you wind up with a mess like the Skiatook school scandal.)

Niemi appreciates the importance of schools to the fabric of a neighborhood, and I trust him to ensure that whatever is done with our closed schools, like Barnard and Wilson, is respectful of the neighborhood and of the school's history.

Niemi supports the expansion of charter schools, opposes the district's wasteful lawsuits against state school choice laws, and supports the idea of the "Tim Tebow" law, which would give homeschooled children equal access to extracurriculars at their local public schools.

Last Saturday morning, Republicans gathered at precinct caucuses across Tulsa County. Precincts in House District 70 had a joint meeting at the Herman & Kate Kaiser Library in LaFortune Park. Niemi took the time to come by and to introduce himself briefly. As an active grassroots Democrat, he could appreciate the importance of these little meetings. (Goodson didn't come by, nor did she send a surrogate.)

If you live in Election District 5, I encourage you to join me in voting for Bruce Niemi next Tuesday.

MORE: Tulsa Kids profiled Bruce Niemi and Leigh Goodson in the February issue.

The Augustine Christian Academy Show Choir will be delivering singing valentines next Tuesday, February 14, 2012.

20120207-ACAShowChoir-Fox23.png

Are you looking for something unique and extra special for the ones you love this Valentine's Day? Let them be serenaded by a group of very talented singers from Augustine Christian Academy's Show Choir. Prices range from $25 - $40. We'll deliver a song, a personalized card, chocolates, and a special dedication to a location of your choice within the Tulsa area. Deliveries will be offered from 9:00 AM - 8:00 PM on February 14th. Order early to get your preferred delivery time! All orders must be received by February 13th! Get your Singing Valentine order form by CLICKING HERE, or pick one up in the school office. Please call Mrs. Gale Post at 918-852-2040 for more information.

Here's the group singing "Unforgettable" this morning on Fox 23 Daybreak:


The more you pay, the more precise you can be with the delivery time. Proceeds support the ACA performing arts program, which is producing Hello, Dolly, April 19 through 22, 2012.

State of the Union Address notwithstanding, hundreds of Oklahomans turned out for tonight's National School Choice Week event at UCO. We heard remarks by State Superintendent Janet Barresi, former Congressman J. C. Watts, State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, Jeff Reed of the Friedman Institute, and political reporter John Fund (on book leave from the Wall Street Journal).

Photos and a detailed report will have to wait, as I need to eat something and get home before too late, but here are a few notes:

Fund said he'd been covering school choice issues for 25 years, but he believes we are on the verge of a breakthrough. The internal contradictions on the anti-choice are becoming impossible to ignore, even for honest liberals.

Fund quoted the late president of the American Federation of Teachers, Al Shanker, as saying, "When children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of children."

Watts told advocates for school choice to be prepared for a battle, as the left defends its judiciary and education turf more vigorously than any other.

Stanislawski focused on opportunities in the field of online education. Oklahoma already has several online charter schools, and there's proposed legislation that would expand those opportunities to make it possible, for example, for children to use online schools to supplement what their own school offers.

In mentioning her involvement as a parent, Barresi said she could have afforded to write a check for private school tuition or hired a moving van to go to a different district, but instead she and her husband opted to stay and fight, working to establish the state's first charter school.

I spoke to Oklahoma State Rep. Elise Hall, a homeschool and TeenPact alumna, who told me she's working on a "Tim Tebow" bill, that would make it possible for homeschooled children to take advantage of extracurricular offerings at their local public school. That's especially important outside the metro areas, where there may not be the critical mass of homeschoolers needed to offer sports, band, drama, and other extracurriculars that need a large group of students.

It was an upbeat, positive event, and I'll have more to share about it when it's not so late, and I don't have a two hour drive in the rain ahead of me. Thanks to Americans for Prosperity Foundation and OCPA for putting together a great event.

A reminder that tonight, Tuesday, January 24, 2012, is Oklahoma's National School Choice Week event, "Restoring American Exceptionalism, an Oklahoma Town Hall," at UCO in Edmond, tonight at 7 p.m.

Speakers include John Fund from the Wall Street Journal, State Superintendent Janet Barresi, former Congressman J. C. Watts, and Tulsa State Sen. Gary Stanislawski.

John Fund is always a provocative and entertaining speaker, and J. C. Watts is always inspirational, but it will be especially wonderful to hear those, like Superintendent Barresi and State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, who are directly involved in reforming Oklahoma education. It's wonderful at long last to have a State Superintendent who understands that the focus of government support for education should be teaching children effectively, not propping up and making excuses for ineffective institutions.

American 15-year-olds rank 35th out of 57 countries in math and literacy! America shouldn't be 35th in anything. It's time to Restore American Exceptionalism!

Rather than protecting and promoting failure, let's put our kids first. Let's do even more to support the teachers and the schools that are succeeding, but let's hold those that are failing firmly accountable. Whether it's a private school, a charter school, or a traditional public school, parents should have the right to choose the school that will do the best job educating my children. Every child deserves the best education we can give them - and every family has a right to choose the education that's best for their child.

Restoring American exceptionalism to our schools and putting kids first isn't a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. It's an American issue. Join the conversation today!

NationalSchoolChoiceWeek_Banner_Ad_2012.jpg

Click the ad or this link for event details and free registration.

What: Restoring American Exceptionalism -- An Oklahoma Townhall

Who: Former Congressman J. C. Watts, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, State Superintendent Janet Barresi, State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, and Jeff Reed of the Friedman Foundation.

When: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 7 p.m.

BatesLine is proud to welcome a new advertiser about a topic near and dear to our hearts: school choice. John Fund from the Wall Street Journal, State Superintendent Janet Barresi, and former Congressman J. C. Watts will be speaking later this month, at Restoring American Exceptionalism, Oklahoma's National School Choice Week event, at UCO in Edmond on Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 7 p.m.

John Fund is always a provocative and entertaining speaker, and J. C. Watts is always inspirational, but it will be especially wonderful to hear those, like Superintendent Barresi and State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, who are directly involved in reforming Oklahoma education. It's wonderful at long last to have a State Superintendent who understands that the focus of government support for education should be teaching children effectively, not propping up and making excuses for ineffective institutions.

American 15-year-olds rank 35th out of 57 countries in math and literacy! America shouldn't be 35th in anything. It's time to Restore American Exceptionalism!

Rather than protecting and promoting failure, let's put our kids first. Let's do even more to support the teachers and the schools that are succeeding, but let's hold those that are failing firmly accountable. Whether it's a private school, a charter school, or a traditional public school, parents should have the right to choose the school that will do the best job educating my children. Every child deserves the best education we can give them - and every family has a right to choose the education that's best for their child.

Restoring American exceptionalism to our schools and putting kids first isn't a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. It's an American issue. Join the conversation today!

NationalSchoolChoiceWeek_Banner_Ad_2012.jpg

Click the ad or this link for event details and free registration.

What: Restoring American Exceptionalism -- An Oklahoma Townhall

Who: Former Congressman J. C. Watts, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, State Superintendent Janet Barresi, State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, and Jeff Reed of the Friedman Foundation.

When: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 7 p.m.


Three recent documentaries critical of K-12 education in America are now available for online viewing. Each film dramatizes the failures of public education, the efforts by lower-income parents to secure a better education for their children, and the ways that bureaucracy and entrenched interest groups work to thwart those efforts. (Hat tip to Ace of Spades HQ.)

The Cartel (92 minutes) is available for free streaming on Hulu and is also available for instant streaming to Netflix subscribers.

Teachers punished for speaking out. Principals fired for trying to do the right thing. Union leaders defending the indefensible. Bureaucrats blocking new charter schools. These are just some of the people we meet in The Cartel. The film also introduces us to teens who can't read, parents desperate for change, and teachers struggling to launch stable alternative schools for inner city kids who want to learn. We witness the tears of a little girl denied a coveted charter school spot, and we share the triumph of a Camden homeschool's first graduating class.

Together, these people and their stories offer an unforgettable look at how a widespread national crisis manifests itself in the educational failures and frustrations of individual communities. They also underscore what happens when our schools don't do their job. "These are real children whose lives are being destroyed," director Bob Bowdon explains.

The Lottery (80 minutes) is also available for free streaming on Hulu and for instant streaming to Netflix subscribers.

In a country where 58% of African American 4th graders are functionally illiterate, The Lottery uncovers the failures of the traditional public school system and reveals that hundreds of thousands of parents attempt to flee the system every year. The Lottery follows four of these families from Harlem and the Bronx who have entered their children in a charter school lottery. Out of thousands of hopefuls, only a small minority will win the chance of a better future.

Directed by Madeleine Sackler and shot by award-winning cinematographer Wolfgang Held, The Lottery uncovers a ferocious debate surrounding the education reform movement. Interviews with politicians and educators explain not only the crisis in public education, but also why it is fixable. A call to action to avert a catastrophe in the education of American children, The Lottery makes the case that any child can succeed.

Waiting for "Superman" is not available on Hulu, but is available for instant streaming to Netflix subscribers. It's notable as a critique of the public school system from the left side of the political spectrum.

It was a morning like any other -- as Academy Award winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim was taking his young children to school -- that he was moved to act. Like many parents in America who are lucky enough to have the means, Guggenheim's children were headed that morning to an expensive private school, where he was assured they would find themselves in an invigorating environment with talented teachers devoted to bringing out the best in them.

But as he drove past the teeming, troubled, poorly performing public schools his family was able to bypass, Guggenheim was struck with questions he could not shake: What about the kids who had no other choice? What kind of education were they getting? Where were the assurances that they would have the chance to live out their dreams, to fulfill their vast potential? How heartsick and worried did their parents feel as they dropped their kids off this morning? And how could this be right in 21st Century America?

I would hope that anyone seeking a position on a school board will have seen these films and be prepared to talk about how they and the school system they seek to serve. Here in Tulsa County that should mean to encourage and facilitate the creation of new charter schools and to stop trying to use lawsuits to obstruct voucher programs like the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program.

Leigh Goodson is a candidate for Tulsa Public Schools Election District 5, a seat currently held by Brian Hunt, who has opted not to run for re-election.

Goodson is involved in what looks very much like an arm of Tulsa's Cockroach Caucus. She's a member of the board of the Center for Legislative Excellence. She and her husband Mark R. Goodson have given a total of $2,500 to CLE, their largest state political contribution.

Here's the full list of CLE board members. While the CLE's goals are laudable -- lobby effectively at the State Capitol for Tulsa's share of state funding for roads, hospitals, and higher education -- you may recognize on this list the names of several who have been actively involved in the effort to reshape (I'd say mutilate) Tulsa's city government over the last several years:

Robert C. Poe, Co-Chairman
Larry Mocha, Co-Chairman
Connie McFarland, Membership Chair
Jay Helm, Contributions Co-Chair
Pete Regan, Contributions Co-Chair
Richard Riddle, Treasurer
Howard Barnett
Guy Berry, III
John Brock
Joe Cappy
Len Eaton
Patty Eaton
Leigh Goodson
Heather Griffin
Kell Kelly
Kris Langholz
Robert Lorton
Jim Orbison
Jody Parker, Emeritus Board Member

Leigh Goodson, a registered Democrat as of this July, has also contributed to Grow Oklahoma PAC, Prosperity PAC, and Oklahoma Rising, as well as individual candidates Lucky Lamons, Brian Crain, Mark McCullough, Dan Newberry, Eddie Fields, and Mary Fallin. Neither she nor her husband, Mark R. Goodson, show up in the opensecrets.org database of donors to Federal campaigns.

She is currently serving on the Sixth Grade Task Force. She is listed as "Leigh Goodson, Ph.D., OSU Center for Health Sciences and Chair of the Teacher Leader Effective Committee, The Foundation for Tulsa Schools." (Here is a list of the board of the Foundation for Tulsa Schools.)

In 2006, the Journal Record profiled Leigh Goodson as an "Achiever under 40," listing her as vice president for enrollment management and marketing at Oklahoma State University Center For Health Sciences:

Goodson started her career as an admissions counselor, moving up the ladder to academic adviser, director of medical school admissions and dean of students before being named to her current position as vice president of enrollment management and marketing for the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences (OSU- CHS).

Each position in higher education has allowed me to help others overcome obstacles to their educational goals, she said....

Goodson earned a bachelor's degree in political science from OSU in Stillwater; a master's in organizational communication from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas; and a doctorate of philosophy in educational research and evaluation from OSU....

Her community involvement includes serving on the board of the YMCA of Greater Tulsa. She also led in the development and remains a member of the Camp Takatoka Advisory Board. Goodson volunteers with Riverfield Country Day School and Eliot Elementary School, and is a member of the Boston Avenue United Methodist Church.

The Journal Record profile mentions two children who were 7 and 4 in 2006.

According to news reports, Goodson was in Leadership Oklahoma Class 23.

My gut feeling, from looking at the above information, is that Leigh Goodson is an insider, likely to be a supporter of the status quo. I could be wrong, and she might be a true reformer who supports charter schools, vouchers, classical curriculum, and traditional teaching methods. Still, I'd feel better about this election knowing I'll have at least one other choice on my ballot come February.

You want to make a difference, Tulsa Tea Partiers? Here's your chance. Run for this open seat, Election District 5, or run in Election District 6 against a 16-year incumbent (Ruth Ann Fate) who has been an obstacle to expanded school choice for Tulsa children. Remember: The filing deadline is today (Wednesday, December 7, 2011) at 5, and you need to allow time to fill out paperwork and get it notarized.

Not many more people filed for school board in Tulsa County on the second day of the three-day filing period. Three seats (in Skiatook, Sperry, and Broken Arrow) that had no candidates after the first day now have one candidate, and one seat (and only one) in Skiatook has a contested race. That leaves seats in Collinsville, Owasso, Glenpool, and Keystone with no candidates whatsoever.

Wednesday is the last day of filing. Deadline is 5 p.m. Our public schools matter. If nothing else, they should matter to you because your property taxes are paying for them, and you drive by the resulting capital improvements every single day. You have a rotten school board, you get architectural monstrosities like the new Clinton Middle School, which earned national recognition as James Howard Kunstler's Eyesore of the Month for March 2010.

eyesore_201003a.jpg

Every school board seat should have a competitive race.

Here are the four seats that have changed since yesterday:

ISD #3 BROKEN ARROW SCHOOL DISTRICT
(Click for JPEG map of Broken Arrow board districts.)

Broken Arrow Office 2 - Five year term

Steven R. Majors
3000 S. Ash Ave
Broken Arrow, OK 74012

ISD #7 SKIATOOK SCHOOL DISTRICT

Skiatook Office 1 - Four-year unexpired term

Patricia Pippin Ceska
14421 N. 50th W. Ave.
Skiatook, OK 74070

Susan Ridenour (appointed incumbent)
9543 W. Rogers Blvd.
Skiatook, OK 74070

Skiatook Office 2 - Five-year term

Tim Allen (incumbent)
426 W Cherokee Pl
Skiatook, OK 74070

ISD #8 SPERRY SCHOOL DISTRICT

Sperry Office 2 - Five-year term

Mechelle Beats
11505 North Lewis Ave
Skiatook, OK 74070

A1615-ClintonHighSchool.jpgNot only is this the filing period for Oklahoma's presidential preference primary, but it's also the school board filing period, and every school district in the state has at least one seat up for election in 2012. Filing for a school board seat takes place at the election board for the county in which the school district is headquartered. Filing closes at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, December 7, 2011.

In most independent (K-12) districts, this is the year for Seat 2 in the five-year rotation. In dependent (K-8) districts like Keystone, Seat 1 is up for election to a three-year term.

School districts with more than 10,000 average daily membership (Tulsa, Broken Arrow, Jenks, Union, Oklahoma City, Putnam City, Edmond, Lawton, Mid-Del, Norman, Moore), vote on board members by board district. In smaller districts, members must live in the designated board district, but they are elected by the entire school district. School districts with fewer than 1,800 ADM may opt to elect all members at-large.

The state's two largest districts, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, each have seven districts, each of which elects a board member to a four year term. This year, Seats 5 and 6 are up for election in Tulsa.

Oklahoma City is on a slightly different schedule (Seats 3 and 4), and they have one extra member, a board chairman elected at-large, former State Sen. Angela Monson. Tulsa is the only other district in the state eligible to have an elected chairman (must have at least 30,000 average daily membership) but so far the school board has not opted to activate that position.

Tulsa Technology Center (aka the Vo-Tech) has one of seven board seats up for election to a seven-year term.

School board elections have very low turnout, an order of magnitude smaller than a city council election for a district of roughly the same size. An organized campaign could easily unseat an incumbent or win an open seat. At the beginning of 2011, both Tulsa incumbents were unseated by newcomers.

(OCPA's Brandon Dutcher, writing at Choice Remarks, calls for moving school board elections to November and cites five examples of bad public policy resulting from our current low-turnout school elections, which can easily be dominated by special interests like teachers' unions.)

Here in the Tulsa district, it's vital that our two seats are filled by strong advocates for school choice. Ruth Ann Fate has been hostile to the expansion of charter schools in the Tulsa district, and Tulsa is far behind Oklahoma City in offering a range of choices to parents. If we want families to stay in central, west, north, and east Tulsa, rather than flocking to the suburbs, we need to offer superior educational choices.

Don't forget that school boards in Jenks and Union voted to sue the state in order to strike down a law, the Nicole Lindsay Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Act, that helps students with disabilities get the kind of education they need. Jenks, Union, Tulsa, and Broken Arrow had been sued by parents of special-needs kids for refusing to carry out the law.

The Sand Springs board voted unanimously to express support for Jenks and Union's countersuit. Every incumbent on the Jenks, Union, and Sand Springs boards should retired by the voters for their lawless and selfish attitude.

Here's who filed on the first day in Tulsa County (reformatted from the candidate list on the Tulsa County Election Board website). Note that so far, no seat has drawn more than one candidate, most of those filing are incumbents, and for seven of the 19 seats there are no candidates whatsoever.

ISD #1 TULSA SCHOOL DISTRICT
(Click for PDF map of Tulsa board districts.)

Tulsa Election District 5 - Four-year term
(open seat; Brian Hunt is not seeking re-election)

Leigh Goodson
2845 E. 32nd Pl.
Tulsa, OK 74105

Tulsa Election District 6 - Four-year term

Ruth Ann Fate (16-year incumbent)
7014 E 60
Tulsa, OK 74145

ISD #2 SAND SPRINGS SCHOOL DISTRICT
(Click for PDF map of Sand Springs board districts.)

Sand Springs Office 2 - Five-year term

Mike Mullins (incumbent)
3309 Maple
Sand Springs, OK 74063

Sand Springs Office 4 - Two-year unexpired term

R. Bo Naugle (appointed incumbent)
19310 West Highway 51
Sand Springs, OK 74063

Sand Springs Office 5 - Three-year unexpired term

Jackie Wagnon (appointed incumbent)
713 East 11th Street
Sand Springs, OK 74063

ISD #3 BROKEN ARROW SCHOOL DISTRICT
(Click for JPEG map of Broken Arrow board districts.)

Broken Arrow Office 2 - Five year term

NO CANDIDATES

ISD #4 BIXBY SCHOOL DISTRICT
(Click for PDF map of Bixby board districts.)

Bixby Office 2 - Five-year term

Wendell Nolan (incumbent)
17967 S. 71st E. Ave
Bixby, OK 74008

ISD #5 JENKS SCHOOL DISTRICT

Jenks Election District 2 - Five-year term
(Click for PDF map of Jenks board districts.)

Jon Phillips (incumbent)
10808 S. Erie Ave.
Tulsa, OK 74137

ISD #6 COLLINSVILLE SCHOOL DISTRICT

Collinsville Office 2 - Five-year term

NO CANDIDATES

ISD #7 SKIATOOK SCHOOL DISTRICT

Skiatook Office 1 - Four-year unexpired term

NO CANDIDATES

Skiatook Office 2 - Five-year term

NO CANDIDATES

ISD #8 SPERRY SCHOOL DISTRICT

Sperry Office 2 - Five-year term

NO CANDIDATES

ISD #9 UNION SCHOOL DISTRICT

Union Election District 2 - Five-year term
(Click for PDF map of Union board districts.)

Patrick Coyle (incumbent)
3817 S. Yellow Pine Ave
Broken Arrow, OK 74011

ISD #10 BERRYHILL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Berryhill Office 2 - Five-year term

Jeff Blair
6240 W 39 St.
Tulsa, OK 74107

ISD #11 OWASSO SCHOOL DISTRICT
(Click for text description of Owasso board district boundaries.)

Owasso Office 2 - Five-year term

NO CANDIDATES

ISD #13 GLENPOOL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Glenpool Office 2 - Five-year term

NO CANDIDATES

ISD #14 LIBERTY SCHOOL DISTRICT

Liberty Office 2 - Five-year term

Craig Crystal
20704 S Braden Ave
Mounds, OK 74047

KEYSTONE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. C-15

Keystone Office 1 - Three-year term

NO CANDIDATES

TULSA TECHNOLOGY CENTER SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 18
(Click for PDF map of Tulsa Tech board districts.)

Tulsa Technology Center Board District No. 7 (Zone 7) - Seven-year term

Jim W. Baker (24-year incumbent)
11938 S. Ash St
Jenks, OK 74037

Photo of Clinton Middle School from the Beryl Ford Collection.

Yet another Tulsa-area school board has voiced support for the lawsuit by Jenks and Union school districts to strike down the law that provides for adequate education for Oklahoma children with special needs. The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act allows parents of a special-needs child to transfer some of the money that has been allocated for their child's public education to pay for special education at a private school. The Sand Springs school board voted unanimously in favor of a resolution condemning the scholarship act in solidarity with Jenks and Union.

Brandon Dutcher at Choice Remarks noted the Sand Springs superintendent's claim that "education hasn't failed, except maybe in a few overcrowded, underfunded urban districts."

But on a global scale, Sand Springs students would get mediocre grades at best. According to globalreportcard.com, the average Sand Springs student would perform only as well or better in math than 16% of students in Finland and as well or better in reading than 39% of Finnish students. Comparisons to other developed countries are similarly dismal, particularly for math proficiency. (Jenks and Union numbers aren't that hot, either.)

If our public school districts are unable to provide an adequate education for children without learning challenges, how badly must they be failing children with special needs? Shame on Jenks, shame on Union, shame on Sand Springs, and on every other school board spending tax dollars to try to block this very modest legislation, rather than trying to do better at accommodating special-needs kids.

Attention, Sand Springs residents (and residents of any district seeking to block the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act): Filing period for school board across Oklahoma is December 5, 6, and 7. Please consider running. It's apparent that the current school board members are more devoted to preserving their power than to providing the best education possible so these special-needs kids can reach their full potential.

The Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs (OCPA), a free-market think-tank focused on state policy, will hold its annual gala here in Tulsa, on October 6, 2011, at the Renaissance Hotel. Keynote speaker for the event is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Single-seat tickets for the gala begin at $125 (of which $75 is tax-deductible). Proceeds go to support the work of OCPA.

In May, Daniels signed into law a school voucher program with the largest eligibility pool of any such program in the country. In addition to vouchers for students in public school seeking to enroll in private school, the new Indiana law provides for up to $1,000 state tax deduction for private school and homeschooling expenses for those families that had already opted out of the public school system.


I've received a couple of emails regarding Tulsa Public Schools policy 4401, regarding employees running for public office. The policy allows for employees to be granted a leave of absence to run for and serve in elective office. The question posed is whether District 5 candidate Karen Gilbert is required by the policy to have resigned in order to run for office, or if she will be forced to resign if she's elected.

Here's the text from the Tulsa Public Schools policy handbook:

TULSA PUBLIC SCHOOLS Policy 4401

EMPLOYEE PARTICIPATION IN POLITICAL ACTIVITIES

PURPOSE: To establish guidelines for employee political candidacy and office.

Any employee may be granted an unpaid leave of absence by the Superintendent or
designee for up to one year in order to become a candidate for public political office. The
grant or denial of the leave of absence to be a candidate will be made on a case-by-case
basis as the best interests of the District may dictate. If the employee candidate is
unsuccessful in the election, then the employee candidate must return to work within 30
days of the election or will be deemed to have resigned on that date.

If elected, the employee may return to employment after the initial term of office has expired.
If the employee elected to office does not return to work within 30 days of the expiration of
the initial term of office, then the employee will be deemed to have resigned on that date.

The employee will be reinstated at the entitled salary step/grade at the time the leave was
granted. The employee will be returned to a comparable position when a position becomes
available.

A leave of absence for the purpose of seeking political office, or for holding office, will be
arranged between the individual and the District administration within the framework of
District regulations and law.

Employee candidates engaging in political activity will make it clear their statements and
actions are their own as individuals and they in no manner represent the views of the
District.

Employee candidates will not engage in campaign activity on District premises during
instructional hours or at any time that is disruptive to an educational activity.

Any employee seeking a leave of absence under this policy will apply for such leave in
writing in the usual manner and will receive a reply in writing.

As I read this, it doesn't seem to require a leave of absence, but it allows for one. An employee seeking a post as a state legislator would have to take leave in order to serve in Oklahoma City. Serving as a city councilor and working full time for the school district would be challenging, but wouldn't necessarily involve giving up the day job. Gilbert would have to skip all the Tuesday morning committee meetings in order to keep her job, but it would be up to District 5 voters to decide if it's acceptable for their councilor only to show up on Thursday nights.

That said, there may be a state law forbidding a public employee to serve as an elected official, but if so, I would have expected the policy to cite the legislation.

Either way, there is yet another conflict of interest for Karen Gilbert if she wins and keeps her school district job. It's often overlooked, particularly by midtowners, that the City of Tulsa is bigger than TPS -- the city limits include portions of Jenks, Union, Broken Arrow, and Catoosa school districts. Nearly 30% (29.4% to be precise) of the city's under-18 population live outside the TPS boundaries. There's great potential for new residential growth in the Broken Arrow and Catoosa school district portions of Tulsa, allowing families to choose both City of Tulsa amenities and suburban schools.

An example of this blind spot: The education plank of the Tulsa Metro Chamber's election manifesto mentions only Tulsa Public Schools and makes no mention of the important role played by the other public school districts, private schools, and Tulsa's robust and growing homeschool community.

Encouraging families to remain in or return to central Tulsa would be easier with greater charter school capacity and vouchers for school choice, measures that the Tulsa Public School board has historically opposed, to the point of suing the state over the charter school law. Within the TPS boundaries, the ratio of enrollment to the under-18 population is 60%, the lowest of any school district overlapping or bordering Tulsa. (Sperry is highest at 86%, followed by Sand Springs and Collinsville at 80%, Union, Catoosa, and Owasso at 70%, Jenks at 65%, and Broken Arrow at 63%.)

Children outside of the TPS system, whether in charter schools, suburban public schools, private school, or homeschool, matter a great deal to the City of Tulsa's future growth.

Back in April, I told you about Chuck Stophel, a fellow parent and booster of Augustine Christian Academy, and the benefit being held to help his family meet a serious and expensive medical challenge, non-Hodgkins lymphoma. (Mr. Stophel has had an honored place in my five-year-old son's nightly prayers these past few months.)

Chuck is now a cancer survivor for a second time; as a young adult, he also received a heart transplant. For all that, Chuck is one of the most positive people you'll ever meet.

Now Chuck is back on his feet, and has a message worth hearing about making the most of life:

Tulsa Public Schools is holding a public forum on Tuesday, July 12, 2011, 6 to 7 pm, regarding the sale of Wilson Middle School, one of 14 school buildings closed at the end of the last school year as part of the district's cost-cutting plan. The forum will be held at Kendall-Whittier Elementary School, 2601 E. 5 Pl. Here's the news release with the details:

Wilson_MS.jpgFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE: Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What: TPS to host 'Neighborhood Connection' forum to discuss sale of Wilson building
When: Tuesday, July 12, 2011, 6-7 p.m.
Where: Kendall-Whittier Elementary School, 2601 E. 5 Pl.
Contact: Chris Payne at 918-858-4680 or cpayne@saxum.com

TULSA, Okla. - Tulsa Public Schools has announced it will host a Neighborhood Connection meeting to open dialogue with the community regarding the sale of the former Wilson Middle School property located at 1127 S. Columbia Ave. The meeting is open to TPS parents, students and the community at large and will take place Tuesday, July 12, from 6-7 p.m., in the media center of Kendall-Whittier Elementary School, 2601 E. 5 Pl. in Tulsa.

Wilson is among the 14 properties that have been or will be closed as a result of Project Schoolhouse. Proceeds from the sale of these closed properties will add to the projected $5.6 million in savings from Project Schoolhouse and will help the district weather recent cuts to educational funding by the state legislature.

"As we look at the potential sale of some of these school buildings, we want to have a dialogue with the community to ensure we are protective of these neighborhoods," said Dr. Keith Ballard, superintendent of TPS. "It's important that we get feedback and input regarding potential uses from TPS parents and homeowners at the Neighborhood Connection forums. We look forward to hearing what the community has to say, as we investigate the possibilities regarding the sale of Wilson."

Trish Williams, TPS chief financial officer, and Millard House, deputy superintendent, will represent TPS at the July 12 forum. They will explain the bidding process as mandated by state law and the general category of prospective buyers that are participating in the bid process for the Wilson property. They will learn the public's wishes through the discussion and will answer questions. Consultant Chuck Jackson will serve as facilitator of the forum.

The other properties that have been or will be closed as part of Project Schoolhouse include Addams, Alcott, Bunche, Cherokee, Chouteau, Barnard, Franklin, Fulton Learning Academy, Grimes, Lombard, Roosevelt and Sandburg elementary schools, and Cleveland Middle School.

For additional information about Tulsa Public Schools, please visit the TPS website, www.tulsaschools.org.

(Photo retrieved from the Wilson Middle School website.)

Although I didn't go to school there, the building holds fond memories for me, as the cafeteria was where I participated in my first forum as a candidate for City Council in 1998, hosted by the Renaissance Neighborhood Association. I returned for other neighborhood association and coalition meetings and candidate forums there over the next several years.

As you can see from the photo above, Wilson is an impressive building. While its playgrounds border an arterial (11th Street, historic Route 66) and a neighborhood collector (Delaware Ave), the main entrance is on Columbia Ave, in the heart of Renaissance Neighborhood.

It is my hope that TPS would make preservation and adaptive reuse of the main building a condition of sale, along with an insistence (perhaps in the form of a covenant that runs with the land) that the future use would be compatible with its location in the heart of a single-family residential neighborhood. It would be a wonderful location for a charter school, a great new home for a private school, or a permanent home for some newly planted church. With the passage of the Oklahoma Opportunity Scholarship program, there's an opportunity to fill attractive, historic buildings like Wilson, Barnard, Roosevelt, and Franklin with excellent and affordable private schools that will help draw families back to Midtown, an area that, despite its revival in many regards, has lost population over the last decade as Midtown families have moved to suburban school districts.

While it would be nice to keep the property in one piece, It might be appropriate to allow mixed-use or neighborhood commercial development (think Cherry Street) on the fields that face Delaware. Here again, TPS could insist on design guidelines to ensure neighborhood compatibility.

I hope TPS board members will keep in mind that the neighboring property owners bought with the expectation that this land was a school and would remain so into the distant future. Replacing Wilson Middle School with another big parking lot or warehouse for Bama or TU would add insult to the injury neighbors have suffered with the school's closing.

State Sen. Judy Eason-McIntyre (D-Tulsa) has come under attack twice in recent days by prominent Tulsans who evidently oppose educational choice and individual liberty, according to two recent stories by CapitolBeatOK.

Last Thursday, lobbyist Margaret Erling harangued the Tulsa senator on the floor of the Senate over Eason-McIntyre's support for the conference report of a bill that will change the cutoff date for school enrollment from September 1 to July 1. (Margaret Erling is the wife of former KRMG morning show host John Erling Frette.) Under HB 1465, "a child would have to be four by July 1 to enter Pre-K programs, and/or five years old by July 1 to enter kindergarten," according to the CapitolBeatOK story.

In the Monday interview, Eason-McIntyre said that at the time of the incident, she had decided to support two Republican bills in the conference, and had approached "my leader," state Sen. Andrew Rice of Oklahoma City to give him a heads up on her decisions. The upper chamber had just recessed for the day. Sen.Rice was working at his desk, according to Eason-McIntyre.

She briefly explained to Rice her support for the two measures in the conference process (signing a conference report does not bind a member to support a measure on final passage), including H.B. 1465. She said Sen. Rice told her "not to worry about it."

He had, she recounted, asked members of the minority caucus to remain unified through the redistricting process to assure protection of Democratic interests. She explained that with that issue now headed toward resolution, Rice told her he understood her positions on the two measures.

Just as the two had finished speaking, Erling approached. As Erling confronted her, Eason-McIntyre was so perplexed by Erling's attitude that she was, she confessed, briefly confused over which of the two bills had so angered her.

"She was irate, and ranting. I thought she was going to have a stroke," Eason-McIntyre told CapitolBeatOK. Erling, who has several major clients at the Capitol, including Tulsa Public Schools, claimed to Eason-McIntyre that another client, George Kaiser of Tulsa, opposes H.B. 1465.

(The story also reports that the chief of staff of State Superintendent Janet Barresi has also been lobbying against the legislation.)

Then, on Sunday, Kara Gae Neal, the superintendent of Tulsa Technology Center (formerly known as Tulsa Vo-Tech), sent a scathing email to Eason-McIntyre for signing a conference committee report for HB 1652, which would allow concealed-carry permit holders to keep their guns locked in their vehicles in parking lots on vo-tech campuses and a few other types of public venue. According to Neal's email, Eason-McIntyre had the leverage to kill the bill in committee.

(Kara Gae Neal is the wife of retired Tulsa World editorial page editor Ken Neal.)

"I cannot believe that under the cloak of no public vote, you signed out of committee the only gun bill left alive this year, HB 1652, which will bring guns to Career Tech campuses across the state.

"I cannot believe that you have said Democrats have no power this year but YOU, single handedly, could have stopped that bill in its tracks. Two others on that committee held firm, one a Democrat and one a Republican and true friend to education, Dr. [James] Halligan. It took 4 votes to secretly slip it through the committee without a recorded public vote and YOURS was the 4th vote...after giving a verbal commitment in advance to Brady McCullough from Tulsa Tech that we could count on your support to kill the bill in committee.

"I cannot believe that YOU, who represents the District with the greatest number of CHILDREN shot in this state every year, did this to them and to us. Our Tulsa Tech facility in your district not only has high school students but a CHILD CARE center on that site.

"I cannot believe that when asked why you did this you said you liked the bill's author, Sen. Russell, and that he had done a lot for you. And what would that be? Surely getting 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot' as the state spiritual/blues song was not it. Maybe they will play that in your memory at the funeral of children shot in your district.

Eason-McIntyre replied:

"For the record you can tell anyone you want that I signed the conference committee report at the request of my friend Sen. Russell. For your information there was no deal made!

"I have never hidden behind any excuse for what I decide to do. I do strongly believe that if Republicans believe in guns then openly vote for their gun related bills.

"You mentioned the problem with guns in OUR community, not just my district but I have yet to hear of any effort you have provided to solve Tulsa's gun problem, particularly in my district.

"The catty remark about the State's gospel song being sung at a funeral in my district, I will ignore and assume it had no any racial overtones intended.

"As it relates to our 'friendship' I am sorry always to lose a friend, but you made that choice."

"Judy"

School choice activist Brandon Dutcher, linking to these two stories, writes:

State Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre (D-Tulsa) is a liberal pro-abortion Democrat with whom I have virtually nothing in common. But I've always admired the way she has stood up for giving underprivileged students more school options -- even when doing so has been difficult for her politically. So I must say I felt sorry for her recently when she had abuse heaped upon her in the most inappropriate of ways. ...

The good senator will live to fight another day. Here's hoping she comes back next year and helps push another school-choice bill across the finish line.

ChuckFest.jpgMy wife and I know Chuck Stophel as a fellow parent of students at Augustine Christian Academy. Chuck is also one of the school's biggest boosters, and he's invested a lot of time and energy into making classical Christian education at ACA an ongoing reality.

Now Chuck is dealing with a serious and expensive medical challenge, and he and his family need our help. Friends have organized a special event this Saturday evening, April 30, 2011 -- ChuckFest -- at Augustine Christian Academy, 6310 E. 30th Street (just west of Sheridan, a block north of 31st), from 4 to 7 pm. From the ChuckFest Facebook page:

This is a come-and-go fundraiser for Chuck and Sara Stophel to raise money for Chuck's medical expenses and other needs. Tasty heavy hors d'oeuvres, desserts and drinks, fabulous music and entertainment emceed by LEANNE TAYLOR of News on 6, activities for children and a wonderful silent auction will be held. Chuck has given to so many over the years! Please mark your calendars for this wonderful way to show Chuck and his famly how much we love and support them! Invite your friends!

WE HAVE BEEN GENEROUSLY GIVEN 2 TICKETS TO JOSH GROBAN, JEWELRY AND OTHER INCREDIBLE AUCTION ITEMS!!!!

If you are unable to attend, but would like to contribute to Chuck's medical expenses, a fund has been established at MidFirst Bank in Tulsa. Please make donations in the name of "Charles D. and Sara Stophel Support Trust" and mail to: MidFirst Bank, 7050 South Yale, Suite 100, Tulsa, OK 74136. Thank you and God bless you!

Last night, my 14-year-old son decided to spend some of his savings on a set of the Harvard Classics -- a 50-volume treasury of the best of Western Civilization. If you like the idea of a school that can inspire that sort of love of learning, you ought to appreciate and support a volunteer like Chuck who has done so much to make it possible.

Oklahoma towns and cities with a statutory charter (which is to say, no charter at all; they are governed by the default provisions of Oklahoma Statutes Title 11) and some charter cities have elections today, Tuesday, April 5, 2011. Some school board seats will have a runoff, if none of the candidates received 50% of the vote back on February 8.

Here in Tulsa County, Broken Arrow, Glenpool, Jenks, Sand Springs, and Skiatook each have city council or town trustee races on the ballot. It's encouraging to see that nearly every seat up for re-election has been contested.

Broken Arrow and Bixby electorates will each decide four municipal bond issues. Broken Arrow's bond issues cover streets, public safety, parks, and stormwater. Bixby votes on streets, public safety, and parks, and an amendment to a street project approved in a 2006 tax vote.

Tulsa Technology District (vo-tech) Zone 2 has a runoff between former Tulsa Police Chief Drew Diamond and Catoosa school superintended Rick Kibbe (both registered Democrats). The two candidates each received less than 100 votes in the snowbound February primary. Skiatook has a runoff between Linda Loftis (registered as a Republican) and Mike Mullins (registered as a Democrat) to fill an unexpired term for seat 3.

Oklahoma City has a high-profile council runoff, too, between a candidate backed by the shadowy Momentum committee and physician Ed Shadid. Shadid seems to be drawing support from a wide range of Oklahoma City bloggers; the list of endorsers includes Charles G. Hill of Dustbury, Oklahoma City historian Doug Loudenback, young urbanist Nick Roberts, and slightly older urbanist Blair Humphreys.

Augustine Christian Academy in Tulsa will hold two open houses in the near future for parents interested in enrolling their children in the classical Christian school as full-time or part-time students for the 2011-2012 school year.

Monday, February 28th, 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, March 8th, 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.

It's an opportunity to tour the school, ask questions, and meet teachers. The school is at 6310 E. 30th St., just west of Sheridan.

Prospective students are also encouraged to shadow a student for a day. Call the ACA office at 918-832-4600 to schedule a visit.

ACA not only offers an excellent academic environment, but we've also found it to be a warm, welcoming community. Beyond the classroom, there's a strong performing arts program and a "house" system that builds community across the grades through service projects and intramural competition.

One of ACA's notable characteristics is its flexibility in working with the circumstances of a student and his family. Homeschool students in grades 6 through 12 can enroll part-time to supplement their homeschool curriculum and to participate in school activities. Younger homeschoolers can enroll in extracurricular programs at ACA. Some financial aid is available. After-care is available at the school (for a fee) to accommodate parental work schedules.

If you have school-aged children, you owe it to them and yourself to get acquainted with all that Augustine Christian Academy has to offer.

The usual dismal turnout. Why don't school board candidates run organized campaigns? Here are the unofficial totals from the Tulsa County Election Board. I'm not sure whether the results for districts overlapping into other counties (Broken Arrow, Skiatook, Tulsa Technology Center) are complete results or only for those precincts in Tulsa County. According to the election board, only 228 people voted in the Tulsa Technology Center Zone 2 race, and none of the candidates broke into triple digits.

Voters across Oklahoma will elect school board members and vote on school bond issues tomorrow, Tuesday, February 8, 2011.

Snow from the February 1 record storm plus the extra snowfall since then continues to make streets hazardous. Many Tulsa polling locations are still very hard to reach by car. To minimize the risk to poll workers, the Tulsa County Election Board is consolidating polling places for tomorrow's election:

Due to hazardous conditions with many parking and sidewalk areas at many of our regular polling places, the Tulsa County Election Board is consolidating many Polling Place locations for Tuesday, February 8, 2011, into larger locations which are continuing to be snowplowed.

While Tulsa Public Schools originally thought they would be able to assist with clearing parking areas and sidewalk areas at the regular polling places, with the continued precipitation falling, it was decided late Friday, February 4, that it would be best to allow the Tulsa County Election Board to consolidate precincts into larger multi-purpose facilities, as is being done in the Union School District and the Tulsa Technology School District.

Click the link for details, and here is a precinct-by-precinct list (PDF) showing which precincts will be voting (many areas of the county have no election), where each precinct will vote tomorrow, and, for reference, where the precinct usually votes.

Here is a link to the League of Women Voters of Tulsa 2011 school election voter guide (PDF).

All voters in the Union School District will vote at UMAC, the high school arena on Mingo Rd north of 71st St. Union has a $21.6 million bond issue and one contested board seat -- Office No. 1, Jeff Bennett vs. Bobbie Jo Eversole.

Tulsa Public Schools has one board seat -- Office No. 1, west of the river and northwest of downtown -- a rematch from four years ago between incumbent Gary Percefull and retired Booker T. Washington High School teacher Brenda Barre, both Democrats. Neither candidate appears to be active online. Here's the column I wrote endorsing Brenda Barre in the 2007 Tulsa School Board race. Polling places will be open at Reed Park recreation center for voters who live southwest of the river and the Tulsa County Election Board for voters who live northeast of the river.

East Tulsa and Catoosa area voters have a three-way race for Tulsa Technology Center (vo-tech) board, Zone 2. Candidates are Catoosa Public Schools superintendent Rick Kibbe, former Tulsa police chief Drew Diamond, and retired DEA agent DuWayne Barnett. Tulsa County voters in Zone 2 will vote at the Fair Meadows Exhibit Hall at Expo Square (Tulsa County Fairgrounds).

Conservative Republican activist Mike Ford, a leader in the Mike Huckabee's Oklahoma campaign in 2008, has endorsed three candidates in south Tulsa school districts on his "Vote for Conservatives for School Board" Facebook page.

Bobbie Jo Eversole, Union (opposing incumbent Jeff Bennett)
Harold Vermillion, Broken Arrow (open seat -- opposing Richard Parker)
Jeromy Walsh, Bixby (opposing incumbent Brian Wiesman)

Between the snow and the different precinct locations, turnout is likely to be lower than the usually abysmal levels. Gary Percefull beat Brenda Barre by just 32 votes out of 856 cast. Your one vote could make a huge difference. And if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle and are confident driving on snow-packed roads, consider volunteering to help the candidate of your choice get voters to the polls.

Even though it happens every year, it always seems to sneak up on me, coming as it does between Thankgsiving and Christmas. The filing period for the Oklahoma 2011 public school board elections is underway. It began today and will continue through 5 p.m., Wednesday, December 8. Filing takes place at your county's election board.

Most independent school districts have five board members with five-year terms, with one up for election each year. In 2011, Office Number 1 is on the ballot. While candidates must live in the election district for the particular office they seek, the whole school district votes on the candidates.

For dependent districts (K-8) with three board members, it's Office Number 3's turn. In Tulsa County, that means Keystone School, the last remnant of the drowned town for which the reservoir was named.

As a large independent district, Tulsa has 7 members with four-year terms. This is the year that only one district is on the ballot: Office 1. Candidates must live in the district, and they are elected only by district residents. Election District 1 covers all of the Tulsa school district west of the river, the area west of downtown along the Sand Springs Line, downtown (within the inner dispersal loop), Brady Heights, Crowell Heights, Owen Park, Country Club Heights, Gilcrease Hills south of Newton St., Riverview, North Maple Ridge, Swan Lake, and Forest Orchard neighborhoods. (Here's the Tulsa County Election Board map of Tulsa Public School election districts.)

The technology school districts (vo-tech for us old-timers) also elect a board member: Tulsa Technology Center Zone 2 will be on the ballot in 2011, and 9-year member, former legislator, and Tulsa TV legend Betty Boyd is not running for re-election. Three candidates have filed as of 5 p.m. Monday: DuWayne N. Barnett Sr., former Tulsa Police chief Drew Diamond, and Rick Kibbe. Barnett is a registered independent; Diamond and Kibbe are registered Democrats. Zone 2 is roughly between 46th St N. and 31st St. S, east of Yale. (Here's the Tulsa County Election Board map of Tulsa Technology Center election districts.)

After the first day of filing, there are only two contested races for K-12 school board in Tulsa County. Tulsa Office 1 member Gary Percefull is being challenged again by former Booker T. Washington school teacher Brenda Barre, both Democrats. A vacancy in Skiatook Office 3 has drawn Mike Mullins (a Democrat) and Linda Loftis (a Republican) to compete for a two-year unexpired term.

I am amazed that seats in two schools notable for financial and administrative scandals -- Skiatook and Broken Arrow -- did not draw any candidates at all on the first day of filing. Neither did the Office 1 seat in Liberty district.

The rest of the seats in Tulsa County have so far drawn only one candidate. That's a shame. Our public schools need careful scrutiny (Skiatook and Broken Arrow are exhibits A and B). The school board election is the best way to influence a school's operation.

If you are concerned about the kind of fiscal mismanagement evident in the Skiatook case, if you are worried that political correctness and educational fads are pushing aside tried-and-true methods of instruction, you should consider running.

It would not be difficult for a hard-working campaigner with a few dedicated volunteers to win a school board seat. If you could identify 500 people to vote for you and pester them on election day until they go to the polls, you would win in a landslide. This last February, challengers beat both Tulsa school board incumbents. Fewer than 600 voters cast ballots in each race. Lois Jacobs beat long-time incumbent Matt Livingood by a mere 6 votes. (February 2010 Tulsa County school board election results.) Four years ago, Percefull beat Barre by 37 votes -- about two votes per precinct. Less than 900 voters turned out in that race.

(School board turnout is a great example of the depressive effect of non-partisan elections.)

Tulsa Election District 1 includes several neighborhoods that are attracting young urbanophiles, the kind of civic-minded folks who are restoring historic homes, tending community gardens, and trying to resurrect the notion of the corner grocery. A combination of good public schools and school choice (and public schools that make themselves better as a result of school choice) are vital to keeping these young adults in the central city when they begin raising children.

Perhaps one of those young urbanophiles will file for this seat. While I endorsed Barre four years ago and still consider her a far better alternative to Percefull, it wouldn't hurt to have more candidates in the race. In particular, I'd like to see a conservative run, maybe someone with the skills to bring strong financial oversight to the board. If there are more than two candidates, and no one gets a majority in the February election, a runoff will be held on the 1st Tuesday in April.

TPS-2010-Office1.png

Clearing out my browser tabs and clearing my conscience of failing to write a blog post about each one:

Gabriel Malor, co-blogger at Ace of Spades HQ, will be on 1170 KFAQ with Pat Campbell at about 6:30 to discuss the CAIR lawsuit to stop Oklahoma's anti-sharia amendment.

Joe Miller is just a hat shy of looking like Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs in Treasure of the Sierra Madre (or the parody of the character in a Bugs Bunny cartoon): "Say, pardon me, but could you help out a fellow American who's down on his luck?" The stubble probably cost him the election. Either shave it off or grow it out to a respectable length. "Miami Vice" has been off the air for 20 years.

Tulsa Public Schools to consider eliminating schools: KRMG news story says the Tulsa district has 90 schools, same as the 1960s, but we have only half the students today that we did 40 years ago. The student population stat sounds right, but the school count can't possibly be the same: TPS has closed plenty of schools since peak baby-boomer enrollment, including more than a dozen I can think of off the top of my head: Mason High School; Bates, Lynn Lane, Lincoln, Lowell, Longfellow, Pershing, Revere, Franklin, Riley, Ross, Whittier (or Kendall -- they merged) Elementary Schools; Horace Mann Jr. High, Wright Jr. High (repurposed as an elementary). Did I miss any? I can't think of the name of the old elementary school near 45th and Peoria that now serves as home of the Tulsa Ballet.

Brandon Dutcher at Choice Remarks links to a HuffPo entry by John Thompson about the projected low number of graduates for African-American males in Oklahoma City Public Schools neighborhood high schools. Thompson calls this a crisis, but he uses too many qualifiers to exclude too many students who are being educated successfully in OKC public schools (e.g. students at charters like Harding High School, magnet school students, students in inner-suburban districts), and he fails to give us numbers as bases of comparison (how many total African American male students in neighborhood high schools are there?). Oh, and he's wrong to equate neighborhood schools with non-selective schools. Charter schools can't select their students, either. There's probably a story here, and it may be jaw-dropping, but it needs a teller who'll be more careful handling the numbers.

Thompson links to this interesting map of the OKC metro area showing population as color-coded dots - whites are red, African-Americans are blue, Asians are green, and Hispanics are orange. Each dot represents 25 people. Thompson says it shows racial segregation, and while it's true that there's a predominantly African-American area between the Santa Fe tracks and I-35 as well as a rural African-American area in NE Oklahoma County, and undoubtedly this reflects the official and unofficial segregation of earlier decades. But a look at the big version of the map shows blue dots scattered through out, alongside red, green, and orange.

Here's the Tulsa race and ethnicity map from the same set. Note how colorful the ORU campus is.

Cassy Fiano writes that feminist blogger Jessica Valenti is a big ol' chicken for refusing to participate in a panel discussion that includes just one conservative woman.

Sarah Palin to freshman Republican congressmen-elect:

Remember that some in the media will love you when you stray from the time-tested truths that built America into the most exceptional nation on earth. When the Left in the media pat you on the back, quickly reassess where you are and readjust, for the liberals' praise is a warning bell you must heed. Trust me on that.

Ed Morrissey recounts a Clarence Thomas anecdote about justices reacting to social pressures and remarks:

With that in mind, the freshman class should steel themselves that getting the job done right will mean few plaudits in the media in the short run, even fewer speaking invitations, and no medals or plaques from lobbyists and Academia. Their reward will be a more secure, less indebted, and fiscally restored United States of America, and the gratitude of a nation in the long run for restoring sanity and accountability. And frankly, that should be enough.
Warner Todd Huston reports that mainstream media's coverage of a crooked Maryland county politician has (once again) neglected to identify the crook's party affiliation.

Muslim extremists protest Armistice Day in London. And J. E. Dyer comments on the shifting of Britain's place in the world as the U. S. under Obama has distanced itself from the Special Relationship the two countries long enjoyed.

Tim Bayly writes about the new NIV's further slide away from scripture and toward political correctness.

Next Media Animation is a Taiwanese media company that is making a name for itself with video-game-style retellings, often hilarious, of American news stories, narrated in Chinese. You may have seen their version of the Al Gore "crazed poodle" allegations or their take on the 2010 midterm elections.

Here's NMA's take on Waiting for "Superman", the new documentary on the failings of the American education system. Even if you don't speak Chinese, the two-minute clip sets out the key points of the school choice debate in memorable images.

For the real trailer (in English!) for Waiting for "Superman", for updates on school districts refusing to comply with the new law providing scholarships for disabled students, and for all the latest developments, click the banner above to visit SchoolChoiceOk.com, a valued BatesLine sponsor.

On Friday, Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett spoke to CapitolBeatOK regarding the decision by several Tulsa-area school boards not to obey House Bill 3393, the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act.

"When I took office as Superintendent of Public Instruction, I swore an oath to obey federal and state laws. I have sought every day to uphold that promise. Whether or not I like a particular law is not material. It is my job to obey the law and to implement it.

"The way I look at it, the local officials on these boards of education who have acted not to comply, or to prevent implementation of this program in their districts, are not fulfilling their duties.

"I believe they are in violation of their oaths of office. This law was passed, and implemented in a timely manner by the state.

"To be clear, in my work every day there are laws I don't necessarily agree with but which I am required to carry out."

Garrett concluded, "I think these school board members have been ill-advised."

Garrett is retiring at the end of this year after more than 20 years as State Superintendent.

An October 6, 2010, CapitolBeatOK story has some interesting details about the scholarship program and the number of students involved:

The Oklahoma program is similar to laws in Florida and Georgia that have easily withstood legal challenges. The Florida program has been in place since 1999 and now serves approximately 20,000 students with special needs. The scholarship program was designed not to require new spending, but to redirect existing state funds that are currently spent on the student.

School officials claimed the transfers authorized by the scholarship program would somehow harm their financial standing, but only seven students have applied for the scholarships at Jenks and eight at Broken Arrow, according to the Tulsa World. Both schools are among the largest in the state.

Somehow I don't think it will take the law firm of Rosenstein, Fist, and Ringold much time to burn through the amount of money that would cover such a small number of scholarships.

Tonight the board of Tulsa Public Schools will discuss whether to join Jenks, Union, Bixby, Broken Arrow and other area school districts in disobeying a new state law, HB 3393, the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act, which provides scholarships to meet the special educational needs of students with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other disabilites. From the text of HB 3393, as signed by the governor:

The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program is established to provide a scholarship to a private school of choice for students with disabilities for whom an individualized education program (IEP) in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has been developed. Scholarships shall be awarded beginning with the 2010-2011 school year.

The parent or legal guardian of a public school student with a disability may exercise their parental option and request to have a Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship awarded for the child to enroll in and attend a private school in accordance with this section....

School districts are required to award the scholarship if the applying student was at a public school the previous year, and the student has been accepted at an eligible private school. The amount of the scholarship is the private school tuition or the amount of state aid and local revenue allocated for that student, which ever is lower. The school district can retain 5% of the scholarship amount to cover the cost of administering the program.

On his blog, the House author of the bill, Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City), rebuts the claims made by the school districts:

The cost of the scholarships is covered in the law. The Tulsa area districts act as if the funding for the student stops when they transfer on a scholarship and that the district must find the money to pay the scholarship on their own. That is not the case.

The BALedger.com reports that Doug Mann, the school board attorney for Broken Arrow, claims that HB 3393 "can get very expensive very quickly." The story goes on to quote Mann, "The fact of the matter is that the program that that child was in still has to be funded but it now has less funding for that program."

What districts are not mentioning is that the money for the scholarship is fully funded. The district keeps 5% of the scholarship amount to cover administrative costs. In addition to that, the district can continue to count the transferring student for funding purposes for up to two years after the transfer to allow them to absorb their fixed costs. Added to all this money comes less expense because they have one less student.

The reality here is that school districts lose the funding for each student that transfers out of their district after two years even if the student transfers to another school district or to a private or home school setting. However, under HB 3393 the districts retains 5% of the scholarship amount that they would not receive for any other transfer.

House Bill 3393 is a win-win. School districts are protected financially and will have smaller class room sizes with each student that transfers with a scholarship. Most importantly the children benefit because they have more options so they can find and receive the very best education services for their particular special need.

Rep. Nelson has been blogging up a storm on this issue, publishing emails from parents of special-needs kids who tell of their struggles with these very school districts; for example, this email from a Jenks parent:

Jenks is currently being audited by the Office of Civil Rights for violating ADA laws and a list of Special Education Laws that they are in noncompliance. ...

Jenks also has a reputation for interpreting the law so that they don't have to offer services and/or water the services down so it is very minimal. They also are in violation of offering the same services to all students rather than individualized as required by law.

Jenks spends a unbelievable amount of money to keep the law firm on retainer because Jenks does not follow the law. I wonder what the public would say if they knew how much of our schools tax dollars went to pay the law firm? If the tax payers had a say in whether that money went to the law firm or the general education fund I know they would say the money should go to our kids! It is disgusting how much money the law firm gets.

It is ridiculous that Jenks insists that they educate and care about their special education kids. Since we [have been in Jenks] my [child] has regressed two years. They have such low expectations and do very little to increase their intelligence and more to teach the kids "life skills".

One law firm, Rosenstein Fist Ringold, provides legal services to Tulsa, Jenks, Broken Arrow, Union, Bixby, and, until Monday, Skiatook. The Skiatook board voted 3-2 to dismiss the firm and seek new representation, following a grand jury recommendation. The firm has represented the Tulsa district going back at least as far as the 1970 Federal racial desegregation lawsuit. An attorney for the firm, Doug Mann, has said that he is "expecting -- almost hoping" that lawsuits will be filed against the school districts over the scholarship issue, according to a Fox 23 report.

One of the attorneys at RFR is Matthew Ballard. Keith Ballard is superintendent of the Tulsa district, and his bio mentions a son named Matthew who is an attorney in Tulsa.

The Tulsa school board meets tonight, Wednesday, October 13, 2010, at 5:30 pm, at the Education Service Center, north of 31st St. on New Haven Ave. (New Haven is the traffic light between Harvard and Yale.) If you care about giving children with disabilities the education they need, or if you just care about the school district spending money on education instead of lawyers, show up and let the school board know how you feel.

MORE: The State Department of Education's page on the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program, with a list of participating schools.

Kohl's is running a contest via Facebook, the Kohl's Cares for Kids $10M Giveback Contest. From now until Friday, September 3, 2010, you can vote up to five times each for your favorite school. (You have 20 votes total.) The top twenty schools nationwide will be awarded $500,000 each.

I spent 10 of my votes on two schools that already do great work and could do even more with a half-million dollars. One of them, the Little Light House, here in Tulsa, is currently ranked 29th, the only Oklahoma school in the top 100.

The Little Light House has been around since 1972, working with "children, from Birth to the chronological age of six, with a wide range of physically and mentally challenging conditions," helping them to get the best possible start to reaching their full potential. The school was an early recipient of Pres. George H. W. Bush's "Points of Light" award.

The Little Light House uses a trans-disciplinary team approach to provide highly individualized services to each student. Parents, teachers and therapists from the various arenas make up this important team which establishes each child's individual measurable goals and objectives for the year. Volunteers assist the professional staff to provide the highest degree of individual attention to each child possible.

Right now the school has a long waiting list. $500,000 could be a big boost to their ability to expand.

If you're a Facebook member, please take a minute to cast five votes for the Little Light House.

And while you're at it, I'd appreciate it if you'd cast some of your remaining 15 votes for a school near and dear to my heart, a school with a challenging classical curriculum, a strong drama program, and great school spirit, Tulsa's Augustine Christian Academy:

It's rare that you will find me quoting, with approval, a lesbian, atheist, leftist East Coast professor, but Camille Paglia's love of Western Civilization and her critique of what passes for education in America warms my heart. Paglia's recent interview with Margaret Wente in the Globe and Mail reads like a commercial for the classical education movement. A few choice quotes:

I've always felt that the obligation of teachers is to have a huge, broad overview and to provide a foundation course to the students. The long view of history is absolutely crucial. There are long patterns of history. Civilizations rose and fell, and guess what! It's not a fiction. I believe in chronology and I believe it's our obligation to teach it. I've met fundamentalist Protestants who've just come out of high school and read the Bible. They have a longer view of history than most students who come out of Harvard. The problem today is that professors feel they are far too sophisticated and important to do something as mundane as teach a foundation course. So what the heck are parents paying all this money for?...

I want world culture taught. I believe in Hollywood and jazz. Those are America's great contributions to the world. But I don't want this ideology that the West is the great rapist of the world. The Western art tradition is incredible. Then feminism came along and decided greatness was a conspiracy foisted on us by men. People would criticize me by saying, "She's writing about Michelangelo when the really important person was this woman...." But wait. There's no way she came up to Michelangelo's ankle. So what we're getting now is people who never heard of Michelangelo or Leonardo because they are dead white males. They think it's better to read minor works by African-American or Caribbean writers than the great literature of the world....

The kids are totally in the computer age. There's a whole new brain operation that's being moulded by the computer. But educators shouldn't be following what the students are doing. Educators need to analyze the culture and figure out what's missing in the culture and then supply it. Students find books onerous. But I still believe that the great compendium of knowledge is contained in books....

Wente asked Paglia: "But in education today - even in primary-school education - all we hear about is 'critical thinking.' All the facts are available on the Web, and everybody has a calculator. So why make kids memorize the times tables or the names of the biggest rivers in Canada?" Paglia's reply (emphasis added):

"Critical thinking" sounds great. But it's a Marxist approach to culture. It's just slapping a liberal leftist ideology on everything you do. You just find all the ways that power has defrauded or defamed or destroyed. It's a pat formula that's very thin. At the primary level, what kids need is facts. They need geography, chronology, geology. I'm a huge believer in geology - it's all about engagement in physical materials and the history of the world.

But instead of that, the kids get ideology.

There are an increasing number of options for parents who want their children to get a foundation in western culture, to learn chronology and geography and times tables and how to diagram a sentence. In Tulsa you have schools like Augustine Christian Academy and Regent Preparatory School and homeschool communities like Classical Conversations, which now has groups meeting in southeast Tulsa, at Victory Christian Center, in Owasso, Jenks, and, starting next year, in Skiatook.

My oldest son has been a part of the Tulsa Classical Conversations community for three years, and it has given him a great grounding in such diverse subjects as historical chronology, essay writing, anatomy, Latin, and geography. His geography final assignment this year involved a large poster-sized world map drawn freehand with countries and capitals labeled. He has a framework for understanding news stories and novels.

Unfortunately, the idea that kids need facts doesn't have much support in our public education system, and I'm not sure that it's possible to get anything like a classical education in Oklahoma without turning to a private school or homeschooling.

MORE:

"The Lost Tools of Learning," an essay by Dorothy L. Sayers and a foundational text of the classical education revival. Sayers makes the case for memorization in the early years of schooling and explains how it lays a foundation for developing the skills of sound argument and persuasive speech in the later years.

Ten myths about classical education busted.

RELATED:

In a New York Times oped, Charles Murray explains why test score comparisons aren't the most compelling argument for school choice, and in the process sings the praises of classical education (thanks to reader and commenter Stephen Lee for the link):

If my fellow supporters of charter schools and vouchers can finally be pushed off their obsession with test scores, maybe we can focus on the real reason that school choice is a good idea. Schools differ in what they teach and how they teach it, and parents care deeply about both, regardless of whether test scores rise.

Here's an illustration. The day after the Milwaukee results were released, I learned that parents in the Maryland county where I live are trying to start a charter school that will offer a highly traditional curriculum long on history, science, foreign languages, classic literature, mathematics and English composition, taught with structure and discipline. This would give parents a choice radically different from the progressive curriculum used in the county's other public schools.

I suppose that test scores might prove that such a charter school is "better" than ordinary public schools, if the test were filled with questions about things like gerunds and subjunctive clauses, the three most important events of 1776, and what Occam's razor means. But those subjects aren't covered by standardized reading and math tests. For this reason, I fully expect that students at such a charter school would do little better on Maryland's standardized tests than comparably smart students in the ordinary public schools.

And yet, knowing that, I would still send my own children to that charter school in a heartbeat. They would be taught the content that I think they need to learn, in a manner that I consider appropriate.

This personal calculation is familiar to just about every parent reading these words. Our children's education is extremely important to us, and the greater good doesn't much enter into it -- hence all the politicians who oppose vouchers but send their own children to private schools. The supporters of school choice need to make their case on the basis of that shared parental calculation, not on the red herring of test scores.

There are millions of parents out there who don't have enough money for private school but who have thought just as sensibly and care just as much about their children's education as affluent people do. Let's use the money we are already spending on education in a way that gives those parents the same kind of choice that wealthy people, liberal and conservative alike, exercise right now. That should be the beginning and the end of the argument for school choice.

James Howard Kunstler, the author of provocative books on urban design, architecture, and the economy (The Geography of Nowhere, The Long Emergency, World Made by Hand), has named the new building for Clinton Middle School, on W. 41st St. in Tulsa's Red Fork neighborhood, as his "Eyesore of the Month":

Presenting the new Clinton Middle School, Tulsa, Oklahoma -- a building that expresses to perfection our current social consensus about the meaning of education.

Read for yourself his description of the new building, accompanied by photos, and scroll to the bottom of the page to click through his list of previous Eyesores of the Month. It's harsh but fair.

(Be aware that, although he doesn't have any rude words on that particular page, Kunstler is fairly free with expletives on other pages on the site.)

On his Historic Tulsa blog, Bill Miller has photos of the old Clinton Middle School as the demolition process was underway. Even in its final hours, the old school retained its dignity. There's a pre-demolition close-up picture of the main entry on the Webster High School class of '76 website. A Facebook group called "I went to the ORIGINAL Clinton Middle School" has a collection of photos from the final tour of the old Clinton Middle School.

Note: Reader Mike comments, "FYI, Ballots are out of sync with the school board's proposal PDF explanation. Side 2 (ballot back side) lists Question/Proposition #3 as Transportation and Question/Proposition #4 as Textbooks, Materials & Technology." I've corrected the order below to reflect the ballot proposition numbers.

This Tuesday, Tulsa Public Schools taxpayers will vote on a massive $354 million bond issue (click for an unwieldy PDF of the proposal), organized into four questions:

  1. Building Facilities Construction and Repairs: $261,415,000
  2. Library Books, Learning Materials and Building Additions: $19,600,000
  3. Transportation: $11,695,000
  4. Textbooks, Classroom Learning Materials and Technology: $61,290,000

I plan to vote against proposition 1 (facilities) and for the other three (libraries, classroom, transportation).

Although passage of the bond issue won't raise the overall millage, TPS still has an obligation to focus any bond issue on necessities. But a full fifth of Proposition 1 ($52,460,000) is devoted to athletic facilities -- stadium press box upgrades, all weather tracks and track re-surfacing, locker and weight room improvements, artificial turf, and a whopping $30 million for new field houses for Washington, Edison, and Memorial High School. Spending this kind of money on athletic facilities in this bond issue means deferring repairs, renovations, and expansions that serve the core function of the school system. Most of the proposed athletic facility improvements are the sort of thing that used to be funded by alumni, local businesses, and booster clubs.

Another reason to vote no -- a reason that applies to the entire bond package -- is the enormous percentage of the package designated for "Professional Services/Bond Management Fee" -- a grand total of $11,071,000, more than 3% of the total bond package. I have this sneaking suspicion (although I can't verify it) that the professional services and bond management that will be funded with this $11 million won't be competitively bid.

The bond package includes materials and projects that look like operating expenses to me, not capital equipment, and many of the numbers seem randomly selected -- e.g. $15,000 per high school for PE and health education equipment. Why not $10,000 or $20,000? It doesn't seem to be based on specific needs.

The following line item is almost enough to make me vote against the classroom materials proposition:

21st Century Classroom Teaching Equipment $6,661,800

Funds will be used to provide equitable access to quality learning tools, technologies, and resources to create learning environments and teaching practices that will equip all students with 21st Century skils. To meet the diverse learning needs of today's students, classrooms will be equipped with technological tools that include electronic whiteboards, sound enhancement, video systems, and other technologies to create interactive learning environments, enabling students to learn in a relevant, real world context. These new technologies will support an expanded community and global involvement in learning, both face-to-face with classroom teachers, as well as online with learning communities, preparing our students for a highly competitive and collaborative world.

I see every week what Augustine Christian Academy manages to accomplish with plain ol' whiteboards, donated, slightly out-of-date computer equipment, and per-pupil expenditures less than half that of the state public school system. ACA doesn't have much in the way of classroom technology, but they do have caring teachers, orderly classrooms, and a focus on the essentials of knowledge. Electronic whiteboards may be fun to play with, may have some marginal instructional value, but they aren't going to "prepar[e] our students for a highly competitive and collaborative world." With all this technology and no change in TPS's educational philosophy, TPS will continue to turn out graduating seniors who are less prepared for success in the world than my tenant farmer grandpa was when he finished 8th grade in 1931.

There are signs of bloat all over this bond package. It's telling that you never see a breakdown of each category of spending to the level of items that one could buy at retail. As we've seen with the State Auditor's investigation of the Skiatook school district, it's easy to hide big commissions and markups in an aggregate number. It's only when you look at specific items -- computers, light bulbs, trashcans -- that you can tell whether the district is getting good value for money.

There's one final reason I'm voting against the school's facilities bond: I've seen what they did with facilities funds in previous bond issues. A few months ago I was over on the west side and stopped in at Crow's Drive-In for a bite to eat. Just across the street to the south is the architectural abortion known as the new Clinton Middle School. TPS tore down a dignified civic building, originally built as Red Fork's own high school, and erected a really hideous building in its place.

Before:



Clinton Middle School from the Beryl Ford Collection

After:

MDB08093

I'm pleased and proud to welcome a new BatesLine sponsor: Janet Barresi, a candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Barresi has an impressive background in K-12 education, including direct experience in dealing with the challenges of urban education as a founder of two successful charter schools in Oklahoma City.

janetbarresi.jpgI believe our schools should be as great as our state, but that goal cannot be achieved without solid leadership in the Department of Education, which is why I have chosen to run for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

My platform is very simple. I want to ensure that parents are always encouraged to be involved in the education of their children and that they have the ability to choose the correct education for their child. I want to create a State Department of Education that is a resource for local districts, and I want to ensure that our testing of students is a byproduct of good teaching that enables us to truly understand how effective we are being, while empowering teachers to do what they do best: teach.

I know we can do better than we are today. Through my experiences in launching what is now Independence Charter Middle School, as well as Harding Charter Preparatory High School (which was recently recognized as one of the top high schools in America by Newsweek), I have seen that high expectations, a rigorous curriculum and an involved staff can be successful, regardless of the socio-economic background of the students.

Beyond her volunteer work in the schools, Janet Barresi was a speech pathologist and then a dentist for 24 years before retiring.

Tulsa Chigger, who is our local watchdog on charter school issues, had this to say:

I whole-heartedly endorse Dr. Janet Barresi and her campaign for the office of Oklahoma State Superintendent of Schools. She is an experienced reformer with the right set of priorities. I have personally worked with her on some charter school issues in years past.

I urge you to learn about Dr. Barresi by clicking that ad in the sidebar and visiting her website. I think you'll be impressed.

(A click-through is also a nice way to tell her thanks for sponsoring BatesLine.)

Oklahoma's statewide school board elections are today, February 9, 2010. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Two Tulsa school board seats are being contested: Here is a PDF map of Tulsa School Board District 7 and here's a PDF map of Tulsa School Board District 4. District 4 is mainly east of Memorial and north of 31st (not including Layman Van Acres). District 7 is the southern edge of the Tulsa schools territory -- most everything south of 51st St, plus the Patrick Henry subdivision. You can read my comments on the 2010 Tulsa school board election here.

Steven Roemerman has the scoop on the Union School District bond issue.

This is encouraging news: Both Tulsa school board incumbents have drawn opponents for re-election. All too often school board members are returned to office with little if any scrutiny of their service. The election is this Tuesday, February 9, 2010. Because both seats drew only two candidates, there's no need to hold a runoff in April.

There's a clear choice in the District 7 election, where Lois Jacobs is challenging incumbent Matt Livingood.

Matt Livingood, 58, a Democrat and an attorney, was the ringleader pushing for the board's lawsuit against the state's charter school law, a fruitless and expensive attack on expanded educational opportunities for Tulsa's schoolchildren. For that reason alone, Livingood should be turned out of office.

Lois Jacobs, 58, a Republican and a dentist, supports expanding charter schools -- publicly funded, but independently operated schools -- in the Tulsa district. Jacobs advocates a focus on classroom performance and reductions in the district's administrative overhead. Jacobs supports cutting administrator pay, saying that "no one in education should be making more than the governor." She also supports cutting travel by administrators. She opposes a school bond issue that would raise property taxes.

During the 2008 campaign cycle, Jacobs contributed to Republican presidential candidates Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo. Federal donor records for Livingood shows a small contribution to Doug Dodd for Congress in 2002. (Neither Anna America nor Bobbie Gray show up in the opensecrets.org database of contributions to federal candidates.)

The lawsuit cost Tulsa Public Schools over $100,000 in legal fees alone. When the board voted not to appeal a court ruling against their suit, Superintendent Keith Ballard hinted that the Tulsa district's apparent hostility to charter schools could cost TPS both private and federal grant money:

Superintendent Keith Ballard said: "The only thing I've ever said is that we are involved in several exciting ventures -- including (a new partnership with) Teach for America and (being selected as a grant finalist by the) Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and traditionally these organizations have been supportive of charters.

"Also, President Obama and (U.S. Secretary of Education) Arne Duncan have made it clear that they support charter schools, and they control a lot of (stimulus package) money, and we are involved in a race for the top money. I've said that this could enter into it, and I think that's an accurate statement."

When the Oklahoma Legislature passed a law in 2007 allowing universities to sponsor charter schools, they tried to address the constitutional concerns that lawsuit backers claimed as motivation for the suit, but the legislature's effort was greeted with more lawsuit threats:

"I'm extremely disappointed in the Tulsa school board for challenging this bill, especially since it helps address the constitutional concerns that they raised last year," said Rep. Tad Jones, R-Claremore, who chairs the House Education Committee.

Jones said HB 1589 was written in response to constitutional questions that were raised by the Tulsa school board about the state's original charter school law. The bill reduced the number of counties where new charter schools could open to just Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, but added universities to the list of entities that could sponsor charter schools.

Rep. Jabar Shumate, who represents portions of north Tulsa, echoed Jones' sentiments, saying, "A lawsuit on an issue like this would be a colossal waste of money. Instead of money going toward helping our failing north Tulsa schools, they want to put the money in the pockets of attorneys. Once again, it's our students who lose out."

Shumate believes that the new charter schools law seems to be constitutional. "There are many laws on the books with population restrictions, and that's all were talking about with this charter schools law," he said. "And those laws have been upheld by the state Supreme Court."

Bobbie Gray, 58, a Republican, is the other incumbent on Tuesday's ballot. Gray also supported the lawsuit attacking charter schools. Her vote to end the suit was reluctant:

During Monday's meeting, board member Bobbie Gray said she believed in the principles behind the lawsuit and was disappointed that the board had to end it.

"I believe that by continuing with this lawsuit, that not only are we jeopardizing any future relationships that we have with our Legislature -- because they don't understand what this is -- but any opportunities that may be coming to the children of this district," Gray said.

Thanks in part to Gray and Livingood, Tulsa lags far behind Oklahoma City in offering educational choices. Oklahoma City has 14 charter schools; Tulsa has 4.

Gray was previously a member of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, where she was a predictable vote on the wrong side of controversial issues. Bobbie Gray also signed the recall petition to oust District 6 City Councilor Jim Mautino. (Her full name is Roberta A. Gray.)

There are good reasons to retire Bobbie Gray after 14 years on the school board. But don't think that a vote for Anna America (46, a Democrat) is a vote for the kind of reform that the Tulsa district needs.

Now, I like Anna America and her husband, Metropolitan Environmental Trust director Michael Patton. I've interacted with them in the civic sphere over the last 10 years. Anna would bring a perspective to the school board, that (as far as I know) is currently lacking -- she has children currently enrolled in TPS, both at Eisenhower International School. She expresses support for charter schools.

But in the years I've known her, I've never seen Anna America take a stand against the status quo and the local establishment. And for all the commentary on her campaign website, she has nothing to say about the heart of TPS's problems -- curriculum, educational philosophy, and classroom discipline.

Tulsa's children need a structured learning environment and a solid foundation at the elementary level in basic knowledge and skills. Decades of dabbling in educational fads (often driven by curriculum vendors looking to boost sales) have made TPS a district where smart kids with involved parents do OK, but kids without those advantages get left behind. There was a time in our nation's history when public schools provided every student, even those from rotten home situations, with a solid, basic education in an orderly atmosphere. To find that kind of environment today, you have to go to charter schools or private schools. No amount of money or technology can compensate for a defective educational philosophy.

Steven Roemerman received an e-mail last week from Susan Harris of the Tulsa Metro Chamber, noting that former Mayor Kathy Taylor was trying to raise last-minute funds for Anna America. The e-mail also provided brief details of how to give to Matt Livingood and Bobbie Gray, but nothing was said about Lois Jacobs. The clear focus of the e-mail was getting Anna America elected.

MORE:

The Tulsa World, generally supportive of the "throw more money at the problem" approach to educational improvement, has endorsed Livingood and America.

The Tulsa Beacon has endorsed Lois Jacobs, but made no endorsement in the America/Gray race. Here is the Beacon's story on the two school board races.

The Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association, the union local affiliate of the left-wing National Educational Association and Oklahoma Educational Association, endorsed Livingood but made no endorsement in the Gray/America race, saying "we were very impressed with both" candidates.

OK-SAFE sent a questionnaire to all the candidates. Jacobs and Livingood responded; America and Gray did not.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: In January 2007, Jamie Pierson, a graduate of the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences (a charter high school), responded in her Urban Tulsa Weekly column to the Tulsa School Board vote to place a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools or the expansion of existing charter schools.

Augustine Christian Academy is blessed to have among its alumni a talented young videographer named Kenneth V. Jones. Kenneth produced several wonderful videos in connection with the ACA Junior Performing Arts Company's presentation of the Nutcracker. He does an amazing job of capturing the event. Here is a montage of scenes from dress rehearsal:

Nutcracker Dress Rehearsal Montage from ACA on Vimeo.

And a montage from the opening night performance.

Nutcracker Montage - Augustine Christian Academy from ACA on Vimeo.

Previous entries:

Nutcracker photos
Nutcracker preview

Nutcracker photos

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The school has posted some photos from Augustine Christian Academy's production of "The Nutcracker".

Here are my three kids: The Prince, the Candy Flute, and their little brother.

And here she is with one of her classmates and best friends:

The Prince as the Nutcracker, with Herr Drosselmaier:

The Prince and Marie, with the Chinese dragon and dancers

At the cast party after the final performance, "Marie's" mom (who had two younger daughters in the performance as well) remarked that it was wonderful that Augustine Christian Academy provided a God-honoring context in which her daughters could develop their God-given talents.

ACA is not a wealthy school, but teachers, parents, and students take what they have and add a lot of sweat equity and a lot of heart. The result is consistently one of beauty and excellence. If you want a school where your children will be challenged to excel in a loving and creative environment, check out Augustine Christian Academy.

Nutcracker, Augustine Christian Academy, cast photoAugustine Christian Academy's Junior Performing Arts Company presents "The Nutcracker" this weekend, December 11-13, 2009. I attended last night's dress rehearsal, and it's a wonderful story told through dance, colorful costumes and sets, and the music of Tchaikovsky -- the party, the wind-up dolls, the snowflakes, the battle with the Mouse King and his minions, the Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, and Russian dancers, the gingerbread clowns, and the Sugar-Plum Fairy.

What: The Nutcracker

Where: Augustine Christian Academy, 30th St., just west of Sheridan Rd.

When:


  • Friday, December 11, 2009, 7 p.m.

  • Saturday, December 12, 2009, 7 p.m.

  • Sunday, December 13, 2009, 2 p.m.

Admission: $8.50 for adults; $6 for students.

Tickets are available at the school office. I'm told that Friday and Sunday are almost sold out.

Saturday, before the performance, there's a special "Land of the Sweets" extravaganza -- a light dinner, desserts, and priority seating for the show -- $20 for adults; $15 for students.

Nutcracker, Augustine Christian Academy, the Prince battles the Mouse King

What's especially impressive about this production is that the performers range in age from the 7th and 8th grade leads down to the 1st grade gingerbread men. That they have put together such a well-executed performance is a tribute to the dedication and energy of the young actors and dancers. It's also a tribute to the creative team of teachers and parents who spent the semester directing and teaching choreography, designing costumes and sets, and to the parents (including my wife) and grandparents (including my mother-in-law) who spent the semester sewing those costumes (almost 100). (And a special thanks to another grandparent -- my mom -- whose babysitting made it possible for my wife to help as much as she has.)

Performing arts are an ACA specialty, and every year the high school puts on a full-scale Broadway musical. This year is the first for a major production involving the grammar and junior high grades. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the result is amazing.

Nutcracker, Augustine Christian Academy, cast photo

I may be biased. My 13-year-old son is the Nutcracker Prince and my nine-year-old daughter is a dancer in several scenes. I am as proud as can be of both of them.

Nutcracker, Augustine Christian Academy, cast photo

ACA's "Nutcracker" is a wonderful evening's entertainment. It's also an opportunity to get acquainted with a school that seeks to glorify God through excellence in all its pursuits, including the performing arts.

Low-quality cellphone pix by Michael Bates

MORE: After the jump, video from a segment on Fox 23 Daybreak from last Tuesday, featuring directors Gail Post and Dawn Redden, and five of the students performing the Russian Dance (in a smaller space than usual).

The filing period for the February 2010 school board elections opens today, December 7, 2009, and closes on Wednesday, December 9. Filing takes place at the election board in the county where the school district is headquartered.

There are two seats up for election in the Tulsa district, for board districts 4 and 7, and the incumbents, Bobbie Gray and Matt Livingood, respectively, have both been hostile to charter schools, with Livingood leading the charge for the Tulsa district's expensive and ultimately futile lawsuit against the state's charter school law.

District 4 is roughly north and east of 31st and Memorial (except for Layman Van Acres), while District 7 is mainly south of 51st east of the river, although it includes the Patrick Henry neighborhood (41st to 51st, Harvard to Yale) and excludes Sungate (51st to 61st, Sheridan to Memorial).

Here are links to some maps (PDF format):

For districts with five members, seat no. 5 will be up for grabs in 2010.

In addition, a seven-year term in Seat 1 on the Tulsa Technology Center board will be on the ballot. Lena Bennett is the incumbent, first elected in 1992. Here is a map of the seven board zones in the Tulsa Tech district.

Here's the press release about the school board filing period from Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Patty Bryant:

Candidates for the Board of Education in 14 Tulsa County School Districts will file Declarations of Candidacy beginning at 8 a.m. Monday, December 7, 2009. Patty Bryant, Secretary of the Tulsa County Election Board said the filing period will end at 5 p.m. Wednesday, December 9, 2009.

Candidates for the Board of Education in Tulsa Technology Center District No. 18 also will file their Declarations of Candidacy during this same time period.

Board of Education positions at stake will be filled at the Annual School Election scheduled February 9, 2010. If no candidate in the Annual School Election receives more than 50% of the total votes cast, the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes will meet in a second school election on Tuesday, April 6.

I'm reluctant to post this, because it could be read as conspiracy-mongering, but I was just fascinated by all the interconnections evident in a single Tulsa World story about a new professorship at the University of Tulsa College of Law.

The new chair in energy law is being endowed by the George Kaiser Family Foundation in honor of Frederic Dorwart, described in the story as the president of GKFF and its longtime attorney. Dorwart is the attorney for Bank of Oklahoma, of which George Kaiser is chairman.

(Dorwart represented the Tulsa Industrial Authority in its suit against the Tulsa Airport Improvement Trust, dealing with TAIT's commitment to buy land owned by TIA in the event of a default by Great Plains Airlines on a loan from BOk, guaranteed by TIA. Great Plains went bust, the FAA said TAIT couldn't use passenger service fees to buy the land, leaving TIA with no way to pay back the money that Great Plains owed. So TIA sued TAIT. The suit was expanded in June 2008 to include the City of Tulsa. City Attorney Deirdre Dexter, a former Dorwart firm lawyer, agreed to settle within a day or so of the city's addition to the suit.)

The story quotes the dean of the law school, Janet Levit. Janet's husband Ken Levit is executive director of GKFF. The story goes on to note:

In May, the Kaiser Foundation donated nearly $40 million to TU. The gift included a low-interest loan to help the university begin construction on the Roxana Rozsa and Robert Eugene Lorton Performance Center, as well as money for the Energy Policy Institute and a student volunteer center.

So Kaiser's generosity made it possible to move ahead with a building named in honor of the former publisher of the Tulsa World (and the father of the current publisher) and his wife. (It appears from this Collegian story that construction of the center had been postponed because of the economy.) The story continues:

Dorwart is president of the advisory board of the TU Undergraduate Research Challenge and is an organizer of the Tulsa Stadium Trust Improvement District.

He was an organizing trustee of the Tulsa Community Foundation and a co-founder of the International Society of Energy Advocates.

Just to be clear, this new endowed chair in energy law is a very good thing, both for TU and for Tulsa. Energy law is an important field, and it's a natural fit for a university with a world-renowned petroleum engineering department.

But the interconnections evident in this one news story are fascinating.

Via Jeff Lindsay on Twitter, I learned about Classical School in Appleton, Wisconsin, a charter Pre-K - 8 school of 450 students that follows a classical curriculum. The school follows E. D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge curriculum. Hirsch is the author of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. From the Core Knowledge FAQ:

The "Core Knowledge" movement is an educational reform based on the premise that a grade-by-grade core of common learning is necessary to ensure a sound and fair elementary education.... Professor Hirsch has argued that, for the sake of academic excellence, greater fairness, and higher literacy, early schooling should provide a solid, specific, shared core curriculum in order to help children establish strong foundations of knowledge.

The FAQ is worth reading for their responses to questions like:

"Students are unique individuals, so can we really expect them all to learn the same material? Shouldn't schooling respond to the unique learning styles of each individual child?"

"Is the specific academic content in the Core Knowledge curriculum developmentally appropriate for young children?"

Since knowledge is changing so rapidly, isn't the best approach to teach children to "learn how to learn," rather than to teach specific knowledge?

Without coming right out and saying it, the Core Knowledge approach rebuffs the philosophies and fads of modern public education while embracing the classical Trivium, which begins with "Grammar." The Grammar of the Trivium is not merely how you put words together, but it encompasses the facts and rules of a range of disciplines, including math, history, music, the visual arts, and science, as well as language.

Here's part of the Core Knowledge response to the "learn how to learn" concept:

...Children learn new knowledge by building upon what they already know. It's important to begin building foundations of knowledge in the early grades because that's when children are most receptive, and because academic deficiencies in the first six grades can permanently impair the quality of later schooling. The most powerful tool for later learning is not an abstract set of procedures (such as "problem solving") but a broad base of knowledge in many fields....

...The basic principles of science and constitutional government, the important events of world history, the essential elements of mathematics and of oral and written expression -- all of these are part of a solid core that does not change rapidly, but instead forms the basis for true lifelong learning.

And in response to the criticism of rote memorization and the idea that children need critical thinking skills, not just a bunch of facts:

No one wants schools to think of curriculum solely in terms of facts. We also want -- and students need -- opportunities to use the facts, to apply them, question them, discuss them, doubt them, connect them, analyze them, verify or deny them, solve problems with them. All these activities, however, rely upon having some facts to work with. Without factual knowledge about an issue or problem, you can't think critically about it -- you can only have an uninformed opinion.

Oklahoma has three officially certified Core Knowledge schools -- schools that have implemented at least 80% of the curriculum with a goal of full implementation: Cleveland and Sequoyah Elementary Schools in Oklahoma City, and Clegern Elementary School in Edmond.

Clegern Elementary is certified as a Core Knowledge visitation site, a model school where the curriculum has been fully implemented. Clegern is also a "parent choice school" -- any family in the Edmond district may apply to attend; students are chosen by lottery. It's telling that much of the school's FAQ page has to do with who does or doesn't get an edge in the selection process.

Another 13 schools in Oklahoma City and one in Anadarko are "Friends of Core Knowledge," which means that the schools are implementing the curriculum at some level.

The curriculum of Classical Charter School in Appleton reminds me in many respects of the curriculum at Regent Preparatory School in Tulsa -- for example, both use Saxon Math and Shurley Grammar. I like the fact that instead of the vague "social studies," they have history, geography, and literature.

Now that the Tulsa Public Schools board has dropped its senseless and expensive lawsuit against the state's charter school law. An editorial in the Oklahoman noted a report that the Tulsa school board spent $103,000 on attorney's fees to pursue the suit; appealing to the State Supreme Court would have cost another $125,000. The Oklahoman's advice:

This lawsuit was a bad idea from the start. Money that could have been spent for the benefit of teachers and students went to lawyers instead. That was the only guaranteed outcome, and by no logic could that be considered good for children or taxpayers.

What's good for children -- and by extension taxpayers -- is for Tulsa to not just accept but embrace quality charter schools. Those schools exist to serve Tulsa's children. Their success doesn't reflect poorly on the district; rather, it says that the district cares enough about its students to step outside its comfort zone.

Oklahoma City has 12 charter schools. Tulsa has three. Perhaps now the Tulsa district will be open to new charters, or perhaps one of the universities would sponsor a Core Knowledge charter school here.

Yesterday afternoon, the five of us thoroughly enjoyed Augustine Christian Academy's performance of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Every year the sets and costumes are more elaborate, and the acting, singing, and dancing more skillful. ACA's annual musical embodies the school's pursuit of excellence and exuberant creativity, and we're blessed to be a part of the ACA community.

This coming Tuesday night is an open house focused on the school's lower grades, an opportunity for you to learn more about what ACA has to offer.

Be Our Guest!
Elementary Open House
Tuesday, April 21, 2009 6:00 - 8:00 PM

  • New Home School Program
  • New Electives, including Performing Arts
  • Come meet Belle, the Beast, and the other Enchanted Characters
  • Free Refreshments

Augustine Christian Academy
6310 E. 30th Street
Tulsa, OK
(918) 832-4600
www.acatulsa.org

From the school website:

Augustine Christian Academy is a small, independent, Christian classical school dedicated to training students to take the lead in their personal lives, in their educations, and in their communities. Augustine Christian boasts a climate that is truly conducive to the free exchange and development of ideas.

A few words about the school from my wife:

ACA offers both a full time curriculum from K-4 through 12th grade, and part time options for homeschool students. Most core curriculum classes are offered to homeschoolers for the sixth grade and above. This year, elementary homeschoolers will be offered the chance to participate in some of the school's Fine Arts Curriculum. Please come and Be Our Guest! - THIS Tuesday night. We are all still singing from this weekend's amazing production of the Beauty and the Beast. Come visit with a few of our stars as well!

If you want to get the flavor of our school, please visit the website at www.acatulsa.org. There are two links below with short video clips as well.

ACA senior Haden Brewer won this year's Tulsa Rotary's 4-Way Test Speech Contest. This speech will give you a glimpse into student life at ACA. (Click here to watch the speech.) An excerpt:

I attend a small private school of just over 150 students. We are not a wealthy school, and this fact produces much of what I love most about it. Because of our financial status, there are certain privileges we don't have that other schools see as a common necessity; for example, a janitor. Yes, there are parents who have volunteered to clean the restroom and kitchen facilities, but the rest is accomplished by other means. Each student is assigned a task to work on 20 minutes after lunch that involves cleaning the building. By cleaning our classrooms ourselves, we build a sense of respect for the school. Now we put away our chairs, clean the tables, and sweep the floors after eating lunch without thinking twice about it.

Here's a six-minute promotional video for Augustine Christian Academy:


ACA Promotional Video from ACA on Vimeo.

I posted this question on Twitter

Question to young midtown Tulsa hipsters: What are your plans when you have school-age kids? TPS, private, homeschool, or move to burbs?

and got several quick replies; thought I'd post it here, too, in expanded form:

If you're young and have moved into an older core neighborhood in midtown Tulsa, or any of the neighborhoods within a mile or so of downtown, what will you do when your children (if/when you have them) are old enough for school? Will you stay put and send your kids to Tulsa Public Schools or a private school or homeschool them? Or will you move to a suburban school district?

If your answer is TPS, is that contingent on getting your children into magnet programs like Eisenhower or Zarrow or transferring them into a highly regarded neighborhood school, or will you be content with the assigned school for your neighborhood?

Whatever your answer, I'm curious to know your reasons as well.

Back in 1998, I first ran for City Council and got involved in the Midtown Coalition. At the time, I met a number of younger couples who either didn't have children yet or had children who weren't old enough for school. They lived in cute 1200 sq. ft. cottages and bungalows, but they all seemed to move as soon as the first child approached the age of five. I'm wondering how many of the young adults from the current cohort who are attracted to traditional neighborhoods and urban living will stick around when the babies start coming.

Feel free to post a comment below or e-mail me at blog at batesline dot com. This is for an upcoming column on the connection between schools and urban revitalization. If you'd prefer I didn't quote you at all, or if I can quote you but not by name, please mention it when you write, otherwise I'll assume I have permission to quote you by name.

All wrote out

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Over the last 9 days, I:

  • Wrote two regular columns for Urban Tulsa Weekly
  • Wrote two extra thousand-word pieces, which will appear in UTW's Spring Thing, one of the paper's two annual full-color special inserts
  • Edited and cross-checked a 75-page technical proposal, writing or re-writing sections of it, working 10-12 hour days, including weekends

On Sunday arrived at the office about 1 p.m., lunch in hand. I broke for dinner about 7:30, writing a first draft of my column, returned to the office about 9, and went back to work on the proposal, incorporating last minute corrections and making sure we hadn't left anything out. At 3 a.m., five of us -- the executive VP, the engineering director, the program manager, the tech writer, and me -- gathered in the conference room to cut and streamline to get the proposal under the page limit. We finished about 4, and I went back to work on the column -- sent it in at 5:49, drove home, set out the trash, and was in bed about 6:10. Slept five hours and went back to the office to give the printed proposal a final review.

This evening, my 12-year-old son and I went to Will Rogers High School for their "Second Monday" architectural tour which runs from 6:30 - 8:00. The monthly tour is free, but they hope you'll buy popcorn, soda, and special calendars to help support the theatrical program. The next major production is the 45th edition of the Will Rogers Roundup, a variety show that will run in mid-April in the school's beautiful 1500-seat auditorium. The school, which opened in 1939, is beautiful inside and out.

(Here's Joseph Koberling's commentary on the architecture of the school he designed with Leon Senter.)

The WRHS alumnus who gave a historical lecture in the auditorium at the start of the tour (didn't catch his name, but he did a fine job) related a conversation he had at the National Preservation Conference last fall. The preservationist came to the WRHS booth in the exhibit hall and wanted to know what the school was used for now and when it was renovated. The preservationist was certain that, like many historic buildings, WRHS had been badly remodeled or neglected at some point in its history, and that it had been deemed obsolete and repurposed in some way. The remarkable thing about Will Rogers High School is that they've simply done a great job of preserving it, continuing to use it for its original purpose and never "wreckovating" it.

Back home, I still had laundry to do and a three-year-old to bathe.

But now I'm beat. There's some interesting new stuff over in the linkblog. I'm off to get some sleep.

Brandon Dutcher, whose wife homeschools their four children, reacts to State Sen. Mary Easley's plan to regulate homeschooling by requiring families to register with the local school district and provide progress reports. He tells Sen. Easley he'd like to see progress reports from the public schools so he can know, for example, just how far behind his children are from the public-schooled kids:

For example, when my oldest son was in 8th grade, all he was really able to learn that year was Algebra II, Henle Latin I, intermediate logic, physical science, grammar, and composition. Well, plus he read and discussed The Epic of Gilgamesh; The Code of Hammurabi; The Odyssey; The Histories; The Oresteia Trilogy; Plutarch's Lives; The Theban Trilogy; The Last Days of Socrates; The Early History of Rome; The Aeneid; The Twelve Caesars; Till We Have Faces; The Unaborted Socrates; Genesis; Exodus; I and II Samuel; I and II Kings; Isaiah; Jeremiah; Chosen by God; and Socrates Meets Jesus, among others.

Now, I'm not naïve. I realize that 8th graders in Oklahoma's world-class public school system are learning all this and more. Who among us didn't have an 8th-grade history teacher/football coach wax eloquent on the influence of Stoic philosophy on Gaius Gracchus? Heck, as a retired teacher you know better than anyone that the 8th graders in your hometown of Tulsa (or Owasso, or Grand Lake Towne, whatever) are learning all this and more.

Later, he points out that his family has saved Oklahoma taxpayers over $200,000 by homeschooling their children.

Oklahoma's freedom to homeschool has encouraged the growth of a diverse homeschooling community, with all sorts of co-op groups, special classes, sports, field trips, clubs, and other school activities to provide learning opportunities beyond what parent-teachers can easily provide at home. Instead of breaking something that works well, we ought to promote the state to attract homeschoolers from across the country to move here. Who knows -- we might grow enough to get back that 6th congressman we lost 10 years ago.

In a Friday editorial, the Oklahoman took the Tulsa school board to task for continuing its lawsuit against the state's charter school law. The TPS board claims the law is unconstitutional because it limits charter schools to certain parts of the state based on population and district size.

Charter schools exist because many parents and educators aren't happy with what they see at traditional schools. Some are in direct competition with traditional public schools; others have programs that serve students who have struggled in a traditional education setting. That's not to say all charter schools are perfect and a great fit for every student. But we believe the marketplace will sort the good from the bad, and parents ultimately will vote with their children's feet.

Charter schools were designed to be incubators for new ideas that could be replicated. Instead, we tend to hear excuses on why some of their innovations won't work in regular schools. Even Oklahoma City, which has been a more welcoming environment for charter schools than Tulsa, has had tense and sometimes hostile relationships with charter schools.

We said when the lawsuit was filed that it was a waste of money. It still is. Schools -- and school boards -- would do better to embrace the competition as an opportunity for students to receive a better education and a challenge to do better. That's not too much to ask.

The editorial refers to a December 15 attempt by TPS board members Brian Hunt and Lana Turner-Addison to drop the lawsuit. The motion failed by a 4-2 vote.

(Crossposted at Choice Remarks.)

Strategic Vision polled 1200 Oklahoma voters for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. Here is the executive summary:

This scientifically representative poll of 1,200 likely Oklahoma voters measures public opinion on a wide range of K-12 education issues. The underlying theme of the Friedman Foundation's Survey in the State series is to measure voter attitudes toward their public institutions, leaders, innovative ideas, and the current K-12 power and priority structure.

In particular, Oklahomans have shared with us their views about "school choice" in the forms of taxcredit scholarships, school vouchers, charter schools and virtual schools. Results imply that voters like the idea of customizing the school selection process in a way that best meets the needs of a child and his or her family. So how high is the support for school choice reforms? Percentages favoring tax-credit scholarships, school vouchers, and charter schools are consistently in the 50s--generally and across nearly all subgroups.

In some cases, favorability to a particular school choice reform reaches the 60s. For example, 60 percent of African-Americans favor a scholarship granting system funded through business tax credits; 63 percent of African-Americans like charter schools; and 63 percent of Hispanics favor "allowing students and parents to choose any school, public or private, to attend using public funds."

School choice is not a partisan issue among voters in Oklahoma. Favorability spans political parties and political self-identification. Democrats, Independents, and Republicans favor publicly funded scholarship granting systems (through business or individual tax credits), school vouchers, and charter schools.

Proportions are very similar across these subgroups on school choice-related questions. In some cases, support is extraordinarily high: 61 percent of Democrats favor tax-credit scholarship legislation; 60 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Independents favor a scholarship granting system funded through individual tax credits; and all three political groups are more likely to vote for rather than against a candidate who supports a tax-credit scholarship policy.

A total of 1,200 phone interviews were conducted by Strategic Vision, between April 25 and April 27, 2008. The margin of error for the full sample of likely voters is ± 3 percentage points; the margin of error is higher when considering the response percentages for a given demographic subgroup.

Key findings include:


  • About two-fifths of Oklahoma voters are not satisfied with the state's current public school system--41 percent rate Oklahoma's public school system as "poor" or "fair." Excluding the one of five voters who are undecided, this proportion rises to 51 percent.

  • Nearly two out of three Oklahomans are content with current levels of public school funding. A large majority of voters (64 percent) say Oklahoma's level of public school funding is either "too high" or "about right." At least 67 percent of the poll's respondents underestimate the state's actual per-pupil funding, which suggests that the funding satisfaction level is probably a conservative figure.

  • More than four out of five Oklahomans would prefer to send their child to a school other than a regular public school--only 17 percent say a regular public school is their top choice. This low figure is consistent with what we have learned from previous state polls asking the same question, most recently in Idaho (12 percent), Tennessee (15 percent), Nevada (11 percent), and Illinois (19 percent).

  • Oklahoma voters value private schools--they are more than twice as likely to prefer sending their child to a private school over any other school type. When asked "what type of school would you select in order to obtain the best education for your child?" 41 percent of respondents selected private schools. This finding is consistent with other recent state polls asking the same question: Idaho (39 percent), Tennessee (37 percent), Nevada (48 percent), and Illinois (39 percent).

  • Oklahomans like having a range of schooling options. Majorities express support for school vouchers (53 percent) and charter schools (54 percent), with many also open to virtual schools (40 percent), even though nearly a third of respondents stated they "have never heard of virtual, cyber, or online schools." School choice is not a partisan issue among likely voters. There is solid potential for building bridges between Democrats (D), Republicans (R), and Independents (I). Voters who identify themselves differently in terms of political affiliation are likely to have common views on various school choice reforms and policies spanning charter schools (D: 52 percent | R: 56 percent | I: 55 percent), virtual schools (D: 38 percent | R: 40 percent | I: 42 percent), school vouchers (D: 53 percent | R: 54 percent | I: 53 percent), or a generic public-funded school choice system (D: 55 percent | R: 53 percent | I: 56 percent).

  • More than half of voters are favorable to a tax-credit scholarship system. When asked "if a proposal were made in Oklahoma to create a tax-credit scholarship system," 54 percent say they favor a scholarship system funded by business charitable donations. A slightly higher figure (57 percent) say they favor a scholarship system funded by individual charitable donations.

  • Likely voters view recent tax-credit scholarship legislation positively--58 percent say they are favorable to such school choice legislation. Majorities cut across Democrats (61 percent), Republicans (55 percent), and Independents (53 percent).

  • Oklahomans are more likely to vote for a state representative, state senator or governor who supports a taxcredit scholarship system. Nearly twice as many voters say they are "more likely" (21 percent) rather than "less likely" (11 percent) to vote for such a candidate. Independents are nearly five times more likely to vote for a person supporting tax-credit scholarships (23 percent vs. 5 percent).

  • Knowledge about school vouchers is at a low baseline in Oklahoma--there is an information deficit about this type of system reform. Although a majority of Oklahoma's likely voters (55 percent) said they were either "very familiar" or "somewhat familiar" with school vouchers, there is still a lot of potential for educating citizens on the issue. This figure is comparable to what has been measured in other states such as Idaho (59 percent), Tennessee (45 percent), Nevada (55 percent), and Illinois (51 percent).



Read more about the battle for school in Oklahoma at the Choice Remarks blog.

Congratulations to Tulsa County voters: KTUL is reporting that the TCC bond issue failed 45-55 and the TCC permanent property tax increase failed 43-57.

And congratulations to John Tyler Hammons. The 19-year-old OU freshman poli-sci major won a runoff tonight to become Mayor of Muskogee, defeating the incumbent a former mayor in a landslide. (Hammons said he would transfer from OU to nearby NSU if elected.) Hammons will also be a delegate to the Republican National Convention; he was on the slate approved at the May 3 state convention.

A reaction from "Kiah" to the TCC tax defeat at TulsaNow's public forum:

Can we now officially retire the Chamber/World's cynical approach to local governance (i.e. hide the ball; the fewer voters the better, and the less they know, the better -- in short, don't worry your pretty little head about it, let the grown-ups handle the details . . . .)

UPDATE: Thanks to Jamison Faught for the correct description of Hammons's opponent -- the incumbent, Wren Stratton, didn't seek another term; Hammons defeated a three-term former mayor, Herschel McBride. The final vote total was Hammons 3,703, McBride 1,616.

Tulsa County voters will decide today whether to grant Tulsa Community College a permanent property tax increase of 1.7 mills for operations and maintenance (a 23% increase over the current level of 7.21 mills) and, in a separate proposition, a temporary seven-year property tax increase of about 3.1 mills to fund a $76 million bond issue for construction and remodeling.

My column in this week's Urban Tulsa Weekly urges a vote against the two propositions. In short, TCC is in good shape and has plenty of money to accomplish its mission. Our priority ought to be fixing what needs the most improvement: Our city's grade "D" streets. We can't afford to let other taxing entities use up the public's limited tax tolerance. There isn't an overall local budget authority that oversees the City, the schools, the County, TCC, and other local government entities. It's up to us as taxpayers and voters to set funding priorities among these various agencies and governments.

You'll find more links about the proposed TCC tax hike in this earlier blog entry. To read the other side of the issue, you'll find a pro-tax-increase website at tccworks.com. You'll find much more about TCC and the tax vote at Stan Geiger's website, including this recitation of all the tax increases we've been asked to approve over the last 8 years.

All Tulsa County polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

MORE: No surprise: The Tulsa Whirled never met a tax it didn't endorse. I love the way they minimize the tax increase by putting it in terms of dollars per month. They don't tell you that it means a 67% increase in TCC's take from he taxpayers. Hardly "modest property tax increases." Of course, the Whirled would never concede that the other side might have a point:

They are anti-tax, antigrowth, anti-prosperity and anti-community. They don't care what they tear down, so long as they don't have to pay for the conveniences of living in a civilized society. They've already got theirs and could care less about the other guy.

Who's tearing down? Most "antis" on this tax are generally pleased with TCC; they just think TCC has enough money to do its job, and there are better places to allocate that additional millage.

The Whirled can't defend the tax increase on the merits, so they have to resort to propaganda techniques. Their argument boils down to: "You don't want to be like one of those nasty, angry anti-taxers. You want to be progressive and foresighted, like us."

The Whirled would have more credibility if they at least conceded that there are valid concerns on the other side of the issue. If once in a while, they called a proposed tax increase "ill-timed" or "larger than necessary," they might make more of an impact when they endorse a tax.

Can anyone think of a tax increase the Whirled has opposed?

BY WAY OF CONTRAST: Oklahoma County is voting on five bond issues today, covering courthouse renovation, a new building for the cooperative extension program, improved record retention facilities, and flood control. The big ticket item is to purchase the old GM plant in Midwest City so that it can be leased and perhaps sold at some future date to the Air Force for Tinker AFB expansion. Room for expansion is a factor weighed by the DoD's Base Realignment and Closure commission. The total property tax increase will be 1.521 mills over 15 years. (Via Dustbury.

Tulsa County has been using sales tax for these kinds of projects; it's interesting that Oklahoma County has no county sales tax, leaving sales tax for the cities to use as they see fit.

Stan Geiger has a few blog entries up about next Tuesday's vote on Tulsa Community College's proposed property tax increases. (See my previous entry for links to my column on the topic and sources for additional information.) Here are some excerpts from Stan's latest -- click the links to read the whole thing:

TCC Launches Media Assault:

TCC is pushing the tired notion that more tax money for higher education equals a stronger local economy. Man, if only that were true.

The Tulsa area is up to its butt in public-subsidized higher education. TCC has 4 campuses---plus an office building for executives. We have an OU-Tulsa, an OSU-Tulsa and a Langston-Tulsa. We have a Northeastern State campus in Broken Arrow. And what was once a junior college in Claremore is now a 4-year school called Rogers State University under the auspices of the OU Board of Regents.

If pouring tax money into higher education resulted in economic prosperity, Tulsa would be a freakin' boomtown.

The Hits Keep Coming:

Well, 50 bucks a year might not be a big deal to educators. But to an average working person that has a real job out in the real world and is facing wolves at the door, 50 bucks is a lot of money.

Property Tax: The Ever Growing Tax, referring to an earlier comment by XonOFF, who notes that TCC currently gets almost as much property tax in a year as the City of Tulsa, and if the tax increase and bond issue pass, TCC will receive more property tax annually than Tulsa County government. Stan relates some budget research he did 10 years ago:

In 1997, TCC's budget figures showed property tax revenue of $15.3 million. Reports say the last permanent millage increase voted to TCC came in 1994. So in a 10-year span of time, in the absence of any increase in the tax rate, the amount of property tax revenue flowing into TCC doubled.

The property tax is not a static tax. It grows. If you vote an increase today, whatever it is, 50 bucks, a hundred bucks or whatever, it will be a bigger tax increase next year, and the year after that and the year after that.

Tulsa Chiggers has some TCC facts for voters to weigh:

Did you know that space is available, especially at the Northeast Campus? ...

Did you know that TCC has been operating with a surplus for years?

TulsaNow's public forum has a thread about the TCC tax hike, and it's interesting to see that many regulars there who usually support tax increases are balking at this one.
Commenter "waterboy" writes:

I received one of their calls last night. For the first time in my life I am voting against an education proposal.

TCC is a poor administrator of tax dollars [in my opinion].

I believe they practice age discrimination.

Their human resources dept. is inept. and unresponsive. (I know this has become common throughout the business world but this is tax dollars)

They cannibalized the areas surrounding the downtown facility for asphalt lots.

Wage disparity is embarrassingly out of balance. Read their classified ads.

I told the caller that at some point TCC will have its attitude with the public reflected back towards them. For me, this is that point.

Commenter "swake" replies:

I also am voting no for the first time.

TCC is a poor downtown citizen, works to block 1st and 2nd year classes from being offered by OSU and OU Tulsa and isn't the higher education entity that we need to work to grow.

This week in Urban Tulsa Weekly, I preview next Tuesday's special election for a permanent property tax increase and a temporary property tax increase tied to a $76 million general obligation bond issue for Tulsa Community College. All of Tulsa County will go to the polls. If approved, the permanent millage rate would increase from 7.21 mills to 8.91 mills, with a temporary seven-year boost to about 12.2 mills while the bonds are being repaid. In the column, I make the case that, in the absence of a body with authority over all the different local taxing entities, it's up to us, the voters of Tulsa County, to set priorities among the requests from these various agencies.

Here are links to some of my research helps:

TCC page about the May 13 proposals. (Here are direct links to their fact sheet, publicity piece, and newsletter.)

Sample ballot for the May 13 TCC election

Property tax apportionment in Tulsa County

An explanation of the color-of-money problem from the Defense Department perspective


The following reports cover all the schools in the Oklahoma higher ed system -- research universities, regional universities, and community colleges, among other institutions:

Incredible: The Republican-controlled State House of Representatives voted today to kill SB 2093, the New Hope Scholarship Act, by a vote of 40 to 57.

Fred Jordan, who represents Jenks, Glenpool, and south Tulsa, and Weldon Watson were the only Republican s representing Tulsa who voted no. (Earl Sears, who represents a small piece of north Tulsa County along with much of Washington County, and Skye McNiel, who represents Creek County, plus a small piece of southwest Tulsa County, also voted no.) I can only speculate about the motivation of Fred Jordan, a suburban homebuilder. The lack of adequate educational options in the Tulsa Public Schools district creates outward pressure that would help him sell new homes in far south Tulsa County.

A glance at the names of other naysaying Republicans reveals a number from rural and suburban areas. Perhaps they have the attitude, "What's in it for the schools in my district?" Perhaps their school board members and superintendents pressured them into voting no.

North Tulsa Democrat Jabar Shumate was a leading advocate for the bill, which would have been a great benefit to students in his district, which is plagued with underperforming public schools, but his Democratic colleagues in neighboring districts -- Lucky Lamons, Jeannie McDaniel, Darrell Gilbert, and Scott BigHorse -- abandoned him. It's hard to understand why the first three, who represent parts of the Tulsa Public School district, would oppose a measure that would provide educational choice and thus incentive for families with children to remain in the older parts of central and north Tulsa. I suppose pressure from the OEA, the most influential interest group in the Democratic Party, was a factor. Their votes may have been good for their political careers, but they were bad for their districts.

David Derby (R-Owasso) and Eric Proctor (D-northeast Tulsa) did not vote -- they are listed under "Constitutional Privilege."

This was a very modest bill that would have created a tax credit for donations to scholarship funds. These scholarship funds would be designated for students in underperforming schools. It was too limited -- capped at a certain dollar amount each year -- but it would have provided more school choice than we currently have for the students who need it most. Shame, shame on the House members, particularly the Republicans and those who represent inner-city districts, who voted against this bill.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma continues to languish at the bottom of the school choice charts with a failing grade.

Choice Remarks

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Oklahoma is lagging behind the rest of the nation in offering a variety of affordable K-12 educational options to our children and their parents. In hopes of improving the situation, there's now an organization called Oklahomans for School Choice, with an official blog called Choice Remarks, headed up by Brandon Dutcher, vice president for policy for the Oklahoma Center of Public Affairs.

The blog's sidebar offers a synopsis of the issue:

School choice refers to any education policy which allows parents to choose the safest and best schools for their children, whether those schools are public or private. As state school Superintendent Sandy Garrett has correctly noted, "We have a lot of choice already in Oklahoma." Oklahoma is fortunate to have interdistrict choice, intradistrict choice, charter schools, magnet and specialty schools, privately funded K-12 vouchers, a thriving homeschool sector, and more. Unfortunately, we don't yet have what many other states have--vouchers or tax credits which allow thousands of students to choose private schools.

I've been invited to contribute to the blog, so as I come across news items relating to charter schools, tuition vouchers, scholarship fund tax credits, and other means of expanding parental choice in K-12 education, I'll be posting them at Choice Remarks.

A friend asked me about the candidates for Office 3 on the Tulsa Technology Center board and for Union Public Schools, specifically about their party registration and background. School board races are non-partisan, but party registration is a piece of information that some voters like to have.

You may also want to look over the complete questionnaire responses submitted to the Tulsa World and the League of Women Voters (400 KB PDF).

Bea Cramer, the incumbent, is the only Republican running for the Tulsa Tech seat. Tim Bradley and Mitchell Garrett are Democrats. Garrett, son of Muskogee trial lawyer David Garrett, parachuted into House District 23 to run against State Rep. Sue Tibbs in 2004. During that election campaign Mitchell Garrett was simultaneously registered as a voter in both Tulsa and Muskogee Counties.

The incumbent for Union Public Schools Office 3 filed for re-election, but Jim Williams announced on January 24 that he was withdrawing his candidacy. His name will still appear on the ballot. The only other candidate is Albert Shults, a Republican. The choice for voters in the Union district is to elect Shults or to let the other board members pick a replacement for Williams. If Williams is re-elected, he would presumably resign, with the vacancy to be filled by the board.

In Broken Arrow, both Keven Rondot (the incumbent, appointed to an unexpired term about a year ago) and Shari Wilkins are registered Republicans.

In Glenpool, the incumbent, Michael J. Thompson is a Democrat; Kenneth Ball is a Republican.

In Jenks, Joseph Hidy, the incumbent, and Kanna Adams, are both Republicans.

In Liberty, Richard L. Moore, Jr., the incumbent, is a Republican, and Billie Blackburn is a Democrat.

In Sperry, Tim Teel, the incumbent, and Derrell Morrow are both Republicans.

In Tulsa, Radious Y. Guess and Brian T. Hunt are both Republicans. (No incumbent -- it's an open seat.)

PonderInc considers the choices in tomorrow's Tulsa Public Schools board election:

The Tulsa World endorsed Guess, citing her extensive educational experience and training.

On one hand, I want to believe that an education background is a good thing; but on the other hand, I think that many of the problems with our school system (inept teachers, principals, and administrators) are caused by people with education degrees.

My skepticism increased after taking education classes 10 years ago when I was considering teaching. I thought: this is the dumbest stuff I've ever heard, who invents this crap? It led me to believe that the school system would be much improved if everyone had a degree in the subject they teach...instead of a goofy education degree.

So...can an "insider" reform from the inside? Or is it better to support an "outsider" who might just bring some common sense to the table?

At the same time, I disagree with the pragmatists who think all schools should do is prepare students for the business world. Education is different from training. And those who would limit art, music, and theater programs for the sake of more "hard skills" don't realize the importance of creativity, experimentation and imagination.

I don't really know where each of these candidates stands on these topics. And I'm not sure who to vote for tomorrow. Looks like I've got homework to do!

That point about schools of education is the crucial issue in school reform, but it's overlooked amidst discussions of funding, testing, discipline, etc. One of the advantages that charter and private schools have over public schools is that it's easier for a charter or private school to hire a teacher who has a degree in the subject area he or she will be teaching. Public schools can hire teachers outside the usual ed-school track, but there are many more hoops to jump through with alternative certification, and many school officials can't be bothered, especially if there is no shortage of ed-school graduates, who won't require the extra effort to get them into the classroom.

Courses in an education degree program tend to be all about process, rather than content. If you love math or English lit or history and dream of imparting your love of the subject to young skulls full of mush, the process of gaining certification -- whether by traditional or alternative methods -- may very well drain you of your enthusiasm.

A friend of mine with an MBA and many years in the corporate world had the urge about a decade ago to go into teaching. He had gained some classroom time as a Junior Achievement sponsor and enjoyed the experience immensely. He thought he might teach math or business at the junior high or high school level, so he began working for his alternative certification. Texas, where he lived, had pioneered the process, but he wasn't able to get the time of day from two of the major school districts in the DFW Metroplex. (Thinking back on it, he might have had more cooperation from a smaller district.) He gave up on the idea.

It may be that schools of education, with their focus on process and theory and their ideological attacks on practices that work (e.g. phonics, math fact drills, and high expectations), are the heart of what's wrong with public schools in America. They deter many with the gift of teaching from getting into the profession, and they provide a bad foundation for those who do pursue teaching.

Sadly, people don't become aware of the problem until they encounter it directly as my friend and PonderInc did. PonderInc gets it now. I wish she were running for school board.

In last week's Urban Tulsa Weekly column, I wrote about how school choice could be used, as it has been in Milwaukee, to attract and retain families with children in the older parts of Tulsa, specifically the area served by Tulsa Public Schools. (I also posted a blog entry earlier in the week about charter schools having the same impact in Cleveland.) I didn't specifically address the Tulsa school board election, except to say this:

The candidate who can credibly promise to support new and expanded charter schools, to oppose the district's suit against the charter school law, and to work against nonsense like the Tulsa Model for School Improvement will have my vote.

In this week's issue of UTW, I go into specifics about the two candidates for TPS Board District 5, the race between Radious Guess and Brian Hunt:

From their websites and their responses to various questionnaires, neither one appears to be driven to fix what's broken with TPS. Do they see the shortcomings of the system's curriculum and teaching methods? If they do, they aren't saying.

Do Guess and Hunt disagree with the school board's misguided effort to get the charter school law declared unconstitutional? They aren't saying anything about that either.

Since I wrote that, Hunt has made some public statements, at a forum and on his website, regarding charter schools and the TPS lawsuit to kill the law. Here is a statement from Hunt's Q&A page:

What is your position on Charter Schools?

From across the country charter schools have had mixed results but have provided some innovative ideas. TPS already sponsors three charter schools and I believe there is a valid place within the public school system for them, recognizing their role as a laboratory for new ideas that can be shared with all schools regarding what works and what does not. I have toured 2 charter schools because I wanted to see them first hand and the people I met with indicated that in the 2 years they had been at each of their schools no one from the board or service center had ever visited or inquired about lessons learned and or best practices in their deregulated environment.

I do not know all the specifics or motivations of why TPS decided to pursue a lawsuit, but as a business person I believe it is not the most productive use of resources to challenge a law that is being implemented by other Oklahoma school districts, like Oklahoma City.

If Ms. Guess has something further to say on the topic of charter schools and wishes to e-mail or phone me, I'll add that information to this entry.

Today through Wednesday at 5 is the annual filing period for the February 5th school board elections in Oklahoma, as well as for the presidential primary to be held the same day. As of 1 p.m., only Barack Obama has filed for the Democrats. John McCain was the first Republican to file, followed by Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, Rudy Giuliani, and Jerry Curry of Haymarket, Va. The state election board will be updating this PDF file with the complete list of those who have filed for the Oklahoma presidential preference primary.

In all of Tulsa County's independent school districts except Tulsa, Office No. 3 is up for election to a five-year term, elected at large by the entire district. The two dependent districts (Keystone and Leonard) will elect a member for Office No. 3 to a three-year term.

In the Tulsa District, board members are elected by election district to four-year terms. Board members for District 5 and District 6 -- Cathy Newsome and Ruth Ann Fate, respectively -- are up for re-election. If for no other reason, they both deserve to be defeated for their hostility to charter schools and to expanded options for Tulsa's school children. It was the Tulsa school board's stonewalling that led to bipartisan state legislation this year providing for a way for charter school organizers to bypass the board.

Even if you don't have school-aged children, if you care about the vitality of the City of Tulsa's central core, you should want to see more opportunities for charter schools. We need to offer families better educational choices if we want them to stay in the city instead of moving to the 'burbs.

Click here for a PDF map of Tulsa County's school districts, also showing the boundaries of Tulsa Schools' seven election districts.

District 5 (Newsome) covers Utica to Yale, 11th to 41st, plus Utica to Harvard between 41st and 51st, Riverside to Utica between 21st and 51st, plus the remainder of precinct 106 south of I-44. District 6 (Fate) is roughly I-244 to 51st, Yale to Memorial, plus 51st to 61st, Sheridan to Memorial, plus the bit of the Tulsa district south and east of 31st & Memorial, with minor adjustments for precinct 56 (in the district) and 92 (out of the district).

Also on the ballot is the Zone 3 seat on the board of Tulsa Technology Center, for a seven year term. Bea Cramer, a retired Tulsa Tech staffer first elected in 1990, is the incumbent. Zone 3 is most of the City of Tulsa southeast of 31st & Yale, plus a bit of Broken Arrow northwest of 101st St and 145th East Ave. Click here for a map of the Tulsa Technology Center board election zones. Tulsa Technology Center serves all of Tulsa County plus a portion of each neighboring county.

If you don't like the school system, throw your hat into the ring.

UPDATE: As of 3:30, Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton have also filed for the presidential primary. Also, Brian Hunt, vice president of CB Richard Ellis/Oklahoma, has announced that he is running for Cathy Newsome's Tulsa school board seat. You may remember him as chairman of the Tulsa Real Estate Coalition, the political wing of the local development industry, during last year's city elections, when TREC excluded mayoral candidate Chris Medlock from a debate. I've e-mailed him some questions and will let you know the answers I receive. Brian has two children in Tulsa Public Schools -- one at Eliot Elementary and one at Zarrow International Elementary.

37 votes

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PR consultant Gary Percefull won re-election to the Tulsa School Board, defeating retired teacher Brenda Barre by a vote of 449 to 412.

It's a very difficult thing to beat an incumbent school board member, and Barre is to be congratulated for coming so close. It means that she and her campaign team (led by Christie Breedlove) were able to raise awareness that a change is needed. Still, it's heartbreaking to come so close -- less than two votes per precinct. You can think of a hundred things that you didn't do, thinking they wouldn't make much of a difference in the outcome; all of those things together might have made all the difference.

Turnout was abysmal, as usual -- less than 5%, I would guess. It's hard to get the media excited about the school board election because only a small portion of the district votes each year. Any given year isn't likely to produce much change -- at most two of Tulsa's seven board members would turn over.

If our Republican legislators really want to increase voter involvement in the public schools and improve the schools' responsiveness to their taxpayers and parents, they should change the school board election laws, so that every seat is up for election every two years statewide.

Barre for board

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This week's Urban Tulsa Weekly column is about the race for a seat on the Tulsa school board. Incumbent Gary Percefull, a PR consultant, is being challenged by Brenda Barre, a retired teacher with nearly 30 years of service at Tulsa's Booker T. Washington High School. The election is next Tuesday, and every voter in Tulsa school board district 1 should make plans to turnout and vote for Brenda Barre.

Blogger Jeff Shaw adds his own testimonial as a comment on the column:

Ms. Barre would make an excellent school board member. I'm confessing, she was my homeroom teacher at BTW, so I am a bit biased. She was a tough as nails educator with a soft heart for what's best for the kids. Since she taught at BTW, she knows all about excellence, which is what TPS needs; not a pack of legal eagles.

(By the way, Jeff's got a lot of new and interesting items on his blog, including an update on the proposed "East End" development. Be sure to click that link. And here's his blog entry endorsing Barre.)

Also in this week's edition, a cover story about Clifton Taulbert, author of Once upon a Time When We Were Colored, The Last Train North, and Eight Habits of the Heart. He'll be speaking on those eight habits this coming Tuesday at Holy Family Cathedral School, 8th and Boulder downtown.

There's some in depth local news coverage as well: A story on the management mess at Gilcrease Museum, interim City Attorney Deirdre Dexter (also cleaning up a mess in that office), and Senator Jim Inhofe and his stance on global warming.

Interesting point from the story about Dexter:

While Dexter was asked to serve as the interim city attorney for up to six months, she's currently in the middle of a process that city officials hope will make the legal department more effective for the people they represent. The first step in the search process for a new city attorney is to have all city department chiefs and city councilmen participate in a client survey.

"We want to know how they think the city attorney's office is doing, what can be done better and their ideas to fix problems," Dexter said. "We also want to be sure that our clients, who are the council and any city department, understand their relationship with the city attorney's office."

Some of the surveys, which were due back in Dexter's office last Friday, have shown a disconnect between the legal department and other city offices, she said.

"We've received good information that confirms some areas where we can better serve our clients," she said. "This survey information will also be helpful for whoever is hired to fill this position and it allows me to take some steps that would make their transition even easier."

It's seemed to me that the City Attorney's office long ago forgot who its client was, so I'm encouraged that this process is underway. (There are some very good individual attorneys in that office, I hasten to add, but I don't want to shorten their careers by praising them.) I was surprised when Mayor Taylor named Deirdre Dexter to this position, but she's an excellent choice.

One of the seven seats on the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education is up for election on February 13. Incumbent Gary Percefull, a marketing consultant, is opposed by Brenda Barre, a retired Tulsa school teacher.

This Thursday at 7 p.m., there will be a candidate forum sponsored by the Southwest Tulsa Chamber of Commerce and Webster High School, in the Webster school auditorium. The address is 1919 W. 40th St.

This is an important race, a truly competitive election, and this is the last forum currently on the schedule. If you want to know where these candidates stand on educational philosophy, redrawing school boundaries, support for charter schools, you should make plans to attend.

The Whirled has endorsed Percefull.

MORE: If you want to understand why charter schools are an important issue in this election, read last week's column by Jamie Pierson, herself a graduate of Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences.

Providence plug

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There's a nice story in Saturday's Edmond Sun about Providence Hall, a Christian classical school serving the Oklahoma City area. The story does a nice job of summarizing the trivium, the central concept of the classical Christian school curriculum:

The Trivium refers to three stages of learning, each of which coincide with the natural learning abilities of children.

“Children in the first phase of learning, from the ages of (about) 4 through 11, have a tremendous ability for observation and memory,” Shipma said.

This stage is called the grammar stage, where students are taught the parts of speech, basics of math including multiplication tables, historical events, science, passages of Scripture from the Bible, and more by means of recitations and drills in addition to songs and chants.

“These are all activities that come naturally and are enjoyable at this age and build a framework of knowledge,” Shipma added....

Children in the second phase of learning, roughly the ages of 12 through 14, start to think abstractly and students begin to judge and critique the things they have learned.

“Quite frankly, they like to argue,” Shipma said.

This stage is called the dialectic or logic stage and fits with this phase of the students’ lives because it emphasizes formal logic, debates and putting together persuasive reports.

“The thinking is if the students are beginning to think abstractly and debate and argue, then let’s teach them to do that correctly and with an eye to the truth,” Shipma added.

Students in the last phase of learning, covering ages 15 through 18, have the desire to express themselves in interesting and creative ways. This stage is called the rhetoric stage.

It emphasizes the preparation and presentation of eloquent and persuasive arguments.

“Students at this point deal with more in-depth world view issues as they synthesize ideas, bringing together all they have learned and presenting it intelligently, coherently and biblically,” Shipma said.

If, after reading the story, you'd like to know where you can find an education like that in the Tulsa area, mark your calendar for February 8th, when Regent Preparatory School will be holding an open house. Call Regent at 663-1002 for details.

(The story from the Sun is via Brandon Dutcher, who serves on the Providence Hall board.)

My Tulsa World was at Monday's Tulsa Public School Board meeting and has video of the debate over the resolution that would stop the approval of new charter schools and the growth of existing charter schools.

Matt Livingood, school board president, brought the resolution to the board. If I understood him correctly, he was arguing that the Charter School Act might be unconstitutional, TPS won't fully implement the terms of the act, but because it might be constitutional after all, TPS won't shut down the existing charter schools either. Barbara Gamble, dean of Dove Science Academy, pointed out the damage to teacher and parent morale that would be caused by passage of Livingood's resolution. Perhaps that was his real intent -- cast more FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) over the future of charter schools, so as to dissuade parents from applying. If he could stimulate a decline in enrollment, it would be easier to shut the school down.

If the school board really wanted to support charter schools, they could pass a resolution assuring the teachers, parents, and students that the TPS board will do everything in its power to keep the charter schools running, regardless of what the courts do with the Charter Schools Act. Harold Roberts, director of development at the Deborah Brown Community School, noted that TPS could seek an opinion from the Attorney General. If the AG were to find constitutional defects with the law, the legislature would step in to cure those defects. TPS could help expedite this process, eliminate the uncertainty, and put charter schools on a firm footing for the future.

Jamie Pierson, my fellow UTW columnist and a graduate of Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences, urged the board to do as much as possible to support charter schools as an asset to the students and to the community, to be proud of what these schools have accomplished.

Instead it was clear that at least four of the seven board members are hostile to charter schools: Livingood and the other three white women -- Cathy Newsome, Ruth Ann Fate, and Bobbie Gray. Oma Jean Copeland and Lana Turner-Addison, the two African-American women on the board, spoke against the resolution. Copeland said that the matter should be left to the legislators and the Supreme Court, that Tulsa's charter schools are excelling, and that it is important to offer parents and students choice. Copeland also called for lifting the moratorium on new charter schools. Turner-Addison called the resolution a "renegade approach," ignoring the existing Charter School Act.

The supporters of the resolution were careful to avoid saying they opposed charter schools, but Cathy Newsome let the mask slip when she said that the Charter School Act discriminates against large districts because only large districts can have charter schools.

Gary Percefull, the only board member who is up for re-election next month, avoided giving his opinions by serving as chairman in lieu of Livingood while the board considered Livingood's proposal. In the end, he did vote against the resolution, but as the last voter he knew that his vote would not have an impact on the outcome, as four members had already voted yes.

The videos are short, well organized into segments, and small, so they won't suck up all your bandwidth. If you've never seen your school board at work, you need to watch these. And don't miss Steve Roemerman's coverage -- he was there too and has summaries and quotes from some of the speakers and the board members.

The Tulsa public school district is fond of calling itself the "District of Choice," but the board and school administration has always been hostile to giving parents in the district the choice of charter schools -- schools that are publicly-funded and tuition-free, but are independently governed. Other than home schooling or private schooling, it's the only opportunity to choose for your child a different educational philosophy than the one-size-fits-all plan crafted by the educrats at 31st and New Haven.

Tomorrow (Monday) night, the Tulsa School Board will consider a resolution protesting the fact that Tulsa is one of only 20 districts in the state allowed by law to have charter schools. More than protesting, the resolution sets out policy for dealing with the existing three charter schools in the district (Deborah Brown Elementary, Dove Science Middle School, and Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences), policy that would stop any further growth and endanger their ongoing viability.

The school board meeting is at 7:00 p.m. on the first floor of the Educational Service Center, just north of 31st Street on New Haven Ave. (between Harvard and Yale).

The author of the resolution believes the law establishing charter schools is an unconstitutional "special law," in much the same way as the early '90s county home rule bill, which allowed only counties between a certain minimum and maximum size to establish its own form of government. The numbers in the county home rule bill were deliberately set so that only Tulsa County qualified, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court ultimately ruled the law unconstitutional for that reason.

The charter school act is not so narrowly drawn as the county home rule law was, but whatever its flaws with regard to being a special law, it's telling that some board member or perhaps the administration is not seeking to mend it to allow charter schools to continue and expand the service they offer to Tulsa's students, but is using the constitutional issue as an excuse to throttle the three existing charter schools.

The proposed resolution, which you can read in full at Tulsa Chigger's blog, would set the following policies toward charter schools:

  • Renewals of charters with existing schools will be for at most three years, with a provision that funding from the school district will end the minute that the charter schools law is found unconstitutional.
  • Charter renewals won't be considered if the request includes plans to expand the number of students served.
  • No new charter applications will be considered.

This will probably pass overwhelmingly, since our school board members see themselves as there to prop up the administration, not to hold the administration accountable on behalf of parents and taxpayers. It shouldn't pass, and people who care about Tulsa, even if you don't care about public education, should be there to protest tomorrow night.

If you're a student or the parent of a student in one of the charter schools, or an alumnus or alumna, you should be there to talk about how you've benefitted from that educational opportunity and to urge the board to allow more children to have that opportunity.

If you're concerned about the City of Tulsa's competitiveness with its suburbs, you should be there to explain how important the existence and expansion of charter schools are to keeping young families in the district. Charter schools allow parents and students to experience the same kind of administrative responsiveness and parental participation in school policy that they would enjoy in the suburbs.

If you're concerned about the vitality of inner city neighborhoods, you should be there for the same reason. I know many couples who started out in midtown, but as their first child approached school age, they stayed in the city of Tulsa, but moved into the Jenks or Union school district and left midtown behind. They hate to leave behind the shaded streets and the classic homes, but their children's education comes first.

For that matter, school board members and administrators and teachers should realize that the regular schools benefit from charter schools. Charter schools -- and more of them -- will keep people from moving out of the district, which means the homes are more valuable, which means higher property tax collections from homes. It also means that businesses catering to these families stay in the district, and that helps property tax collections as well. Then, too, more parents and grandparents who are happy with the school district will be more likely to help the passage of future bond issues. Not every parent wants their child in a school where, for example, the French class, by design, avoids actual instruction in French.

Voters in Board District 1 should pay special attention to how your board member, Gary Percefull, votes on this proposal. Percefull's term expires this year, and he has drawn an opponent in the February 13 election, and his position on charter schools ought to be an issue in this race. (Here's a PDF map showing election district boundaries. And here's a page listing the names of the board members. There's an email link for each one.)

For the area within the Tulsa Public School district to thrive, it needs to become truly the District of Choice. The proposed resolution would turn it into the District of Hobson's Choice.

Just when you thought elections were over.... The filing period for Oklahoma K-12 school boards and vo-tech school boards runs from Monday, December 4, through Wednesday, December 6. School board seats in Oklahoma run for three, four, or five years, depending on the size of the district, with different seats coming up for election each year.

Here's the official press release from the Tulsa County Election Board (with the list of offices reformatted for the web):

Candidates for the Board of Education in 15 Tulsa County School Districts will file Declarations of Candidacy beginning at 8 a.m. Monday, December 4. Gene Pace, Secretary of the Tulsa County Election Board, said the filing period will end at 5 p.m. Wednesday, December 6.

Candidates for the Board of Education in Tulsa Technology Center District No. 18 also will file their Declarations of Candidacy during this same time period.

Board of Education positions at stake will be filled at the Annual School Election scheduled February 13, 2007. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the total votes cast in this election, the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes will meet in a second election on Tuesday, April 3.

Offices for which Declarations of Candidacy will be accepted at the Tulsa County Election Board office include the following:

ISD-1Tulsa DistrictElection District 14 yr term
ISD-2Sand Springs DistrictOffice No. 25 yr term
ISD-3Broken Arrow DistrictOffice No. 25 yr term
ISD-4Bixby DistrictOffice No. 25 yr term
ISD-5Jenks DistrictOffice No. 25 yr term
ISD-6Collinsville DistrictOffice No. 25 yr term
ISD-7Skiatook DistrictOffice No. 25 yr term
ISD-8Sperry DistrictOffice No. 25 yr term
ISD-9Union DistrictOffice No. 25 yr term
ISD-10Berryhill DistrictOffice No. 25 yr term
ISD-11Owasso DistrictOffice No. 25 yr term
ISD-13Glenpool DistrictOffice No. 25 yr term
ISD-14Liberty DistrictOffice No. 25 yr term
C-15Keystone Elementary DistrictOffice No. 23 yr term
C-18Leonard Elementary DistrictOffice No. 23 yr term
Tulsa Technology Center District No.18Zone 67 yr term
- 30 -

Gary Percefull is the incumbent board member for Tulsa District 1. According to the school board's website, "schools in Mr. Percefull's election district include Addams, Chouteau, Emerson, Eugene Field, Lee, Park, Remington, Robertson, Roosevelt and Mark Twain elementary schools; Clinton and Madison middle schools; and Central and Webster high schools." That's Tulsa west of the river and west of downtown, plus downtown, Brady Heights, and the area between 11th and 21st, Utica and the Arkansas River. (Here's a PDF map showing the election district boundaries.)

Percefull was elected to an open seat in 2003, defeating Loyce Manning by 930 to 310 votes. Think about that -- if you're a credible candidate and run an organized campaign, it doesn't take much to win.

In 2005, turnout in Election District 2 was only 723 of the 17,884 registered voters -- 4 percent. Also in 2005, Election District 3 drew 887 voters in the primary for an open seat, and 2,106 in the April runoff.

The participation is a little better in the suburbs, but not by much. In 2005, a highly publicized Union School Board open-seat race drew 1,131 voters in the primary and less than 1,600 runoff voters.

(Notice that the Tulsa Whirled never questions the legitimacy of school board elections, even though the turnout is many times smaller than that for a similarly-sized City Council district?)

School board elections are governed by 70 O. S. 5-107A.

Local political activists Gregory and Susan Hill keep close track of elections, and they say that "in 2006, 17 school board elections were scheduled [in Tulsa County], but only 5 elections actually were conducted.... In 2005, 17 elections were scheduled, but only 7 elections actually were conducted." The other elections didn't happen because only one candidate filed.

Some might say these elections don't draw candidates because residents are content with the public school system. I think it's more likely that the filing period catches potential candidates by surprise, coming as it does during the busy run-up to Christmas.

We need to take school board elections as seriously as races for City Council or state legislature. In particular, the Tulsa board needs at least one member who is a staunch supporter of charter schools. Right now, Tulsa has only three charter schools -- one elementary, one middle, and one high school -- and the current board is hostile to allowing any more to open. Oklahoma City has more than 10. Charter schools make educational choice accessible to families who cannot afford private school tuition. Tulsa also needs board members who see their role as accountability, not cheerleading for the administration.

Wherever you live in Oklahoma, find out who your school board member is and think about whether you or someone you know could do a better job than the incumbent. If you're a reformer who decides to run, there are plenty of knowledgable and experienced campaign volunteers who would be glad to help you.

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:

Michael,

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. Gregorys 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 isnt 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 Districts 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 Tulsas 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 Harms 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.

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.)

Why he's voting no

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Mike Mansur, who blogs at meanderingaphorisms.blogspot.com, writes regarding tomorrow's school bond election:

I got into an argument this past weekend with a gentleman who was furious that I would vote against the proposed school bond election that is being held tomorrow. He said I was dooming those children to a life of poverty.

You can read his response here.

I just had a look at the Tulsa Public Schools bond issue, which will be on the ballot this Tuesday.

There will be four propositions on the ballot, with names that suggest coherent groupings: building improvements ($116.4 million); library books, library materials, and building additions ($9.7 million); textbooks, classroom learning materials, and technology ($29.6 million); transportation ($6.5 million). That's a grand total of $162.2 million, or about $1,000 per student per year over the next four years. That money is over and above the operating budget of approximately $6,000 per year per regular student and $13,000 per year per special education student.

When you look at the details, they've made it very difficult for taxpayers to prioritize one kind of spending over another. Included in the building improvements package is money for artificial turf and other stadium improvements and money for renovating all middle school pools. The library and classroom packages combine one-time expenditures for capital improvements -- building additional library space -- with money for recurring operating expenses, like licenses for online research services.

Once upon a time, school bond issues were for building new school buildings or major renovations on existing buildings -- things with lifespans measured in decades. For the last 10 years or so, schools have been allowed to use bond money to fund textbooks, software, computers, and other equipment with a short lifespan, things that really belong to the operating budget.

It is important to maintain what we have and to expand facilities where it's needed, but it would be considerate of the school board to distinguish between absolute necessities and "nice to haves" when they come to us for funding.

Tulsa Chiggers has some analysis of the report that dozens of schools in Tulsa have made the federal "needs improvement" list. 38 schools within the Tulsa district are on the list, including seven of Tulsa Public Schools' nine high schools made the list, and an eighth high school (Memorial) is likely to make the list next year. If your child's school is on the "needs improvement" list, the school district is required to offer you the choice to transfer your child to any other school in the district, but that isn't much of a choice if nearly every other school in the district is on the same list.

The entry on Tulsa Chiggers has links to the report for Tulsa Public Schools. The gateway to reports for every district in Oklahoma is here.

"Red Bug" writes that it's time to drain the swamp at Tulsa Public Schools. It's my impression that TPS, still the largest single district in the state, is bound up in bureaucracy and too ready to adopt the latest educratic fad. The board seems to believe that its job is to act as cheerleaders for the administration, rather than as watchdogs. The students of the district would benefit from more charter school opportunities, but the district administration and board have resisted charter schools every step of the way.

To get a flavor for TPS's current educational philosophy, read this entry from October 2003, in which a TPS French teacher explains to a parent why, a month into the school year, the class has not yet learned any actual French. Of the teacher's email, I wrote: "This isn't the raving of some rogue teacher, imposing her own nutty ideas on her defenseless pupils, but a teacher trying to do what her school district has trained and instructed her to do. This is the 'Tulsa Model for School Improvement.'"

TPS is a significant obstacle to new development in north, west, and east Tulsa, and it's an obstacle to keeping families with children in midtown. If our city leaders are concerned about maintaining and growing the tax base in the City of Tulsa, they should work with our state legislators to expand school choice for children in the Tulsa district. The rest of us, the voters in the Tulsa district, need to start recruiting and preparing candidates to run for school board, candidates who will advocate for charter schools and for traditional, successful approaches to teaching. The filing period is in December.

In the meantime, keep an eye on Tulsa Chiggers for coverage of Tulsa Public Schools.

The recall campaign is over but yard signs are still sprouting up around midtown Tulsa. The campaign is not aimed at the general electorate, but at the board of Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) and the committee putting together the next school bond issue, slated for the November ballot.

A group of parents of Edison High School students are pushing for the inclusion in that bond issue of a $1.3 million "lightweight" football stadium for the Edison campus. Currently, Edison uses LaFortune Stadium on the Memorial High School campus as its home field. Memorial, Washington, East Central, Webster, and TSSC (formerly McLain) each have a football stadium on campus, and all but TSSC share the field with one other high school. In the past, TPS also used Skelly Stadium as a home field, and played home games on both Thursday and Friday nights. (Perhaps they still do, but I couldn't find a schedule from last fall to verify that.)

Proponents of a stadium for Edison have put together a detail-rich website, advertised on the yard signs. (I commend them for making the signs' type big enough to read while passing at 35 MPH.) They argue that the stadium can be funded without raising taxes by reallocating funds targeted for upgrading existing stadiums.

As impressed as I am by the website (which focuses on detail rather than flash), I am unmoved by their arguments. This is a telling passage:

An interesting fact is that TPS and the bond development committee have not once argued that this stadium is unnecessary because it would not benefit the students. They must clearly understand the benefits, but choose not to act on behalf of Edison students by funding this project. Instead they continue to channel much needed funding away from schools in need, toward schools which already have established championship athletic programs.

Notice that they contrast "need" with "already have established championship athletic programs." I have a hard time seeing the creation of a championship athletic program as a need.

Another page presents Google satellite images of the existing high school sports complexes. The writer observes that other sports facilities at schools with football stadiums are of higher quality and better maintained than equivalent facilities at the "have not" schools and implies that the presence of a football stadium would improve the general athletic situation at Edison.

I'm not inclined to put any of the upcoming bond issue towards athletics. Repairing or renovating academic facilities ought to be the highest priority. My mother was a kindergarten teacher at Catoosa Elementary School for 28 years, and I can remember her frustration when the school board put a lighted baseball field and a new high school gym ahead of fixing the roof and installing air conditioning for the WPA-era elementary school.

If you're going to spend bond money on athletics, it would make more sense to fund modernization and improvements to existing stadiums rather than build another facility that will require maintenance and, eventually, modernization and improvements.

The bond development committee should keep this in mind as it considers including an Edison stadium in the bond package: Tulsa's taxpayers sent a strong signal last December, when they rejected the library bond issue, that they aren't interested in paying for "wants" right now. If a stadium is included, it could cause the defeat of that part of the package. The bond issue will be split into several different ballot items, and the committee should be careful to separate academic projects from athletic projects, and perhaps put an Edison stadium on its own ballot item.

And before someone complains that East Central got a stadium in the last bond package, it should be remembered that the residents of the old East Central school district were promised a stadium decades ago (1960s?) when the district was annexed into the Tulsa district.

Even if the stadium is included in the bond package, building a stadium on the proposed site may require a zoning change, a special exception, or a variance to permit the stadium and to meet parking requirements, and there's no guarantee that the school district will get the necessary approvals.

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