Tulsa Education: February 2006 Archives

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

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

Here is Bruce Niemi's response, in full:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope that this answers some of your concerns

Bruce Niemi

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

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.)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Education category from February 2006.

Tulsa Education: November 2005 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Education: December 2006 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]