From the Superintendent's Desk


Fostering A Culture of Good Character

I had the pleasure recently of hosting the first meeting of the Character Education Task Force.

More than 20 representatives of school districts, civic groups and faith-based organizations from throughout the state joined members of the state’s Parent Teacher Association in the initial meeting earlier this month. In doing so, we are laying the groundwork for something I hope will help in the development of character education in Oklahoma schools.

Winning Attitude

I first visited Tushka Schools in April 2011, after a tornado destroyed the district’s main school building. It was a heartbreaking scene – much of the building was in ruin, many students and teachers were displaced form their homes, and district staff worried about how they would finish the school year.

I visited the Atoka County district again about a year ago, and I made my third trip last week. I can hardly express how thrilled I am with the fortitude of the students, teachers and administrators in Tushka.

Rewarding Excellence

Ever give your child money for a job well done – maybe $5 for keeping his or her room clean or for helping with chores around the house, maybe a reward for good grades?

It works in business on a larger scale, and it should work the same in state government. You reward exceptional performance, and in so doing, you incentivize others to strive for similar success.

Putting an End to Bullying

I have read with horror the recent news accounts about Rebecca Sedwick, a 12-year-old Florida girl who killed herself after what authorities said was unrelenting bullying by other girls in her community.

Such high-profile stories have become all too commonplace over the past few years. In Oklahoma, we’ve had our own tragic examples of children bullied to the point of suicide.

It must stop.

The Power of Assessments

I had the opportunity last week to participate in an interim study on Oklahoma school assessments hosted by state Sen. John Ford and state Rep. Ann Coody. I thank them and the other lawmakers in the room for the time they spent over the course of two days to hear from experts in every area of assessments. Presenters included classroom teachers, school administrators, higher education representatives, major testing companies such as ACT and SAT, and technology experts.

Addressing Teacher Shortages

We’re at a crisis point in this state when it comes to our teacher shortage. For years we’ve seen shortages in subjects such as science and math, but now we are starting to see this spread to areas such as elementary and early childhood.  That’s a new phenomenon and one that must be reversed.

Late this summer, I convened an Educator Workforce Shortage Task Force made up of teachers, school administrators, higher education officials, state legislators and other civic leaders. I asked them to examine all aspects of the issue and devise action steps to help us move past this crisis.

Celebrating the State's Best Teachers

 

One of my favorite jobs is getting to call 12 teachers each year, listening to them almost hyperventilate and then celebrating with them that they’ve been named a finalist for the state Teacher of the Year.

The next best moment is naming one of the finalists to the state’s top honor for teachers. This year, that honor went to Peter L. Markes, an 8th- through 12th-grade string orchestra and Advanced Placement music theory teacher from Edmond North High School.

Pleased but Not Satisfied

Looking at the ACT results that were released last week was a mixed blessing.

On one hand, I celebrate progress. ACT's 2013 Condition of College and Career Readiness report shows that more Oklahoma graduating seniors are ready for college and career than in previous years. The percentage of the state's 2013 graduates who met all four benchmarks in English, reading, science and math rose to 23 percent from 17 percent in 2008.

Giving Back to Teachers Who Give So Much

It’s back-to-school time, and I’m going shopping.

I love this time of year when store shelves are stocked with crayon boxes, notebook paper and folders in every color. I’m always tempted to pick up extra supplies, knowing teachers often have to buy their own for students who come to school without any. But this year, I’m buying for a special group of teachers whose classrooms were destroyed by tornadoes, floods and other storms that hit Oklahoma in late May. I hope the public will join me.

Preparing for the Road Ahead

I had the best time last week attending the Vision 2020 conference. Thousands of educators joined us in Oklahoma City for this professional development conference.

I’m confident we gave them critical content and helpful updates as well as energized them for returning to school. I’m delighted to be able to provide this three-day conference. And, it was all FREE to Oklahoma teachers, educators and families of our students.

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Last updated on December 31, 1969