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Morning Bell: Missing Oklahoma's school funding deadline

Good Friday morning. I'm in New Orleans at the Education Writers Association's Covering Education for Character and Citizenship seminar. When I left early Thursday morning, around 3 a.m., my Uber driver was an Oklahoma City school teacher who was getting in some driving shifts before the start of another school day. 

On the ride to the airport I spoke with him about working a second job and what he thought about last week's defeat of a bill that would have funded a $5,000 teacher pay raise. 

A teacher pay increase proposal failed to get the necessary votes in the state House earlier this week. 

Ed funding deadline

Oklahoma law requires the Legislature fully fund education by April 1 each year, but that deadline has only been met once. This year, lawmakers could do away with the requirement altogether.

State Rep. Earl Sears, a retired public school administrator and former chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, filed House Bill 3152. The bill, which repeals the deadline, cleared committee on Wednesday with a 10-2 vote.

The Oklahoman's Dale Denwalt has more

OKCPS hires consultant to help with superintendent search 

The Oklahoma City School Board voted this week to hire a consultant to help with the search for a new leader.

The Oklahoma State School Boards Association will work with the board to establish a search timeline, advertise the vacancy nationally, respond to inquiries about the opening and schedule interviews with finalists, among other services.

The total cost of the superintendent search will not exceed $30,000 without board approval, according to a contract signed Monday by board Chairwoman Paula Lewis.

Panel members voted on the agreement with Lora and the consulting contract after meeting behind closed doors for about an hour Monday night. Lewis said the association and a four-member board committee — whose members she will appoint — will work together on the recruitment and hiring process starting as soon as next week.

Details of the separation agreement, which had yet to be signed by Lora, were not immediately available Tuesday, a district spokeswoman said.

Lora resigned Jan. 30 after 18 months on the job. Her last day was Feb. 1. Rebecca Kaye is acting superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Outgoing board member honored

The OKCPS board also adopted a resolution this week honoring Ron Millican, who served two four-year terms as the panel's District 7 representative. Monday night's meeting was the last for Millican, who did not seek a third term.

Jace Kirk, who ran unopposed, will succeed Millican and represent 10 schools in south Oklahoma City.

District responds to threat 

On Thursday morning, Western Heights Public Schools announced that district officials learned of a threat being made against one of its schools. Officials say the threat was made by a student who is not in school at the moment. (KFOR)

“We have made contact with the police and we have supplied information including photos to all school sites and our security staff. We have heightened security measures today and will be vigilant about the safety of our students and staff,” the district wrote on Facebook.

Ardmore schools planning retry at failed bond

Ardmore City Schools will hold an April 3 $44 million bond, which is a pared down version of a bond that failed to pass in November, reports the Ardmoreite. The bond proposal has been reworked to prevent taxes from increasing if it passes.

Superintendent Kim Holland said the board created the new bond based on community feedback after the first bond failed to pass by a narrow margin in November.

“If this passes, the tax rate would not go up again,” Holland said. “It would remain the same as when they passed the [bond to buy] buses. We’re trying to be responsive to what our community wanted.”

Truancy program credited for decline in dropouts

Since Canadian County's six-deputy truancy unit launched in 2011, dropout rates at schools across the county have plummeted, while attendance has improved.

“If you get these kids in school, you can avoid a lot of future problems,” said Deputy Doug Gerten. “A lot of times just having an officer show up at their house is enough to get them to school.”

Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›