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The Morning Bell: OKC school board to decide Confederate names

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The Morning Bell: By Ben Felder, The Oklahoman, @benfelder_okc 

Good Monday morning! I'm back after a week off and so is The Morning Bell. For many Oklahoma schools, including OKCPS, today is the first day back from fall break. 

During my absence I had the chance to visit Central High School in Little Rock, site of the 1957 integration battle that immortalized nine black students who would become known as the "Little Rock Nine." It's an easy drive from nearly anywhere in Oklahoma and the tour includes a trip inside the school, which continues to serve over 2,000 students. I highly recommend it. 

I'll have a story later this week on the 60th anniversary of the Central High integration battle and a look at school integration in Oklahoma around the same time. 

--CONFEDERATE NAMES: The Oklahoma City School Board will consider changing the names of three elementary schools named after Confederate officers when it meets tonight, reports Tim Willert of The Oklahoman. Members decided last month they wanted to vote to rename Jackson, Lee and Stand Watie before collecting any public input on the "future names" of the schools.

Supt. Aurora Lora has said that some facilities named after "historical" figures do not "reflect our values in 2017." Board member Mark Mann said Friday he supports renaming the schools and would like to see one named after former Oklahoma Gov. Henry Bellmon, the state's first Republican governor.

--GIST CONTRACT EXTENSION: Tulsa Superintendent Deborah Gist's contract extension could keep her at TPS through mid-2021, reports the Tulsa World. Despite the slight changes to her compensation, with a base salary of about $241,000, Gist will remain the highest-paid common education official in the state. She makes well more than the next highest-paid superintendent, Aurora Lora of Oklahoma City Public Schools, whose base salary is $220,000.

--BLIND STUDENTS INSPIRED BY CONCERT: Oklahoma School for the Blind students experience Blind Boys of Alabama, reports NonDoc. “It’s relatable that they have visual problems,” 10th grader Dee William said of the Blind Boys of Alabama. “They’re blind. It’s inspiring, it really is.”

--OKLAHOMA PROMISE SCHOLARSHIP: Higher income limit will open Oklahoma's Promise tuition scholarship to more families. Oklahoma's Promise is expected to pay college tuition for nearly 18,000 students in 2018-19 at an estimated cost of $76.8 million. That's up about $2.5 million from the current fiscal year.

--ANTHEM POLICY UNCONSTITUTIONAL? The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma says the Stuart school district's policy regarding the national anthem is "unconstitutional and unenforceable." The policy says students, athletes and spectators are "expected" to stand during the national anthem with no "gestures of demonstration or protest." You can read more here

--$30K FOR YOUTH PROGRAM: Oklahoma Natural Gas recently donated $30,000 to the Youth Entrepreneurs program, to aid the launch of programming at Daniel Webster High School in Tulsa, reports EnidNews.com. This past school year, Youth Entrepreneurs expanded to Okla­homa in Enid, and this year expanded into four additional Tulsa area high schools. 

That does it for today's Morning Bell. Got a question, comment or suggestion? Email me at bfelder@oklahoman.com. 

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 ›

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