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Morning Bell: Norman PTA prepares for Chocolate Festival

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Natali Langland and Mari Jones dip strawberries in a chocolate fountain during the 34th Annual Chocolate Festival benefiting the Firehouse Art Center on Jan. 30, 2016 in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
Natali Langland and Mari Jones dip strawberries in a chocolate fountain during the 34th Annual Chocolate Festival benefiting the Firehouse Art Center on Jan. 30, 2016 in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

Revenue bills passed through House and Senate committees on Thursday, which include funding for a statewide teacher pay raise. 

However, the bills face steeper odds on Monday as the Legislature's high hurdle for passage of tax increases will be tough to meet. Education advocates are planning to gather at the state Capitol Monday to lobby for passage. 

This Saturday's Norman Chocolate Festival was saved by the Norman PTA Council after is appeared the popular event would not return for its 36th year. The Norman PTA Council, which is made up of the 20 PTAs in Norman Public Schools, announced in December that it would take on the festival for 2018, reports the Norman Transcript

“Norman needed its chocolate festival,” Norman PTA Council president Annette Price said.

The festival is scheduled for Saturday at Norman North High School, 1809 Stubbeman Ave. According to Price, there will be 18 vendors at the festival, and they will be bringing lots of chocolate with them.

In a preview of Saturday's event, the OU Daily reports that the money raised will help the Norman PTA Council work with schools across the city to pitch in resources to other sources, like playground equipment, literacy nights and even hand sanitizer for the flu epidemic.

“It will all go toward the mission of the PTA, which is providing resources for our teachers and our schools and providing engagement opportunities for our families,” Price said.

OKC schools seek answer to superintendent problem

The constant change in leadership has prompted questions by community members and school observers: Why does Oklahoma City lack the ability to retain an effective superintendent? How can the district reset the course?

The Oklahoma Gazette's Laura Eastes recently took at look at those questions as OKC school saw another superintendent leave following a short tenure. 

“This district has to be transformed,” said Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers. “We are so dysfunctional. Until you transform, get rid of the dysfunction and get the organization where it can work in a proper manner, no superintendent can bring in a great idea. It wouldn’t work. The organization has to be fixed.”

Wednesday was when high school athletes signed National Letters of Intent and cemented their college commitments, but no one anywhere was more excited about his choice than Camden Cargill, the quarterback from Christian Heritage Academy signed with Central Oklahoma. The Oklahoman's Jenni Carlson has his story

Stillwater teachers surprised with classroom grants

Five Stillwater Public Schools educators were surprised with funding courtesy of Stillwater Public Education Foundation. SPEF Executive Director Jenifer Bartley visited a handful of sites to let the teachers know the SPEF grant proposals they submitted had been approved, reports the Stillwater News Press

Stillwater Middle School engineering teacher Emily Harris was awarded $1,730 to purchase a robotics playing field where sixth- and seventh-grader engineering students will be able to test out their robots and practice their coding.

Bus driver hurried over railroad tracks

Officials with Woodward Public Schools have been investigating an incident in which a school bus driver allegedly hurried over some railroad tracks before a train arrived and hit the crossing safety arms at the 9th Street crossing location, reports Woodward News. According to some parents of children on the bus, the driver never stopped before attempting to cross the tracks, as required by law. In one case, there was an alleged video of the incident that was turned over to authorities.

Bartlesville conducting their own custodian background checks

Bartlesville Public Schools personnel are conducting background checks on school custodians after concerns  that proper background checks may not have been done by a contractor, reports the Tulsa World.

"The district has received reports via social media that some of the  custodians hired to work in the district by SourceOne Facility Services  or its representatives may not have completed the background checks  required by the district’s contract with SourceOne," the district said  in a news release.

Additional reading: In a column for Education Week, Denise Juneau criticized the Bureau of Indian Education for creating plans that are rarely carried out. 

"For over a century, the federal government has proven that attempting to control and oversee a nationwide network of schools leads to an ineffective and disheartening system of education that fails to address the cultural, linguistic, and overall learning needs of American Indian children," wrote Juneau, who was was the state superintendent of public instruction in Montana from 2009 to 2017. "If the BIE's record of failure reflected on any other group of students, there would be a national outcry."

Long accused of under serving thousands of Native American students, the BIE oversees 183 Indian schools across the country — including five in Oklahoma.

Officials with the Bureau of Indian Education held a town hall in Oklahoma in December at Riverside Indian School in Anadarko to present a draft of a new strategic plan, inviting feedback from educators and tribal leaders.

"When you look at our system, we have had such a high turnover with directors, that without a plan, every time we lose a director, we lose momentum," said Tony Dearman, who was named director last year. "With this document ... no matter who is in the director position, it is going to continue moving forward."

That does it for another week of the Morning Bell. Look to The Oklahoman this weekend for a closer look at upcoming school board elections in Oklahoma City. 

Related Photos
Natali Langland and Mari Jones dip strawberries in a chocolate fountain during the 34th Annual Chocolate Festival benefiting the Firehouse Art Center on Jan. 30, 2016 in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

Natali Langland and Mari Jones dip strawberries in a chocolate fountain during the 34th Annual Chocolate Festival benefiting the Firehouse Art Center on Jan. 30, 2016 in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-02b2b73aceae87cd7fad1b24ca7ffffa.jpg" alt="Photo - Natali Langland and Mari Jones dip strawberries in a chocolate fountain during the 34th Annual Chocolate Festival benefiting the Firehouse Art Center on Jan. 30, 2016 in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman" title="Natali Langland and Mari Jones dip strawberries in a chocolate fountain during the 34th Annual Chocolate Festival benefiting the Firehouse Art Center on Jan. 30, 2016 in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Natali Langland and Mari Jones dip strawberries in a chocolate fountain during the 34th Annual Chocolate Festival benefiting the Firehouse Art Center on Jan. 30, 2016 in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, 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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