NonDoc education reporter Megan Prather was one of four staff members to take a pie in the face during a fundraiser Thursday, June 18, 2021. (Michael Duncan)

Editor’s Note: NonDoc hired Megan Prather as our education report thanks to a nine-month grant we received from The Walton Family Foundation to support coverage of the education landscape during the pandemic. Owing to Megan’s excellent work covering #coveducation and other #oklaed topics, our board has decided to continue her employment, even though it remains unclear if we will be able to apply for a grant extension from the Walton Family Foundation.

Still, we must move forward with our work, which includes fundraising to sustain our newsroom. In support of the more than 120 articles Megan has published over the last year, would you consider becoming a donor today as a signal of support for her robust coverage of Oklahoma education issues? Below, Megan makes her own request for your financial support of NonDoc’s newsroom.

One year ago when I joined the NonDoc staff to cover Oklahoma education in the midst of a global pandemic, I knew I would have a lot of learning to do.

I remember my editor, Tres Savage, alerting me around 9:30 p.m. on the night of my first official day that it was quite likely Ryan Walters would be nominated by Gov. Kevin Stitt as state secretary of education and to get something written up and filed for first thing in the morning.

“Welcome to the game,” Tres had texted me.

From there, one of the first stories I had the opportunity to cover was a Norman Public Schools Board of Education meeting that involved a protest from parents and teachers concerned over Norman High School’s handling of COVID-19.

Not long after, the investigative audit of Epic Charter Schools came out and, more recently, I’ve been covering the turbulence at Western Heights Public Schools over the past few months.

There have been plenty of late evenings covering Epic meetings, sometimes until around midnight, and marathon State Board of Education meetings can take up an entire day. I’ve had the pleasure of approaching evasive school board members and attorneys behind the school board building after meetings to try to get questions answered. There have also been lessons learned and concepts reaffirmed.

I learned about the costs school districts face while paying for property and casualty insurance, as well as the costs they pay when property and casualty insurance providers fold. I learned exactly how much of a “get it done” attitude it takes to keep rural school districts thriving. I also learned how districts continued to meet the needs of their students, despite hurdles the COVID-19 pandemic placed in front of them.

The past year has reaffirmed the importance of always talking to the stakeholders regarding decisions being made. On the education beat, that means students, teachers and parents, among others. The past year has also reaffirmed the necessity of attending meetings in-person to ensure access and answers —despite the convenience and safety of virtual meetings.

This past year has been a busy one, and I’m happy to say that although my position was generously funded by the Walton Family Foundation, I never received a single request, critique or suggestion from WFF about my work.

Although that grant funding concluded over the summer, I am excited to announce that NonDoc has committed to keeping me on the education beat! If you have viewed my reporting as valuable in any way, please consider making a donation to our Writer’s Fund. I am so thankful to be part of such a wonderful team, and your financial support is critical in sustaining and growing our newsroom.

With a better grasp on Oklahoma’s education landscape, I look forward to bringing you more important education coverage over the next year. Reach out any time.

My favorite coverage from the year

‘Get it done’: Rural Oklahoma schools are a labor of love

‘Kids are suffering’: School Counselor Corps to expand mental health services

How one district does kindergarten in a pandemic

Insolvent insurance? Oklahoma Schools Risk Management Trust could dissolve

‘Where my beliefs are’: Stitt hires, fires State Board of Education members