Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Congressman Boren Receptive to NEA's Positive Agenda

Last October, a group of OEA members met with Congressman Dan Boren to address the "Highly Qualified" issue for special education teachers.

Congressman Boren agreed to address our concerns in a letter to education Secretary Margaret Spellings. During a conference call with the Congressman today, he confirmed the letter had been sent.

We also discussed NEA's positive agenda for the reauthorization of ESEA, or the "NCLB" law. Congressman Boren is very supportive of the positive agenda's amendments and looks forward to supporting them.

Visiting with Congressman Boren last October were Greg Johnson, Mustang; Cheryl Dowell, Comanche; Becki Munholland, Healdton; Janice Stotts, McCloud; Linda Hampton, Pleasant Grove in Seminole; and me.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Historic Changes

With the results of the 2006 elections, there are an even number of Republican and Democratic Senators. With this historic change, power will be shared by both parties. Today the OEA leadership shared the 2007 OEA Legislative Agenda with Republican Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee.

As I mentioned yesterday, you can read more about our legislators and the upcoming session in the current issue of the "Focus".

Special Education Highly Qualified Update

Since my last post on this issue, Senator Coburn was in Edmond to discuss the Special Education Highly Qualified regulations. After the meeting, the OEA co-signed a letter with the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, and the Oklahoma Directors of Special Services detailing our concerns and recommended changes. In essence, a special education teacher would be highly qualified if he or she held a bachelor's degree, had not had certification requirements waived, and held state certification as a special education teacher.

Senator Coburn is now assigned to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. (HELP). Members of the committee had breakfast with Secretary Spellings and Senator Coburn shared your concerns. The Senator wants to change this for you and you need to help him. Please email your stories to him. You can do that by going to www. Enter your zip code in the upper right hand corner and take it from there.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New House Leadership

For the next two years, the Oklahoma House of Representatives will be led by a new Speaker, Lance Cargill from Harrah. Today, OEA leadership met Speaker Cargill and members of his education leadership team. We presented the 2007 OEA Legislative Agenda- "Closing the Gaps" to the Speaker, Representative Rob Johnson, Majority Whip; Representative Chris Benge the Chairman of Appropriations; Representative Ken Miller, Vice-Chair of Appropriations; Representative Tad Jones, the Chair of the Full Education Committee; and Representative Ann Coody, who is the Chair of the Common Education Committee.

You can read more about Speaker Cargill and our legislators in the next edition of "The Focus" publication.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Something for Everyone

Tonight I attended my nephew's wrestling match at Edmond North High School. Joshua is a senior who wrestles for the Huskies. Joshua is also one of thousands of kids in our state who participate in a variety of elective areas. Whether it is drama, sports, music or a number of other programs, they help meet the needs of the diverse interest of our students. Making sure that we continue to provide these programs keeps them in school and on track to graduate.

Lesson to Learn

As we get ready for the State of the Union address by the President, and with a number of contenders already declaring their intention to seek the highest office, maybe they can all learn from Lincoln's Gettysburg address.

This excerpt is from a book I'm reading entitled "Eyewitness to America" edited by David Colbert who wrote this about Lincoln's address on page 227: "The Gettysburg Address was rated by its first audience as a dud. Edward Everett, the popular orator who held the stage before Lincoln spoke, was one of the few who immediately saw its brilliance. He later sent the president a short note: "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes."

Monday, January 22, 2007

NEA's Read Across America 2007 Tool Kit

It's that time of year to start preparing for the 2007 edition of the NEA's Read Across America Program. This will be the 10th anniversary of a program that has touched the lives of at least hundreds of thousands of children and teachers across the country.

To help you get your program going, you can access the NEA's Read Across America tool kit at

I will continue to update you as we get closer to March 2nd. Please feel free to share your ideas with me.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Safety First Revisited

I've experienced a great variety of winter-weather since moving to Oklahoma City in 1971, but this type of ice storm really ranks up there in the problems it has caused for our entire state. People all across Oklahoma are just trying to survive some of the issues associated with the storm. For some, the closing of their schools doesn't rank at the top of the list.

As I said in an earlier post, the decision to close school is done with the safety of our kids, teachers and school employees in mind. I was in Overland Park, Kansas for the Western Region Leadership Conference when this storm also hit in the Kansas City area. A 16-year old student was killed on the way to school when the vehicle he was riding in rolled over because of the weather conditions. No one wants to see parents bury a child.

All of the parents, teachers, administrators and even some of the students I've talked with, are ready to get back to school. Let's hope that the next snow scheduled for Oklahoma this weekend fizzles out and we don't have to deal with another Oklahoma winter-weather storm.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

2007 Oklahoma Statehood Stamp

One of my hobbies includes going to my local post office and picking up the latest stamp issues. I like to put them on letters to my nieces, nephews, and my wife for first day cover issues. First day covers are stamps postmarked with the first day of issue postmark. These letters are then delivered by the Postal Service to the recipient on the envelope.

On January 11th, the new "Oklahoma Statehood" stamp honoring our state's centennial was issued. Since I was in Overland Park, Kansas for the Western Region Leadership Conference, I wasn't able to get any of the new stamps. Today, I drove to my neighborhood post office only to find out all of the "Oklahoma" stamps had sold out this morning. Not to be deterred, I drove to the branch by the OKC Memorial where they had a number of sheets still available.

To learn more about the Oklahoma stamp, you can log on at Check the release dated January 10th, 2007.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Neither rain nor sleet...

Despite the severe weather conditions in Oklahoma, 10 members of the Putnam City Classroom Teacher's Association were able to make it to the 2007 Western Region Leadership Conference held in Overland Park, Kansas on January 12-14th.

The conference participants are recognized as leaders and future leaders addressing issues impacting education. After hearing NEA President Reg Weaver give the conference key-note address, first time participants Rene Allen, Cindy Lee and Michele Shelite from Putnam City, had their picture taken with President Weaver and the Cat-in-the-Hat.

NEA's "Read Across America" is always highlighted at the conference as its members prepare for the annual program on and around March 2nd. I'll post more on the Oklahoma program at a later time.

The conference featured quality workshops, addresses by NEA Vice-President Dennis Van Roekel and Secretary Lily Eskelsen, and state planning sessions to address state specific issues.

While the weather kept some of our members from making it to Overland Park, the group that made it did a great job of representing the OEA.

The 2008 conference will be held in Austin, Texas.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Western Region Minority Leadership Conference

The 2007 Western Region Minority Leadership Conference was held in Overland Park, Kansas. The conference is an opportunity for states to send minority members for training in a variety of educational issues dealing with minorities and leadership opportunities.

Graduates of the 2007 Oklahoma class are Jenny Chow-Mason, Bixby; Kari Taggart, Mid-Del; Donna Ross, Tulsa; Francisca Jensen, Norman and Amy Castro-Braun of Moore.

All of these ladies stayed over for the 2007 Western Region Leadership Conference that followed the MLT Conference.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

National Board Summit Recommendations

With leadership from the OEA, 330 National Board Certified Teachers and 100 administrators gathered together on March 30th, 2006, to meet with some of the state's leading policy makers including Governor Brad Henry, Senator Susan Paddack, Representative Ann Coody and Superintendent Sandy Garrett to consider recommendations on how to support and staff high-needs schools. After discussion and collaboration, the NBCT Summit's recommendations were released to the public today at an OEA sponsored press conference.

These recommendations don't come from "think tanks" or outside school sources. They come from the classroom teachers and administrators of Oklahoma.

At the press conference, the report was dedicated to Mr. John Rex of Oklahoma City. John was a tireless advocate for children, public schools and the National Board process. John passed away shortly after the NBCT summit, but his memory will live forever in the hearts and minds of all the students and teachers who benefited from his commitment.

During the conference, Senator Paddack, Representative Coody and Superintendent Garrett spoke about supporting the recommendations of the Summit. Speaking for the National Board Certified Teachers at the Summit was Kevin McDonald, a high-school English teacher from Edmond. Kevin talked about how the NBCT process works and how the recommendations would make a difference for children and teachers across our state.

The recommendations include special training and additional professional development, including offering teachers in high-needs schools five additional days to work on teaching practices needed to teach a diverse population. Teachers in high-needs schools also need additional time to collaborate and build connections with their peers and to meet these demands.

Growing your own NBCT's should be priority for high-needs schools. Recent data indicates the most effective method for increasing National Board certification is through a local support network of teachers and administrators within the district and at the candidate's school site.

Salary incentives are not the only answer, but are necessary to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers to the high-needs schools. Money alone is not enough to keep them in theses schools, which is why we need to offer non-financial related incentives as well. Lower class sizes, improving building infrastructure to ensure the classrooms are properly heated and cooled, and the necessary resources to teach students must be addressed.

And finally, we need to align the various education programs throughout the state. Colleges and universities can align mentoring efforts with the skills necessary to be Board certified within their master's degree programs.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Welcome Back

As you return to school and the start of the second semester, I want to let you know about the electronic newsletters offered by the National Geographic Society. There is a specific category dealing with Education, or check out Travel, Maps and Adventure, and/or Photography. I'm sure you'll be able to find one that meets your classroom needs.

You can access sample newsletters at