Sunday, December 31, 2006

Be Careful

Please don't drink and drive.

Happy New Year.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays

While it may sound cliche, my holiday prayers are for peace on earth and the safe return of all who are serving the United States in war or conflict.

Test your holiday knowledge at

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Polls are Open

Do you have a favorite children’s book? Whether it’s one you enjoyed reading as a kid or one you read to your children, now is the time to help NEA’s Read Across America assemble the new “Educator’s 100 Favorite Book List.”

Choosing a favorite book is never easy, but Kelli Chastain and my wife Katherine, both teachers at Lake Park Elementary School in Putnam City, were able to come up with their favorites. For Kelli it’s "Thank You Mr. Falker" by Patricia Polacco. For Katherine, the book "Jingle Bells Homework Smells" by Diane de Groat tops her list.

There are other faculty members at Lake Park who have different ideas about the book that would get their vote. For Para-professional Debby Cook, it's the book "Ragcoat" by Lauren Mills. For John Lunn, Lake Park's Principal, it’s "Curious George" by H.A. and Margret Rey.

No matter which book you choose, make sure your top choice is considered by going to

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Flat Stanley

Earlier this year, I participated in a "Flat Stanley" project sent to me by Caleb, a student in Mrs. Chastain's class at Lake Park Elementary School in Putnam City. As the story goes, Stanley was flattened when a chalkboard fell on him. He is now flat enough to be sent in envelopes all over the world. Stanley is used mainly for writing and geography lessons, or, as in this case, a lesson about what work people do in the local community.

The kids will cut out a replica of a small boy and color him. Then they will send Flat Stanley, and a letter with occupational questions, to a person in their community. It's the responsibility of the person receiving the letter to answer the questions, take some pictures of Flat Stanley in his or her work environment, and send them back to the student.

I took Flat Stanley to Washington, D. C. and we were able to take pictures at the Capitol as well as with Congressmen Boren and Cole. The pictures were put into a little booklet and sent to Caleb so he and his classmates could learn about some of the things I do as OEA President.

Today I had the privilege of meeting Caleb. Caleb is a very polite and bright young man. I let him know how much I appreciated him sending me Flat Stanley and how much I enjoyed putting the picture booklet together. Caleb told me that he had fun with it and then he wished me a Merry Christmas.

I want to thank Mrs. Chastain and Caleb for including me in their project. I'm glad that I was able to help out.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Teacher Salaries and Compensation Committee

Despite busy schedules, our members are committed to the work of the OEA. It is not uncommon for committees to meet before or after school, and sometimes on Saturday mornings, like this one.

This committee on "Teacher Salaries and Compensation" will be investigating a variety of issues and plans regarding teacher pay. Their recommendations will be given to the 2007 OEA delegate Assembly for consideration.

The committee is made up of teachers with 20-30 years of experience as well as teachers with less than 7 years experience. This wide range of expertise will allow for input representative of our members.

Pictured in the photos are some of those committee members: Greer Nichols, Broken Arrow; Co-Chair Martha Wissler, Edmond; Francisca Jensen, Norman; Jamie Kale, Yukon; Laura Stewart, Lawton; OEA Board Liaison Linda Hampton, Pleasant Grove; and Co-chair Mike McIlwee, Chisholm.

Your input on the salary survey will help the committee with their work and give you a voice in the discussions as well. As an OEA member, you can take the survey at

Thursday, December 14, 2006

TCTA December Meeting

Yesterday I had the privilege of addressing members of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association at their December Delegate Assembly.

Steve Stockley, the President of TCTA, along with his leadership team, and all of our Tulsa teacher members, do a great job representing their organization and recruiting new members. TCTA is our largest local with nearly 2500 teachers. I had the great pleasure of meeting two of TCTA's members, Cari Smith, and first year delegate Susan Henderson. I'm sure both of these ladies are doing a great job representing their peers.

As our largest local, the number of issues is compounded by the sheer size of the district. Meeting the needs of members over a community of this size can be a daunting task but the leadership team does a great job of addressing those needs.

During my part of the program I congratulated TCTA on the great role they played in helping us pass the "$3000 no strings attached" campaign that resulted in the new raise. Tulsa teachers also did a great job during the '06 elections by working hard to re-elect Governor Henry and electing Lt. Governor Jari Askins.

Tulsa teachers and their students are being hit hard after rejection of the Oklahoma HOUSSE for special education teachers by representatives of Federal Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. I shared with them that Senator Coburn is very interested in addressing the "Highly Qualifed" issue, and it's important he hears from them. Senator Coburn can be reached at Fill in your zip code in the upper right corner and follow the instructions.

I had a great time talking with a number of our members in Tulsa. It's always exciting to meet new people and touch base with friends.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Highly Qualified, ESEA and Native-American Student Issues

They called it the "lame duck" session of Congress, but there was still business being conducted at the Capitol. I mentioned in an earlier post that NEA Directors and State Presidents will lobby Congress on educational issues.

At this last NEA meeting, Carolyn Crowder, NEA Executive Committee member from Mustang, Linda Hampton, from Pleasant Grove and I met with Matt Blackburn, a staff member of Senator Tom Coburn.

This is the second time this year that we've met with Mr. Blackburn and he has told us that Senator Coburn understands the problems with the "Highly Qualified" issue for Special Education Teachers. In fact, Senator Coburn met with a parent, teacher, and others in Edmond to talk about this issue and said he would work hard to see that it's changed.

We also presented Matt with the NEA's postive agenda for changing ESEA. (aka No Child Left Behind). Matt said that he would share the information with Senator Coburn.

A third issue that we discussed with Matt dealt with H.R. 4766 and the issues concerning Native-American students.

Many people wonder what can get accomplished if you only get a chance to talk to a staff member instead of a Senator or Congressman. To be honest, a great deal can occur. The elected official will often have such great time restraints placed upon them, that if they do get to see you, it will be for a very limited time. Meeting with a staffer who can give you more time allows you the opportunity to explain your issue in even greater detail. They will be able to share your concerns and issues with the leader.

Sometimes you do get the chance to meet with your Congressman. In September, OEA members Becky Munholland from Healdton, Cheryl Dowell from Comanche, Janice Stotts, a retired member from McCloud, Linda Hampton and I met with Congressman Cole to discuss some of the same issues that we did with Senator Coburn's staff.

If you would like to help us make more of an impact on these issues, you can email Senator Coburn, and any of the Oklahoma Congressional team, through the OEA web page at or by going to and entering your zip code in the box in the upper right corner. A drop down list will be given for those who represent your district.

Always Impressive

During one of the lunch breaks at the recent NEA meetings, I went across the street to visit the National Geographic Society.

As a geography teacher and amateur photographer, the Society is one of the best places to visit. A number of exhibits are hosted in the museum at Explores Hall and all of them are incredible.

The one that just overwhelmed me was the one entitled "Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2006". This exhibit features the winning entries of a competition sponsored by the Natural History Museum, London, and BBC Magazine.

The winning photos entered by the contestants were exceptional. Plus, there were two categories where kids ages 11-14 and 15-17 could compete. Their art work was just as impressive in its own right. After viewing their photos, I know there won't be a shortage of fine photographers in the future.

You can visit the world of the NGS by clicking on their website at

Monday, December 11, 2006

NEA Board Meetings

Four times a year, the National Education Association holds its Board of Director's meetings at the NEA headquarters located in Washington, DC. The Directors are elected representatives and the number in each state is based on the membership size of the particular state. The Directors are active classroom teachers, support professionals, students, retired teachers, or administrators. Oklahoma has two Directors, Linda Hampton from Pleasant Grove and Greg Johnson from Mustang. Both Linda and Greg are active classroom teachers.

Directors are elected by the membership and serve three year terms. They are limited to two terms. Linda and Greg will travel across the state to attend a variety of Association meetings. They get input from members to take back to both the Boards of the OEA and the NEA.

I'm also in Washington during those meetings to attend the meeting of the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education. The state president is the elected representative for their particular state. The most recent meeting was last week.

After the "Fund Meeting", Presidents and Directors will lobby their Senators and Representatives on educational issues about schools, children, and teachers. I'll update our lobby efforts in another post.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Safety First

Oklahoma is in the middle of the first snow storm of the school year. Snow, sleet, ice and high winds have really hit our state in full force. Many people wonder why schools are closed at various times of the year due to weather. The bottom line is that the safety of our kids is the most important reason.

It's not always easy for superintendents to know how weather will effect the school, but the safety of the kids in their charge will win out. For additional information about this kind of decision, you can call your superintendent or check on your school's web page for their policy.

When it comes to our kids, we want them to be safe.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Thanksgiving Thought

While today is filled with spending time with family and giving thanks, let's not forget that there are many Americans who will spend today by themselves. They may be working or seperated from their loved ones. If you know of someone in this situation, please pick up the phone and invite them to share Thanksgiving with you. If they can't make it, let them know you care by wishing them a "Happy Thanksgiving".

Please say a special prayer for our young men and women in the military. May they be home safe and soon.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election Night '06

While there was a great deal at stake nationally, the state of Oklahoma had an excellent opportunity to continue to move Oklahoma forward by re-electing Governor Brad Henry. Governor Henry has been extremely supportive of education and understands its importance to our state.

My wife Katherine, and I attended the Governor's watch-party in OKC where we were able to congratulate the Governor and First Lady Kim on behalf of the OEA. Our members believe in Governor Henry and are excited he was re-elected.

Another important race was for Lt. Governor. Jari Askins, an OEA recommended candidate, defeated two opponents to win the election. As a member of the Oklahoma House, Representative Askins was committed to Oklahoma's public schools. She will continue to be a strong advocate for the state's kids and teachers in her new role as Lt. Governor.

Like the announcer on the commercials said, "Oklahoma is on the move."

Dinner with Western Heights

At a recent dinner gathering, Western Heights President Larry Fischer and Building Representatives Beth Meek and Sharon Teague helped celebrate the increase in their local membership.

Locust Grove

Last Thursday, I attended a building representative training for member in Locust Grove. Our local has increased in membership thanks to their hard work.

We spent a good deal of time discussing the "Highly Qualified" issue for special education teachers. You can read more about this issue and the efforts of the OEA on our website at

Among those attending were Georgia Rainboldt, Sheree Schappell, Theresa Mennecke, and Cheryl Beasley.

OEA members are actively involved in the decision making process of their Association. At a recent zone meeting of Southwest D, many of our members completed the annual OEA budget survey. Their decisions lay the foundation for the development of next year's budget. Carla and Charles Brady of Elmore City, along with Steve Jarman of Pauls Valley, were among some of the members who attended the meeting.