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The Morning Bell: 'This town has its schools and a gas station, that's it'

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Blayne Arthur holds the hand of her daughter, Kennedy, 4, in front of her son, Kelton, 8, as they leave the elementary school at Ripley Public Schools in Ripley, Okla., Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Blayne Arthur holds the hand of her daughter, Kennedy, 4, in front of her son, Kelton, 8, as they leave the elementary school at Ripley Public Schools in Ripley, Okla., Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Good Wednesday morning! 

Schools across Oklahoma — urban, suburban and rural — have been forced to navigate nearly a decade of shrinking per-pupil funding and low teacher pay that has driven many out of state or out of the profession.

But in many of the state's rural public schools, where one third of Oklahoma's students attend, the funding struggles create unique challenges and a sense of isolation.

“This town has its schools and a gas station, that's it,” said Josh Calavan, Ripley's high school principal. “So when you hit the schools like this, you really hit the entire community.”

I visited the the public school in Ripley, Oklahoma, earlier this year and wrote about the unique challenges facing rural schools across the state, a story you can read here

Bixby investigation continues

Investigators recently went onto school property and seized Bixby Public Schools officials’ cellphones and have given them a Dec. 1 deadline to produce emails in the investigation into a reported rape of a football player by his teammates, reports Andrea Eger of the Tulsa World

Superintendent Kyle Wood reportedly turned over his cellphone and documents related to “sexual assault, hazing or bullying involving members of the Bixby football team in 2016 or 2017.” The court document states that “due to the overwhelming number,” emails sent or received between Sept. 27 and Nov. 16 by Wood, Principal Terry Adams, Athletic Director Jay Bittle and head football coach Loren Montgomery will be turned over no later than Dec. 1.

Speech language pathologist shortage in Tulsa

Tulsa Public Schools had 40 speech-language pathologists, or SLP positions, last school year, according to an employee database from 2016-17 school year. Twelve pathologists who appear in that database don’t appear in a 2017-18 database, reports Samuel Hardiman of the Tulsa World

Their departures added extra work for the remaining members of the staff. Some had caseloads of close to 100 students. The pathologists who left did so for higher pay and more support, five of their former colleagues said.

The difference between working in a public school and the private sector can be more than $30,000 a year in salary — the average TPS pathologist for example makes about $40,000, but could fetch more than $70,000 outside the district.

After school Scrabble club

Broken Arrow elementary school students are hooked on one of America's oldest board games — Scrabble. Third, fourth and fifth graders at Broken Arrow's Highland Park Elementary Scrabble Club play the game the old-fashioned way — on a board, via News On 6

"I wrote a grant, got all the materials, worked all summer researching," said third-grade teacher Renae Waugh, who was awarded a grant from the Broken Arrow Schools Foundation. 

The club meets regularly every other Monday after school.

Parents show support for Norman coach

Angry parents shared their frustrations with the Norman public school board last week about the recent resignation of Anthony Kendall, a Longfellow Middle School basketball coach, following an altercation during a game Nov. 16 against Whittier Middle School, reports the Norman Transcript

“He loves all of our kids as his own. And for you all to just allow him to be pushed out is down right disrespectful to our kids,” Tashia Combs, a parent of one Longfellow Middle School basketball player, said to the board. “I go to every practice. I see how he interacts with every child. I am the team mom, so I know personally that all of those boys were affected.”

We Love OK Teachers 

Arvest Bank awarded 33 educators across Oklahoma $500 for supplies to further the education of their students as part of the We Love OK Teachers campaign, reports KSWO

More education news...

--Students will soon be able to use their mobile phones to apply for financial aid for college, via Education Week. The move is the latest in a series of steps—stretching back into the Barack Obama administration—to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

--Jon Hazell, a science teacher at Durant High School and Oklahoma’s 2017 Teacher of the Year, will be the commencement speaker at Southeastern on Saturday, December 16. (The Durant Daily Democrat)

--A 14-year-old Oklahoman has achieved a perfect score on the ACT. Ponca City High School sophomore Alex Lin is one of the youngest people to ever record a perfect score on the ACT. (KOKH)

That's all for today's Morning Bell. Have a great Wednesday!

Related Photos
Blayne Arthur holds the hand of her daughter, Kennedy, 4, in front of her son, Kelton, 8, as they leave the elementary school at Ripley Public Schools in Ripley, Okla., Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Blayne Arthur holds the hand of her daughter, Kennedy, 4, in front of her son, Kelton, 8, as they leave the elementary school at Ripley Public Schools in Ripley, Okla., Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e98299a68f3abb1a2f3dd1d2bb8b6eb1.jpg" alt="Photo - Blayne Arthur holds the hand of her daughter, Kennedy, 4, in front of her son, Kelton, 8, as they leave the elementary school at Ripley Public Schools in Ripley, Okla., Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman" title="Blayne Arthur holds the hand of her daughter, Kennedy, 4, in front of her son, Kelton, 8, as they leave the elementary school at Ripley Public Schools in Ripley, Okla., Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Blayne Arthur holds the hand of her daughter, Kennedy, 4, in front of her son, Kelton, 8, as they leave the elementary school at Ripley Public Schools in Ripley, Okla., Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure>
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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