Round 2-The Un-Rally Rally

  
So, does anyone remember this? I do!! We shut the school down both years so that my entire staff could attend. Contingency ha!  I’m, actually, in there somewhere. I think I was rocking a sweater that day and it got a little toasty. 

It was amazing to see passionate educators from across this great state come together at OUR Capitol. I mean, it is the “people’s house” or that’s what Governor Fallin keeps referring to it as. Has anyone noticed that she usually says this after asking the legislature for more money to continue the fixer upper project? And if it is my house then I call dibs on Speaker of the House Hickman’s office! Last time I was in there it was pretty plush and roomy compared to some of the other closet sized offices. 

I post this picture because of the opportunity for an “un-rally rally.” Now as wonderful and amazing that the two previous rallies were and they were, I believe the time is perfect for an un-rally. No parking, getting on a bus at Remington Park, then standing and listening to pro-Oklahoma education speakers. No..no…no! I’m talking about showing up in droves for some very important goings on at the Capitol, OUR HOUSE, tomorrow! I’ve seen it all over social media…call or email your legislators over consolidation, vouchers, and such. Instead of calling or emailing, we should just all show up to the un-rally! Most schools are out tomorrow in observance of President’s Day, so us overpaid, no good, budget sucking Superintendents will get a break from the waaa-bags at the DOK calling for our jobs because we had the audacity to fight for our kids.

Let me lay out some agenda items for you: 

  • Take a tour of OUR HOUSE as soon as you get there to familiarize yourself with the the lay of the land. It’s as confusing as St. Francis hospital in Tulsa. Make sure to ask to see Representative Denney’s office and check if any ALEC or OCPA cronies are lurking. 
  • It’s going to be a quick tour as the Senate on Education Committee gets going at 9:00 a.m. in room 535. Plus, Governor Fallin keeps alluding to the fact that is smells of dookie, as my 2-year old calls it. So you might want to skip the tour all together, but still go say hi to Representative Denney. I’m sure she’ll love it.
  • If you come with a group make sure half of them get over to Room 412C for the 10:30 a.m. showing of Bad Educational Policy directed by Representative Lee Denney and produced by ALEC. It’s going to be a doozy! K-8 consolidation on the docket. I’m sure the overflow room will be standing room only. They probably should move this one to The ‘Peake. 
  • You’ll have a bit of a break before the grand finale. This might be a great time to grab some grub or stop by and thank those legislators who, actually, support public education. However, if you choose the grub route, might I suggest Jamil’s Steakhouse. It’s so good!
  • Hustle back to the Capitol to hear just how great vouchers are and school choice, even though we are a state of school choice. Once again in Room 412C at 3 p.m. is where Representative Nelson will present his voucher nugget. Six of the committee members co-authored this bill. SIX!! Also, it may get to the point that the stinch from the bill and the building may get confusing, so, please, try to remain focused. 
  • Then head home with a smile knowing that you attended the First Annual Un-rally for Education.

Now, I’d love to sit here and say that all the calls and emails will be enough to get these horrible pieces of junk legislation killed in committee and I hope that it will be enough.  However, it really just may take an un-rally to get the lawmakers to see how truly passionate we Oklahoma educators can be. 

I’m in!!!! When’s Spring Break?!?!

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Round 1-Community Meeting

What happens when you start talking about shutting down dependent schools by FORCING them to consolidate or annex with a neighboring independent school district? You poked the bear, woke the sleeping giant, unleashed the Kraken, made mama unhappy(we all know what happens if mama ain’t happy)…I think you get my point. I’ll get to the community meeting in a bit but first let me start with THE meeting.  

So, imagine authoring a bill that will close all dependent, PK-6 & PK-8, schools throughout the state of Oklahoma. Then, imagine, agreeing to sit down with one of those Superintendents to discuss the bill, only to find six others have been invited to the party including yours truly. This is, exactly, what happened to President Pro Temp Senator Brian Bingman. If your keeping score at home that’s the good guys 7 and the not so good guys 1. I believe that Senator Bingman was caught off guard a bit that the meeting had grown but to his credit he was a trooper and forged ahead. Each Superintendent talked about the importance of their, respective, districts to the community and the detriment that his bill will be to these communities and more importantly, the students. There were lots of numbers, research, discussion, passion, what-ifs, political rhetoric, assurances, coffee, and doughnuts. I don’t know what it is about Daylight Doughnuts that makes them so good but I just dance a jig when I see that yellow and blue box. 

Amongst all of this, one word kept popping up: efficiency. Schools need to be efficient with their funds. State leaders need to make sure that funds are being efficiently used when it comes to the record amount of funding common education receives. Now, I don’t know about any other #oklaed Superintendents but the state legislature has forced me to be as efficient as possible with the funding that my school receives.  The fluff has been eliminated, then it was trimmed, then eliminated again, then trimmed even more. We can’t get any more efficient! We are in survival mode! 

I did manage to pose a question to Senator Bingman that went something like this: Why dependent school districts? Why not all districts? Now, I can’t quote his response but I can get in the ballpark. Basically, because we’re a small number of districts that won’t have the umph to get much accomplished at the Capitol….AND…because we are underperforming and ineffective as Governor Fallin so triumphantly stated in her SOTS address. Ummmm….that didn’t sit too well with me.

The back and forth lasted about an hour. After Senator Bingman made his exit, the rest of us discussed strategies moving forward and recapped the meeting.  A couple of my counterparts thought it went well and felt better after meeting with him. I did not get that warm and fuzzy feeling. In fact, I’m even more convinced that we, dependent, schools will be in for an epic battle.

This brings me to The Community Meeting.

Held on the campus of Lone Star Public School in the amazing Lone Star Event Center, I’d say 400-500 parents, students, teachers, administrators, concerned community members, media, and a legislator sat comfortably in an amazing facility that would rival some class A, 2A, and even 3A facilities. By the way, you read that correctly…a legislator, as in one. Senator Bingman was invited but as he told us earlier in the morning, there was no way he was going to listen to those that might have a mob mentality. Other local legislators were invited as well but had “scheduling” conflicts. 

It was an amazing experience! Two of my wonderful teachers were interviewed by the Burt Mummolo from Channel 8 news in Tulsa. Shout out to Ashley and Stephanie! I even got some air time with News on 6, being interviewed by Katiera Winfrey. My wife and I normally watch News on 6 so we are familiar with Ms. Winfrey so that was pretty cool. Patrons representing Anderson, Allen Bowden, Cleora, Pretty Water, Lone Star, Osage, Keystone, Justus Tiawah, Peggs, among others filled that event center with stories of passion and love for their respective school districts. All these stories fell on the ears of Representative Mark McCullough from District 30 and according to his bio an attorney in Sapulpa. 

After brief introductions, the panel got three minutes to talk about SB 1382 and the implications that it would have on dependent schools. You know this blog entry is already lengthy so let me touch on some highlights:

  • Representative McCullough is against SB 1382 in its current form. In its current form!!!!! That’s a key phrase.
  • Representative McCullogh is against vouchers but for Education Savings Accounts….I’ll wait while you make sense of that one….I can’t make this stuff up.
  • I can neither confirm nor deny firing up Representative McCullough about education funding to where he may have tossed the microphone but quickly picked it back up and apologized for acting unprofessional. If you try to spin the truth about the record amount of funding going to common education then I may OR may not call you on it in a public forum. Again….I can neither confirm nor deny this happened 😉

There were some amazing stories and thought provoking questions. My hat is off to Representative McCullough! He sat there and took the heat on behalf of the Republican Party, Senator Bingman, and Governor Mary Fallin. He could’ve easily had a “scheduling” conflict but chose to show up and listen.

I believe Round 1 was a huge success, but this is a 10 round bout(think Rocky II but not Rocky IV). We have lots of work to do to get the consolidation bills shut down before they ever start up. If that means ruffling some feathers of legislators then so be it, besides, it is you who poked the bear.

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5

    So I was challenged to the 1,2,3,4,5 by fellow edublogger BlueCerealEducation. Dude is an amazing blogger so if you haven’t checked him out you can here randomteacherthoughts.wordpress.com, thank you for the challenge and I will do my best.

    What has been your ONE biggest struggle during this school year?

    1.  I think the biggest struggle for me has been dealing with the uncertainties of school finance.  Now, I don’t have problems setting a conservative budget and staying within that budget, it’s been the way that the Oklahoma legislature has been fiscally irresponsible, therefore, core services take cut after cut. Luckily, we received an increase in our mid-term adjustment so we’ve been able to absorb some of this garbage.

    Share TWO accomplishments that you are proud of from this school year.

    1.  The first accomplishment that I’m tremendously proud of is watching my 4-year old’s excitement to go to school. Now we’ve had our rough days and he tends to wonder why we have to go EVERYday but it’s just been a joy to hear him talk about what he’s learned.

    2. I’m extremely proud of how my teachers and staff have handled a change in leadership. Everyone of them has been gracious and accepting of a few of the changes that needed to be made.  Of course, to get to where we need to be, there must be more growth but nothing tells me differently that they, too, will accept this with grace.

    What are THREE things that you wish to accomplish before the end of the school year?

    1.  To have a hand in getting every consolidation bill killed.

    2.  Making sure that every staff member, now, has a job next year.

    3.  Become more involved in the #oklaed chats on Sunday nights.

    Give FOUR reasons why you remain in education in today’s rough culture.

    1.  My students!

    2.  My staff!

    3.  My parents!

    4.  My school rocks!

    Which FIVE people do you hope will take the challenge of answering these questions?

    1. Rob Miller-I really like reading his stuff.

    2. Jason James-Rural Superintendent that holds nothing back.

    3. Tyler Bridges-He is the man!

    4. Kas Nelson-She needs to blog more.

    5. Jaime Deason-She’s one of my own.

    What the consolidation is going on?

    On Monday, February 1st,  a new legislative session begins and it should be a doozy! Revenue failures, budget cuts, vouchers, new academic state standards, TLE, RSA, administrative costs, consolidation, the list goes on and on.  The fact that I’m one of the overpaid state budget sucking Superintendents and at a dependent(PK-8) school that right there is a double whammy! 

      
    Currently, I’ve researched three bills that have been filed that deals with consolidation. One is HB 2824 filed by Representative Lee Denney, I’m not going to go into the specifics about this one but let’s just say that part of the criteria for exemption is a B- or above on the A-F report card that both researchers at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University have found to be invalid and an unreliable measuring tool. The state board of education didn’t even want to release the grades but had to because of state statute. Why does this stupid, idiotic report card keep reering its ugly head?  This wonderful piece of legislation is only for us PK-8 schools so you PK-12ers out there can rest easy on this bad boy. 

    The second bill is SB 1384 authored by Senator Ford and co-authored by Senator Loveless. Two champions of small schools in Oklahoma. This one deals with consolidation of all schools, dependent and independent, so perk up my PK-12 counterparts. Instead of a flat number of schools, Ford and Loveless, uses the Average Daily Membership or ADM calculation. So, if your ADM is under 100 you will be, voluntarily, consolidated by July 1, 2018. Under 250, July 1, 2019 and finally if your ADM is under 500 then you have until July 1, 2020. Now, in order to fall under one these categories it must happen two years in a row. There are some exemptions that goes along with this bill that instructs the State Board of Education to consider to delay consolidation: compelling interest and achieving exemplary educational attainment. I wonder if the fact that my students love the school, their parents love the school, my staff loves the school, and the community loves the school is compelling enough? I highly doubt it. Senator Ford has, basically, said that bigger the school, better the education. Now, no doubt in my mind that there are some amazing large school districts out there and the educational opportunities are greater than at a small school. However, I’ve taught at a large district earlier in my career and sometimes bigger doesn’t mean better. I believe this one will have some teeth as Senator Ford is the chair on the Senate Education Committee.

    This brings me to SB 1382 authored by Senator Brian Bingman. The head cheese, the top dog, the President Pro Tempore in the Senate. Again, this is only for us dependent schools. So, it appears that there’s been some type of misunderstanding on this one according to Bingman as he was quoted in the Tulsa World, ” I’m not looking to close any schools,” Bingman said. “We are just talking about administration-payroll, information technology, things that can be done from a central district.” My first question is: who is the we? Senate leadership? Senate and House leadership? Governor Fallin? Conspiracy theory!! Ok…ok…I might be reaching with that one. So, let’s dive into this bill, as it’s the one that I believe will have the most effort put behind it to pass. 

    • OSDE publish a list of all dependent and elementary schools.
    • Any school on the list may voluntarily consolidate with or be annexed to another school.
    • Submit a petition for approval to the state board.
    • State board will finalize the terms of the consolidation or annexation.
    • A district that does not submit a petition to voluntarily consolidate or annex shall be consolidated or annexed by the state board of education. People this is forced consolidation at its finest!

    SB 1382 finishes up with how property, equipment, staff, etc are going to be split up. Not one mention on consolidating administration and office staff. So, go on Senator Bingman and tell the great people of Oklahoma that this isn’t about closing schools but you and I both know that’s, EXACTLY, what it’s about. 

    My first job in education was at an amazing small school, Pond Creek-Hunter, near Enid. It’s a consolidated school though I’m not sure on the history of when and how it came about, however, I do know this about the situation. The school and the kids are all at Pond Creek, while what’s left of the Hunter school is a ghost town. If SB 1382 passes and becomes law then what happened to Hunter will happen to about 100 dependent and elementary schools in Oklahoma. Did anyone at the Capitol ever stop to think that a dependant school student chooses a smaller school setting because that’s the environment where he/she might thrive? Of course not because it makes sense and when has our legislature ever let sense stand in their way of punishing public education. It just floors me that we have Senators and Representatives making decisions on education when they have no clue what’s best for education. 

    So….buckle up independent and dependent schools, the legislative session is here and it’s going to be a doozy.

      Cut Me Some Slack…

      Over the past few months I’ve been reading blog posts from other Oklahoma educators, who have an unwavering passion for all things education and became inspired to start my own blog. If you haven’t read the blogs by Rob Miller, Jason James, among others then you are missing out. I love the fact that they don’t mix words and tell how it really is in Oklahoma education.

      Let’s start with the name oklaedfam. Well, I come from a family of Oklahoma educators, except one sister who was smart enough to teach her entire career thus far in Texas. She has almost 20 years experience with a Master’s. Need I say more? Back to those of us that stayed in Oklahoma. My dad was a coach, teacher, counselor, and principal throughout Oklahoma before passing away in 2001. No doubt he would be appalled by the current state of education. He was passionate about kids and his love for students, I believe, was unmatched. In a world where every researcher talks about how important relationship building is, he was a pioneer. His players/students reciprocated that love for him in amazing ways. I believe, had he asked, they would’ve run through a wall for him. My mom held about every support staff position possible throughout every district we were at. I believe there are some western Oklahoma teachers that still wish she was their custodian. She took that much pride in her work. These are thankless jobs but it didn’t matter to her, it was for the kids.

      I’m the youngest of five with four of us going into the family business. I’ve mentioned my sister in the above paragraph. One of my other sisters is a teacher assistant in western Oklahoma. Again, a thankless job though I know she loves what she does.  My brother and I followed in my fathers’ footsteps and both became coaches, mainly football and track. He continues this today out in the panhandle, as I’ve entered into the administrative side.  He’s always been and will be a far superior coach than me. I was just lucky.

      To some that may be plenty of educators in the family but then I go and marry the most amazing Special Education teacher in the state of Oklahoma. Talk about a tough job. She is an amazing teacher! Her passion for her kids is amazing. She goes far above and beyond the call of duty.  

      So….there explains oklaedfam. I doubt very seriously that what I have to say in this blog will inspire or motivate but maybe will strike a chord in people concerning education. I’ll blog as much as I can but a 4-year and a 2-year old(who’s battling an upper respitory infection) presents wonderful challenges…ones I don’t plan on missing. 

      Keep inspiring, keep fighting, and most of all keep loving our kids. They are worth it and deserve it!