Community Strategies, which serves as Epic Charter Schools’ board of education, will meet Wednesday, Nov. 18, to continue discussing corrective actions after an investigative audit revealed issues such as poor financial oversight.
The Rose State Board of Regents will also be meeting next week, with Epic officials planned to be in attendance. Combined, the public bodies are likely to make for another week of marathon #oklaed meetings worth watching.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, however, catch up on this week’s marathon meetings and other Oklahoma education news with our recap of headlines from reporters around the state.
OKCPS returning to remote learning
Oklahoma City Public Schools announced Friday that the district will be returning to remote learning on Nov. 16 through the end of the semester.
This comes after one week of in-person classes on an A/B schedule and as Oklahoma County reached the State Department of Education’s ‘Red Alert’ level for COVID-19 cases
The county currently sits at 67.3 cases per 100,000 people compared to last week’s 30.4 cases per 100,00.
OKCPS will allow fall athletics to complete outdoor events, but winter athletics are postponed immediately until further notice. Other extracurricular activities also are cancelled until further notice.
#OKCPS returns to Remote Learning Monday, Nov. 16 through the end of the semester. Dr. McDaniel's latest message details information for elementary & secondary schedules, athletics/extracurriculars, & SPEDhttps://t.co/peh7ByO0Ch
— OKC Public Schools (@OKCPS) November 13, 2020
Decision came after OKCPS board heard concerns
At a meeting on Monday night — hours prior to the district’s resumption of in-person classes — the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education was met with concerns from teachers regarding in-person learning.
Teachers showed up to express safety concerns for themselves, their students and community members owing to rising COVID-19 numbers in the state and OKCPS’ decision to move forward with in-person learning on an A/B schedule for all grade levels.
Superintendent Sean McDaniel addressed these concerns saying there is no universal answer to the problem and that the district is taking multiple information points into consideration with the decision to return to the classroom. He also reiterated protocols that are currently in place.
But by the end of the week, McDaniel had changed his tune.
State board will keep ‘recommending’ mask policies
During a nearly 10-hour meeting Thursday, the State Board of Education approved a motion to continue highly recommending a mask policy for Oklahoma schools.
The board had been lobbied by a community coalition to issue a statewide mask mandate in schools to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“The health and safety of students and school personnel remains a pressing priority,” Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said during the meeting. “The State Board of Education implores Oklahoma school boards and district superintendents to require students and staff to wear face masks on public school campuses, within district vehicles and especially when in classrooms or other large gatherings.”
State Board discusses Epic accreditation status
During Thursday’s meeting, the State Board of Education discussed lowering the accreditation status of Epic Charter Schools to under probation.
The Tulsa World’s Andrea Eger reported that the State Board of Education chose to put off the advice of its attorney to take punitive action against the state accreditation of Epic.
General counsel Brad Clark presented the board with records that he said showed a years-long history of Epic’s “nonresponsiveness and noncompliance” with State Department of Education’s requests for information about its use of taxpayer dollars as well as new deficiencies discovered in reviews of Epic’s federally funded programs for special education and homeless students and English learners.
Stitt removes SVCSB president leading inquiries into Epic Charter Schools and board member conflicts of interest
On Friday, Gov. Kevin Stitt removed the president of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board who recently led the initiation of termination proceedings against Epic Charter Schools and challenged two other board members about potential conflicts of interest with Epic.
The Tulsa World’s Andrea Eger reported this week that John Harrington was notified Friday morning by Stitt’s newly appointed secretary of education that his service on the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board was over effective immediately.
Harrington said that only two days earlier, he had notified Stitt’s office, as well as the office of House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, of his intent to call a special meeting Nov. 18 so the board could consider voting to force members Mathew Hamrick and Phyllis Shepherd to recuse themselves from any matters related to Epic.
Stitt’s office told the Tulsa World on Friday evening that the governor has appointed the former president of a private Christian school in Edmond in Harrington’s place.
Lawmakers request audit of State Department of Education
This week, 22 Republican lawmakers called on Gov. Kevin Stitt to initiate a forensic audit of the State Department of Education, citing failed oversight of Epic Charter Schools.
The Oklahoman’s Nuria Martinez-Keel reported that the group said the audit would determine whether other school districts are misusing funds undetected.
Stitt said he would work with the lawmakers to formally request the investigative audit.
The Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector’s Office cannot conduct an investigative audit unless asked to do so by high-ranking state officials, such as the governor.
How one district does kindergarten in a pandemic
A kindergarten class can get loud and it can be equal parts messy.
However, in a pandemic world, the kindergarten experience looks quite different for students. It also looks different for teachers as they work to ensure that the kids they teach are learning the life skills they need, whether in the classroom or attending school virtually.
An article published on NonDoc this week looks at how two kindergarten classes at Bristow Public Schools are moving forward as they offer a virtual and in-person option for students.
Oklahoma education tweets of the week
— Okla City Free Press (@FreePressOKC) November 11, 2020
NEW: @OKCPS says 83 teachers out of 2,500 called out this morning. Today was the 1st day of their in-person, blended learning model.
— Angelica Brown (@AngelicaB2290) November 10, 2020
— Pastors for Oklahoma Kids (@pastors4OKkids) November 13, 2020
— Nuria Martinez-Keel (@NuriaMKeel) November 13, 2020
(Update: This article was updated at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14 to include an article from the Tulsa World’s Andrea Eger)