Gov. Kevin Stitt’s controversial appointee to the State Board of Education withdrew her name from consideration this week. Meanwhile, the Epic Charter Schools board approved more corrective actions surrounding the investigative audit of Epic One-on-One and Epic Blended, as well as noncompliance found in the federal programs monitoring of Epic Blended.
There’s a lot of Oklahoma education news to catch up on this week, and we’re trying to make it easy with this collection of headlines from reporters around the state, all in one place.
Stitt’s Board of Education appointee backs out
The Tulsa World’s Andrea Eger reported that Gov. Kevin Stitt blasted Democrats and teachers unions Monday after his appointee to the Oklahoma State Board of Education backed out amid criticism, which even came from nonpartisan groups.
Stitt abruptly gave the boot to state board member Kurt Bollenbach of Kingfisher on Dec. 3 and nominated in his place Enid resident Melissa Crabtree.
Crabtree made headlines in Enid earlier this year for founding a group to oppose city mandates for face masks and some elected officials who supported them.
SVCSB makes Phyllis Shepherd, Mathew Hamrick recuse on Epic matters
The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board approved a motion in a 3-2 vote on Tuesday to recuse board members Phyllis Shepherd and Mathew Hamrick from voting on matters related to Epic One-on-One Charter Schools owing to alleged conflicts of interest.
NonDoc reported this week that Hamrick and Shepherd were the only votes against the motion.
The board also heard from their legal counsel and Assistant Attorney General Marie Schuble regarding the process of terminating the SVCSB’s charter authorization contract with Epic One-on-One Charter Schools due to alleged contract violations.
The termination hearing will take place March 8-11, where Schuble will present evidence to show contract violations with Epic providing evidence to counter the claims.
Epic Charter Schools Board approves more corrective actions
During a Monday meeting that lasted until nearly midnight, Community Strategies Board members approved more corrective actions surrounding the investigative audit of Epic Charter Schools One-on-One and Epic Blended, as well as corrective actions for non-compliance issues found in the federal programs monitoring of Epic Blended.
NonDoc reported that the corrective actions include retraining staff on homeless identification services, creating more clear procedures to direct the utilization of funds for homeless students, outlining procedures for identifying English-learning students more thoroughly and revising procedures for Oklahoma Cost Accounting System reporting.
School finance chiefs call on state leaders to intervene before hike in funding to Epic Charter Schools
The Tulsa World’s Andrea Eger reported this week that school finance chiefs from many of the biggest districts in the state are calling on the governor, attorney general and state superintendent to intervene ahead of a looming financial windfall for Epic Charter Schools.
In a letter sent this week, chief financial officers from 14 school districts called on state leaders to see to it that Epic’s upcoming mid-year adjustment in state funding be “stayed or modified” until Epic’s student “enrollment numbers and other business practices are verified to be lawful and compliant.”
The letter was signed by district officials from Tulsa, Ardmore, Bartlesville, Broken Arrow, Enid, Lawton, Moore, Muskogee, Mustang, Norman, Putnam City, Tahlequah, Union and Yukon.
Mustang’s in-school quarantine plan may not materialize
StateImpact’s Robby Korth reported this week that a Mustang Public Schools spokesman wrote in an email to the news organization that no students have signed up for the district’s in-school quarantine program.
If any students do sign up in the coming days, spokesman Kirk Wilson wrote, “we will evaluate the amount of time remaining for the program and determine if it is feasible. Ultimately, the program may not materialize.”
The policy change that allows students who have been exposed to COVID-19, but are not positive for the virus, to quarantine in schools was announced by the Oklahoma State Department of Health in November. Mustang Public Schools was the first district in the state to announce they would participate in the program.
During a Healthier Oklahoma Coalition press briefing on Tuesday, president of the Oklahoma Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Dwight Sublett spoke against the in-school quarantining program.
“No other state has even looked at this at this point. It doesn’t follow CDC guidelines at all,” Sublett said.
Department of Education looking at how testing will factor into school report cards
Public Radio Tulsa’s Matt Trotter reported this week that while state testing for the current year is still planned to take place, the impact it will have on Oklahoma’s school report card is up in the air.
During a statewide COVID-19 update last week, Deputy Superintendent of Assessment and Accountability Maria Harris said that while the Oklahoma State Department of Education wants data from testing, they know it will not be as reliable because of the impacts of the pandemic.
Federal law requires states test 95% of students and 95% of each subgroup in every school in English and math — benchmarks that may be difficult to hit if it’s not safe for students to be in schools come spring.
OKCPS Board of Education takes action on weapons, searches, school calendar
Brett Dickerson with Oklahoma City Free Press reported this week that the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education approved new policies concerning student searches, weapons in schools, and other policies.
The school calendar was also modified to catch up time from the pandemic disruption. It is designed to produce as little overall adjustment as possible and still meet the minimum instruction time set by the State of Oklahoma each year.
OKCPS bringing resources to students
KFOR’s Taylor Adams reported this week that Oklahoma City Public Schools will be using school buses to deliver resources such as books, hygiene kits, backpacks, coats and other essential items to students and families in need.
The “Routes to Resources” program will function in two ways. One way will allow staff to use school buses to visit students in the community as a way to provide resources to families. The second way will involves placing the resource bus in different locations throughout the community, such as parks.
The buses will also provide families access to mental health services, social workers and school nurses.
Oklahoma education tweets of the week
🆕 We've updated the weekly #COVID19 alert map using @HealthyOklahoma data and aligned to @oksde recommended safety protocols. See full details on our website ⤵️https://t.co/alH7QFkzaa#oklaed pic.twitter.com/lXQ4f0pnAe
— OSSBA (@OSSBAoklahoma) December 11, 2020
We have no clue how many COVID-19 outbreaks there have been in Oklahoma schools. But in our neighbor to the northwest, outbreaks were becoming more common last month via @Chalkbeat. https://t.co/uLQfETK7HX
— Robby Korth (@RobbyKorth) December 10, 2020
We stopped by one of the #RoutesToResources buses this morning at the Ice Event Center! Students & their families could meet safely with school counselors, ask for tech support, & more!
— OKC Public Schools (@OKCPS) December 9, 2020
Advocacy matters! Over 1.2k emails were sent to @GovStitt sharing concern over his nominee to the @oksde. Though she has withdrawn, it's important to understand that the public outcry against her nomination was from bipartisan, grassroots, parent volunteers.#publicschoolproud pic.twitter.com/YxDqccYBiK
— Oklahoma PLAC (@oklaplac) December 8, 2020