Tulsa Education: January 2007 Archives

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.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Education category from January 2007.

Tulsa Education: December 2006 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Education: February 2007 is the next archive.

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



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