Late last month Donna Anderson, superintendent of Bennington Public Schools in Bryan County, said she plans to run for the job of state schools superintendent.
Anderson, who has spent 19 years in the education field, said she plans to focus on “increased accountability, assessment reform and financial stability for Oklahoma’s public schools.”
Her announcement also makes it clear she’s no fan of some of the changes Superintendent Janet Barresi has backed that have proven to be successful elsewhere.
“The methods currently being promoted have no research-based success,” Anderson said. “We do not need to model education after any other state. We need to be Oklahomans who do the hard work to find our path to success, not run frantically toward unproven methods because of a political agenda.”
With nearly two years to go before the election, this race figures to get interesting.
The Oklahoma City School Board this week denied applications from two charter schools. Why? That’s anyone’s guess.
The district’s legal counsel, Tammy Carter, gave board members a “confidential memorandum” spelling out problems with the charter school applications. She later rejected The Oklahoman’s open records request to see the memo.Carter contends that because the memo was from her to the board, the documents are shielded by attorney-client privilege.
According to the law, that privilege applies only if documents deal with pending litigation where disclosure “will seriously impair the ability of the public officer or agency to process the claim or conduct a pending investigation, litigation or proceeding in the public interest.”
How does that apply in this case? It doesn’t. As Oklahoma State University professor and open records expert Joey Senat put it: “The school district’s playing games with the Open Records Act.”
It’s just the latest in a long line of cases where public bodies in Oklahoma have skirted, often intentionally, the state’s open records and open meetings laws. Shameful.
We wrote in The Oklahoman this week about state Sen. Earl Garrison’s bill to give high school seniors a way around end-of-instruction exams. The bill would allow seniors to graduate if they make a composite score of 18 on the ACT.
A news release by Garrison, D-Muskogee, said he had spoken to several superintendents in his district and they want a composite ACT score of just 14 to be allowed to replace EOI tests.
“Garrison said he agrees with the superintendents and will share their concerns when the bill is considered in committee,” the news release said.
He agrees? A 14 on the ACT won’t get students into any of the state’s four-year colleges, and is well below the statewide average of 20.7. Garrison should have thanked the superintendents for their input, and then dismissed it.
If he truly agrees they’re on to something, it gives an idea of what his ultimate goal really is.
A free and open press. What a pain in the neck that can be.
Just ask officials at Oklahoma State University, who are hacked off that newspapers are wondering why the school didn’t notify Stillwater police after students reported they had been assaulted by another student. OSU says a federal privacy law prohibits the release of names or information about victims and witnesses in the case, and that university officials encouraged the alleged victims to contact police.
“The press has tried to indicate we tried to hide something,” said Gary Clark, OSU’s general counsel. “It’s not our place to try to force them to do something they don’t want to do in this regard.”
OSU could have given the identity of the suspect to police after wrapping up student conduct hearings involving the alleged perpetrator, but Clark said officials didn’t think that would have been useful. “What would the police be able to do with that information? Nothing, as far as I can tell,” he said.
Stillwater police Capt. Randy Dickerson said he wished his office had been contacted sooner because delays can hurt investigations. The first assault allegedly occurred Nov. 3. Police didn’t learn of it until last week — after being asked about it by a reporter with OSU’s student newspaper.
And now OSU President Burns Hargis has requested an inquiry into the handling of this case.
That danged media, always stirring up trouble.
The Oklahoma City School Board is losing an excellent member in Lyn Watson, who chose not to run for a second four-year term. Watson was professional and passionate about improving the lot of Oklahoma City’s public school students.
For a while it looked as though no one would run for her District 1 seat, but on the final day of the filing period, three people signed up. In advance of that, Watson said she had approached several people about running, “and for many people it’s a time issue and a commitment, and I understand that.”
Indeed work on a school board is time consuming and offers the potential for plenty of headaches for little or no pay. But the job is vitally important. That’s especially true for the Oklahoma City board, which oversees a district full of challenges.
Best of times: The Tulsa University Golden Hurricane will play Saturday for the Conference USA football title, capping a 9-3 season.
Worst of times: TU’s athletic director may not be at the game.
Ross Parmley was suspended Tuesday just hours after joining Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett in a celebration of the football team’s success. The FBI said Parmley is an “admitted gambler” involved with an Oklahoma City bookie now under investigation.
Parmley has been AD for less than a year — much longer than the 74 days TU President Geoffrey Orsak served before getting fired in September for undisclosed reasons.
It’s been a rough year for TU’s administration, but the team deserves plaudits for its success on the field. At least one Oklahoma university has a shot at conference football championship this year.
In 2010, Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly rejected State Question 744, which would have required education funding to increase by more than $1 billion over several years. This year, voters in five states — Arizona, Missouri, South Dakota, Oregon and California — face similar measures that involve tax increases to boost education spending.
The measures range from a sales tax hike in Arizona to income tax increases in California. At least those ballot measures are transparent about who will pay the price. Oklahoma’s SQ 744 provided no such details. The proposed massive infusion of money would have been the largest unfunded mandate in Oklahoma history.
Sadly, those pushing for higher education funding in Oklahoma — such as the group “49th is Not OK” — continue to duck that issue. They refuse to say what taxes they’d raise or what programs they’d cut to boost K-12 funding, which already gets 34 percent of all state appropriations.
State Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, plans to author a “parent trigger” law in Oklahoma. Under that plan, if 51 percent of local parents sign a petition to intervene in a chronically low-performing school, they could replace staff or convert the school to a charter school.
There are pros and cons to the proposal, but one attack trotted out by opponents doesn’t hold water.
Melissa Abdo, a parent coordinator with the Tulsa Area Parent Legislative Action Committee, argues that school boards are elected by all local citizens and the trigger law would give outsized influence to just a handful.
In reality, turnout for school board elections is often abysmal. That’s not necessarily the fault of the schools, but a petition with 51 percent participation would dramatically exceed turnout for most school board elections and send a clear message from voters.
The University of Oklahoma, indeed the state of Oklahoma, lost a great teacher Saturday with the passing of professor J. Rufus Fears.
Fears, 67, was a classics professor at OU, where he spent 22 years including a stint as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. OU President David Boren said flatly: “Rufus Fears was one of the greatest teachers in the history of our state.”
Fears was a popular lecturer and writer, usually tying the lessons of the past to the politics of today. In an op-ed in The Oklahoman in January, he cited the Federalist Papers, the Magna Carta and even Pericles in explaining the power of the purse held by the U.S. House of Representatives.
He was a distinguished fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank. “There are very few people who have done more for the cause of liberty or more to preserve the history of our great republic,” said Dr. David R. Brown, OCPA’s founding chairman.
Fears will be missed, on campus and off.