Thursday, March 31, 2005

Let the Good Times Roll

I was listening to the local radio station this morning (1170) KFAQ and was keenly listening to County Commissioner Randi Sullivan(oops! I mean Miller, sorry). She is one of three Tulsa County Commissioners who together wield a tremendous amount of power locally.

At least we got an answer to one of my previous questions, which to paraphrase was: Since we have been collecting the Vision 2025 tax now for over one year, where is it going? Or rather, Mayor Bill LaFortune promised Tulsans "cranes in the air", his euphemism for serious construction projects underway. Well now, Commissioner Sullivan let it be known that the current construction projects are now underway in Jenks and Broken Arrow!

I have yet to see anything substantial underway here in T-Town. A local news station reported that Mayor LaFortune's approval ratings are 60%! I can't believe that I could be so out of touch with the supposed "mainstream" citizenry.

A friend of mine last night told me about how the local government operates down under. You know, in Australia. All the business, by law, have to close down at 5:30 in the evening. In order to stay open later, they have to pay a fee to the city! Oh My Gosh, there's a new revenue stream that our elected officials haven't thought of, or at least, not that I have heard about.

I think Tulsa needs to seriously capitalize on our unbelievable musical heritage. And not just jazz, but r&b, rock, country, country-swing, etc. The list of famous singers and musicians from Oklahoma is fantastic. They include people like, Leon Russell, Dwight Twilley, Garth Brooks, Patti Page, Bob Wills, Roy Clark, Gene Autry, the GAP band, the Tractors, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Christen Chenoweth, and on and on..... The people here are very musical. Heck, we even have the Sweet Adelines. It must be something in the water.

Let the good times roll!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Baja Oklahoma

I haven't posted a blog for a few days since I've been in Baja Oklahoma (Texas). I really shouldn't use that term of derision, 'cause I really enjoy going there. So here's a few things of note to pass on to you all.

First of all, Austin just gets bigger and bigger all the time. They were finishing their SXSW music extravaganza and it was all over the local paper, THE AUSTIN-AMERICAN STATESMAN. Former local Tulsa musician Dwight Twilley was interviewed on TV. It seems he now makes his home in California. Secondly, a wide section of Austin has a serious dove problem. I mean serious! They are literally everywhere. Thank goodness they make a rather pleasant cooing sound, but enough is enough. If you thought about it, it would really start to get to you mentally. They started cooing in the early morning and it continues till they go to roost at night. I went outside to throw the frisbee each day and they were on every power line, every tree, every fence, just everywhere. And they are extremely messy, if you know what I mean.

I saw cranes in the air in Austin, Waco and Dallas on my trip back up to T-Town. Question for mayor Bill LaFortune, Where are the cranes in the air you promised us in Vision 2025? Also, the only real development I could see going on in Oklahoma is the indian gaming, or casinos. They pepper the landscape and many are expanding, no doubt due to the law change last year making class 3 or Las Vegas style gaming legal. Oh yeah, the rest stop on Highway 69 as you enter Oklahoma is really pretty nice. For all my life, the rest stops in Oklahoma have been a joke. They were literally two trash cans and a "piss" elm, as my grandfather used to say. You can let your imagination go on that.

Something really needs to be done about I35 in Texas. It is scary! It's still two-lane each way for much of it. Just as it was originally designed, but way behind what it needs to be now. But this time there weren't as many Tex-Mex's hauling old cars South to Mexico as there have been in the past several years. They are noticably slower than other traffic and a real hazard. I encountered most of them at night, tho.

But it is always great to be back in my hometown, T-Town. With all its problems, it is still a great place to live. I'm glad thought that we have places close by to visit.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

On the left, impersonating Lloyd Bridges Posted by Hello

On The Mexican Riviera Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

What's In a Word?

I have begun to realize something about myself. I am becoming less tolerant in a society that oozes tolerance. I'm more homogenous in a world of diversity. I am of a distinct culture that has been robbed by multiculturalism. I yearn for equal opportunity in a sea of people espousing equal outcomes.

But here's a chigger for me; there are certain words that have been completely hijacked out from under me. And they were perfectly good words, to boot.

Take gay for example. That one really, really gets under my skin. Why? I'll tell you. First of all, it was a perfectly good first name for girls when I was growing up. Heck, I played spin the bottle with Gay S. and got married to Gay F. in the second grade. That's serious stuff! How in the world did it come to be identified and hijacked by the homosexual community? Now if you say "it was a gay party", people will look at you with their eyes crossed!

I was recently reminded of another word hijacked, courtesy of Black History Month. It was a word commonly used by leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcom Little (Malcom X) all the time, as evidenced by the speeches we hear over and over again. Now I only ever hear it in the context of "a mind is a terrible thing to waste"(UNCF). Yep! You guessed it, its negro. Oh my gosh, did I just type "negro". Yes I did. Since when did the word negro become racist? And they substituted the word black. Black? Really very few blacks are "black". More like a shade of brown. What's up with that?

Then there's the ultimate hijack. Now if something is good, it is bad. That's bad man means it was really good. Huh? Now things are turned upside down. What's down is up and what's up is down. No wonder we have a crazed and neurotic society. But some would say that our language is just evolving. Yeah. In the sixties you would make a statement like, "the local homosexual Negro was good at singing". Now, it would be translated, "the gay Black was a bad rapper homeboy". Say What?!

Fast Food Heaven

Tulsa has the reputation of having just about the perfect demographics for a business to test its products. We are pretty close to the "typical" American city, whatever that means. A few years ago, Tulsa was selected to be the test market for a new type of Pepsi. I don't remember now which one, but I do remember it was $.99 per six-pack at K-Mart. And it was name brand pop.

Well, the same goes for fast food joints. They seem to just pop up anywhere and everywhere. You name it, and we have it, Subway, McDonalds, Wendy's, Dominos, Mazzios, Taco Bueno, Taco Bell, Taco Mayo, Taco Tico, Goldies, KFC, Church's, Sonic, Braums, Charlies Chicken, Hardens, Webers, Bogies, and on and on......

But you know, there's one thing about Tulsans. We are very persnickety when it comes to our food. And we are merciless on things that are boring or just average. We all have lost count of the restaurants that have come and gone over the past twenty plus years. But we still have some that have been here more than thirty! What's the difference?

What do places like Casa Bonita, The Spudder, Goldies and Mazzios have in common? I can't tell. Maybe you know. It's not the obvious food, since Casa Bonita has long since been eclipsed by more notorious Tex-Mex food like Chimis and such. Maybe its the perceived value of the food we receive, yeah, that may be it! I once spotted a cockroach at Spudders and its been going well over twenty years. I've seen more pop and pizza mysteriously disappear in the Mazzios carpeting to last me multiple lifetimes (where is that carpet manufactured anyway? is it a magic carpet??).

Well, all that fast food over the years has to account for at least twenty extra pounds on me. Yeah, I want to blame them for it. Good thing we have LaFortune Park for me not to jog around and lose some weight. Forget Riverparks or Mohawk, you'll just get attacked at one of those places, even in broad daylight.

Hey all you entrepreneurs! Put on your thinking caps and come up with a new fast food to try out on us Okies. But skip the fish tacos, please!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Into the Oblivion

It was a sad day when the Tulsa Tribune ceased its publication. That left T-Town with only one daily newspaper, the Tulsa World. In America, we thrive on competition. With the press, it is a necessity to our republic.

In the meantime, the World has be slowly and steadily declining. It became more and more liberal in its coverage and editorials. It was more and more out of step with Tulsans and Oklahomans who have become more conservative in the eyes of a sneering public. Heck, George carried every single county in Oklahoma in the 2004 election. Talk about a blue state!

Finally, I had enough and stopped taking it about a year ago. It was my own little protest. I hated to deny the paper-deliverer his due (he did deliver the paper consistently for years), but I quickly got over that. I must say I never missed the paper.

Well, yesterday my wife picked up a paper to check out something in the religion section. Trouble was, it wasn't there (what we were looking for not the religion section). We both scanned each section which only took a few minutes. Although we never found what we were seeking, we did discover how little there was in the paper. It has shrunk in size noticably. The coverage is "lite". Nothing of real substance. The typical liberal tripe. Very few classified ads.

The Tulsa World is supposed to serve a purpose. It should be a beacon to keep the citizens of Tulsa informed. They have completely fallen down on that responsibility. It has become a tool of inertia in a city that desperately needs reforming. But maybe, just maybe we will feel the winds of change in the air.

There's a weekly paper that started a year or so ago, called the Tulsa Beacon. I heard somewhere that they may go to a daily format later this year. I hope so. T-Town could sure use it.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

A Big Big Day

As I sit here writing this Blog, my oldest son is in Oklahoma City proposing to his girlfriend of five-plus years. He has meticulously planned this event down to the smallest detail, and from the size of the ring and considering the level of detail, I must say, he's doing it right. It's not like they are rushing into this thing!

It really doesn't seem that long ago that I worked myself into a fit to muster the courage to ask his mom to marry me. I was in T-Town, living on the Northeast side and I drove the highway system to 56th & Lewis in my 1970 Chevelle with ring and flowers in hand. I was nervous. Would she say yes? What would this mean to my life?

Besides my mother, I had never uttered the words "I Love You" to any girl, until I met her. I reserved them for the one I did and do love, and not to gain any unfair advantage. I believe in honesty in relationships. I did then and I do now.

Well, she did say yes. And that was a big, big day for me. It marked a real turning point in my life. Until I met her, I wasn't really looking to get married and had never really been serious in any relationship. From that time, I was not just looking out for myself. Someone else entered the picture and it was a pivotal, expanding thing for me.

That all happened over 24 years ago....... in a galaxy far far away.

I do hope she says yes. And I do hope this goes down as a big, big day in my son's life.

Friday, March 11, 2005

One On Every Corner

No, I'm not referring to Quik-Trip's or boarded up Get-N-Go's. I'm referring to churches in Tulsa. It seems like there is literally one on every corner. The concentration up on the North side is phenomenal with multiple churches on the same block!

Just over a year ago, a Pastor visited the U.S. and Tulsa for the very first time. He was from the African nation of Zambia. He commented on the sheer number of churches in our city by profoundly noting that we were focused on our differences rather than our common Christian beliefs. Now, I know that not all churches in Tulsa are Protestant or Catholic, but the vast majority are.

My mom made a comment to me a few weeks ago that has stayed with me and made me ponder the state of churches here in the "Buckle of the Bible Belt". She said quite a number of mid-town Southern Baptist churches were struggling to exist. They have small elderly congregations, no pastors, and lack vision. I won't name them but I was stunned, since these were very vibrant churches in my youth. On the heels of that Eastwood Baptist is closing its private school after all these years due to a decline in enrollment.

Let me sum up by saying that in their quest to be relevant, churches have become irrelevant. Pillars of the early church included bible teaching, prayer, fellowship and evangelism. At a minimum, these things should be resident in every Christian church.

Sadly, the most forgotten element is bible teaching. Let's face it, to anyone who has looked for a good bible-teaching church, it is a real struggle. In the race to be relevant, most churches have watered down the teaching of God's Word. As a result, teachers have their own agenda and may sprinkle in a verse here or there in or out of context to support their arguments!

But in order to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ as a Christian, you must take in the full counsel of God. This is best accomplished in a life-long study in a systematic, verse-by-verse way. A teacher must humbly approach the teaching of the Bible in order to "rightly divide the Word of Truth".

But all is not lost! There is a small Protestant church conveniently located on South Sheridan that has absolutely fantastic Bible teaching. It is Southwood Bible Church. You can check them out in a non-threatening way by going to their website. On the website you can see their doctrinal statement and see they are a dispensational, conservative church. None of the higher criticism stuff here. And such wonderful people! It's such an inviting place. People from all kinds of backgrounds mainly fellowshipping around the Word of God, but also very good music, a great mission effort both locally and abroad, organized prayer, periodic special classes, and a spirit of unity.

They are just about to finish a wonderful study of the Book of Jude, which is about false teachers and apostacy in the church. A very short book of the Bible, but so relevant to us today. Listen to the mp3's and compare what you learn to the typical TV preacher. God will reveal to you who are the false teachers. By the way, verse 4 is the key verse that in essence says the false teachers will err on either the 1) grace of God, or 2) the person of Jesus Christ. Also, they are in the church, not outside it and they use the Word of God to support themselves. Interesting!

By not following the trend to teach topics subject to the whims of popular culture, this church stands as a beacon of Truth in the midst of a currently declining city. Sadly, its my hometown. The place I chose to live and raise my family.

Only through a return to God by Christians will we begin to turn things around here. A very good start is to get back to the serious, systematic teaching of the Bible. I encourage each of you to exhort your Pastor to do just that. A great reference for any Bible teacher is Grace Notes.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Cranes In The Air?

As part of his leadership to influence the citizens of Tulsa, Oklahoma into passing a new and regressive sales tax under the banner of Vision 2025, Mayor Bill LaFortune used the phrase "cranes in the air" to describe the flurry of economic development that was sure to be the result of the passage of the tax. He no doubt literally saw cranes in the air in cities like Dallas, Houston, Austin, and Kansas City on his travels and marveled at the supposed prosperity being brought to those cities.

But here we sit, more than one year later and we have nothing of note to show for all the taxes collected so far. At least the citizens of Tulsa don't. There are no cranes in the air. The only development we see is the Bass Pro Shop going in at Broken Arrow, and the retail development going in at Owasso.

An architect has a mini-scale model of the downtown arena. It was supposed to seat 18,000, but now seems to be down to 16,000. And no one seems to have a grasp of the final cost of this boondoggle. Exactly what is supposed to go on there?

Tulsa needs new leadership. That much is sure. We are dying on the vine here. We lead the nation in percentage job loss over the past several years, and things are not much better yet. Top that off with the Boeing jobs here already have just been sold and we have nothing to show for all the hoopla around attacting more Boeing jobs here as part of Vision 2025. Good thing that did not occur or things would be even worse!

Our public schools are declining rapidly. The development of housing and businesses has been passed on to our suburbs. Violent crime is rampant. We have increased gang activity. Our streets are deteriorating. Our swimming pools remain closed. Our street lights are out. Our mid-town churches are dwindling. Eastwood Baptist School is closing after many years. Eastland Mall is emptying out. These are all very basic to the fabric and quality of life here in T-Town.

City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce seem to be bankrupt of new ideas and vision to lead us forward. It's time for a change people!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

For a Few Dollars More...

I really don't mean any offense to what is truly a great organization.....but....I checked out the Tulsa Technology website (TTC) the other day. It seems they serve a total of 3,000 persons, roughly half of them in secondary schools and the rest adults. Their budget is in excess of $54 million, meaning they spend an average of over $18,000 per student served!

Through my charter school experience, I know they spend approximately $5,500 per student to educate them a full day. The TTC programs are half day.

TTC is a world-class organization and truly a model for career and vocational education programs around the country and the world. They have been sitting on yearly operational surpluses the past few years, no doubt a result of the health of Tulsa County taken as a whole.

I am proud of them and they should be proud of themselves. TTC started as a reform out of Tulsa Public Schools in the '70's and they have continued to innovate and improve themselves.

Maybe it's about time that the county consider reducing our tax assessments down a mill or two. That would help ease the burden on homeowners. There needs to be an incentive for all quasi-governmental agencies and programs to tighten their belts.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Creeping cynicism

It is an unfortunate fact that as human beings, we tend to remember the bad things much longer that the good things. I start off with that as a premise to describe what I call a syndrome of creeping cynicism here in Tulsa. It's no wonder and here are just a few "events" that has lead up to it:

Trash to energy plant: An operational debacle foisted upon the citizens of Tulsa some years back. The idea was to reduce our landfill requirements and require trash haulers to utilize the facility to burn the trash and sell the energy generated to PSO. Talk about a white elephant! The fees were too high and the haulers simply bypassed it. It was cheaper to haul the trash and dump it miles away at other landfills. The operation is bankrupt and the citizens of Tulsa foot the bills!

Moss County Jail: The feds were about to shut down the old jail (we were told), which by the way had been operating and had a budget for decades that didn't go away, but just got melded into someone elses coffers. A new tax was imposed on Tulsa County'ns and the jail was built. It is a typically ugly pink goverment complex on the edge of downtown, North of the train tracks. A tax was imposed to build the jail, a tax was imposed to run the jail. Now its not enough and the jail had a series of mistaken inmate releases early in its history. An oversight committee made up of difference mayors of Tulsa County cities was supposed to exist, but it never happened as it was told to the citizens. And what did happen to the budget from the old jail? It appears that the wool was pulled over our eyes on that one and a literal shell game was played with the jail budget dollars. Tulsans and people of Tulsa County are taking it on the chin for this one and our public safety is at risk.

Chick Poop Settlement: This one is laughable, but makes you want to cry! For years our traditional watershed was continually being polluted by a poliferation of chicken and turkey operations in N.E. Oklahoma and N.W. Arkansas. The result was the tainting of the quality of the drinking water for Tulsans. Water in Tulsa used to be the best in the country. Literally Ozark mountain spring water flowing from Lakes Eucha and Spavinaw to T-Town. The runoff from the poultry waste entered the watershed of those lakes causing algae blooms and water degredation. The result was water that tasted and smelled bad. Elected officials took up the cause and lawsuits poliferated. It started with the Susan Savage adminstration. Tulsa had to pour in hundreds of thousands of additional dollars into chemicals to treat the water quality situation. Tulsans picking up the tab. Mayor Lafortune literally trumpeted the final settlement as a triumph for Tulsa. The results? A few hundred thousand for Tulsa and a few million to some lawyers in OKC. But our water quality was to improve. Mr. Mayor, the water quality still aint that good and I find it hard to believe that Tulsa didn't have the quality attorneys needed to represent us in the suit. Couldn't we have carved out a few more dollars to reimburse Tulsa for the cost of chemicals and less to some lawyers on the bad side of the State? Tulsans lose again.

Great Plains Airlines: has had extensive coverage of this debacle. Tulsans stand to lose millions in this apparently illegal scheme. Who will answer for it? Who caused it? Will it be covered up? More to come........

My point is this. Tulsans have a right to be cynical when it comes to the stewardship of public tax money. There is a long list of schemes foisted upon us leaving us footing the bill to enrich a few others. Our elected officials have a tarnished record of stewardship with those dollars. How many times will we let them repeat their mistakes at our expense?

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Book 'em Danno

Is it just my imagination, or is Tulsa Oklahoma now a dangerous place to live? It seems like every night there is either another murder, rape or assault that leads the local newscast. It wasn't always so.

Some will blame the police and the inadequate funding that has lead to a severely under staffing situation. For that I blame our city administration, since public safety is job #1.

How ironic it is for such crime to occur in the buckle of the bible belt! I guess a church on every corner is not a panacea for crime.

Some will no doubt also blame the criminals "situation", i.e. they are poor so they commit crime, they are underprivileged so they commit crime, they are (black, hispanic, you fill in the blank) so they commit crime. But I subscibe to the idea that criminals are who they are because they choose to commit crime. It may well be that the punishment no longer fits the crime and so it does not serve as a deterrent.

At my neighborhood, the crimes are still rather petty, but nonetheless crime and inconvenient. Lots of radios and stereo equipment stolen from cars parked outside, along with smashed windows and broken steering columns. I suspect very little of it gets reported, understating the real rates of crime in this city. And what city who is trying desperately to change its image to outsiders likes to trumpet its crime statistics. But it may very well be that crime is at least something that we lead the country in.

As you can tell from my other postings, I am most concerned with what is rather basic to city dwellers. What should be at least what is important to us and our quality of life.

I say forget so much about downtown or Cherry Street or Brookside and focus on adding more police and fire protection. Fix or widen these narrow streets that should have been done years ago. An give our police what they need to arrest and keep these criminals off of our streets!

Or as Steve McGarrett used to say in Hawaii 5-O, "Book 'em, Danno!"

Friday, March 04, 2005

The End Justifies the Means

Its always easiest to look back and play armchair quarterback at just about any situation. Remember, hindsight is always 20/20. Permit me to look back a bit, with a tear of nostalgia in my eye to 1973 in Tulsa Oklahoma.

Now 1973 was the year that the Federal courts mandated integration upon Tulsa Public Schools. To avoid a forced situation, TPS came up with a voluntary integration plan which centered around turning Booker T. Washington H.S. (traditionally an all black school) into a magnet school. By the way, initially this move garnered tremendous negative support from the black and n0n-black communities in Tulsa. Now, this sound harmless enough. But let's look into it a little deeper.

Integration meant that buses of black students would be transported across the district. It also meant buses of white students would be transported across the district. Oops! There goes the idea of the neighborhood school. Interestingly, the white students on the buses generally were glad to be headed to BTW, but the black students were resentful to be on their buses. Why? BTW was the magnet school that had teachers and courses that the white students wanted. The black kids were being transported to non-magnet schools, that were traditional rivals and they were assured of being in a distinct minority. Those buses were a hard pill for all Tulsans to swallow.

The word was out. BTW would have the very best teachers and the very best staff. It would offer courses that could not be taken elsewhere. It was to go from 99.9% black to 50% in one year and then maintain that percentage. It was a brilliant plan. It's outcome was assured from the outset and it has remained a bright and shining star in Tulsa's education mosaic.

From where did the staff, the teachers and the white students come? Well, let me speak to what I know.

At this time, I was attending Nathan Hale High School. It was an incredible experience. We had the best principal, the best teachers, the best students and the best football team in Oklahoma (State Champs in 1973). We were also lilly white. But so to were some other High Schools like Memorial and Edison. We had public speakers, we had actors and actresses, we had brains, we had nerds, we had jocks, we had pretty cheerleaders, we had the best assemblies, we had, we had........

1972-73 was my junior year of High School. It was the pinnacle year. School spirit was never higher. Things were fantastic. Most of my classmates were going or planning to go on to the college of their choosing. But as students we were not aware of what was going on in the Courts and at the Education Service Center. We had no idea what they were cooking up.

Then came 1973-1974. My senior year. It was supposed to be the pinnacle year. It ended up being a postscript. What happened to our principal, H.J. Green? He was a man who we all loved, admired and respected. He was our leader. He had our best interest in mind. Well he was "asked" to go to BTW. In his place we got Granville Smith (who?), the former principal of BTW. What happened to Mrs. Kimrey and other of our beloved teachers? They too were "asked" to go to BTW.

Racial tensions were high, but the Seniors tried to make the best of it. We elected Eric Godwin, one of only a handful of black male students, as Senior Class President. He was a very likeable guy and I remember sitting between him and Billy Padek at commencement at the Mabee Center. Don Woods was the speaker and we were under a tornado watch! There was a riot in the lunchroom that year that never got any publicity. That's about as bad as things got.

Well, really from that point on, Nathan Hale and the other High Schools in Tulsa have declined. By the way, as if to emphasize the point, we lost the 1974 state football championship to... you guessed it, BTW! It was the first High School football game televised in Tulsa.

At a reunion years later, I asked the quarterback, Steve Miller, about what happened. I had always heard that the team had partied too hard the night before, and that was confirmed. No excuses really! I played several years with these guys and they were winners. My class was the first to win the All City in Junior High for all three years, then an off year as Sophomores, a State Championship as Juniors and State Runner-Up as Seniors. Not bad guys!

The real success of BTW came at the cost of the other High Schools, especially Nathan Hale. That has had far reaching consequences for the district to this day. Now, a free education is offered by all schools in the district. But the only appropriate education is offered at BTW and the other magnet schools. Since this reform is so effective, what was it not implemented into the entire district? For a variety of reasons. But Dr. Sawyer has begun expanding it. The problem is that in the meantime everyone who was interested left town and moved to the suburbs.

The word got out. If you have kids and you want to see them educated you can't get that in Tulsa. You will have to move to places like Jenks, Union, Broken Arrow, Owasso, and Claremore.

Tulsa is left with aging public school buildings, with changing demographics and an administration bankrupt of meaningful ideas and incapable of reforming itself.

Sorry, I will try not to keep looking back, because we can do nothing to change it. We must look forward to improve our situation.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Parents are the Key

In no uncertain terms, parents are one of the main keys to the success of any school. This is especially so with a charter school. Parents play a vital role to support some of the administrative functions. An involved parent provides leadership and stands as a shining example to the student or their own child. Parents have skills, talents, experience, knowledge and motivation that can be brought to bear in just about any situation.

My eldest son attended Memorial High School for all four years of his High School experience. My wife and I tried to be involved, not too involved mind you, but we did show an interest and were willing to get involved. Things reached a point where we needed to be involved and I can tell you that what we encountered is best described as a brick wall! The principal, the administrative staff and the teaching staff let us know that we were not at all welcomed. We had no business interfereing with their turf. That they did not have time to devote to us and our circumstances. As a result, our son suffered academically and was only able to slightly recover.

There were metal detectors at each entrance, armed security guards roaming around. There were several riots in the parking lot, prompting the then Superintendent of TPS to close the campuses for lunch. My son was literally jumped and beaten up from behind by a young thug that should have gone to jail. This is hardly an environment for learning and I can attest to the fact that there is no culture of learning promoted at that school. I'm saying that althought a few people can get an education to prepare them for a future, the vast majority are just putting in their time.

My, my, my, how things have changed! Memorial used to be a fantastic school. It had a high percentage of its graduates attending colleges all over the country. Now it is only one year away of making the needs improvement list I have mentioned before. When that occurs, only Booker T. Washington High School will not be on the list. But with that school, the deck is already stacked in their favor. More on that subject later.

Less than one mile away from Memorial stand TSAS. I encourage you to go to see it for yourself. You couldn't have a more stark contrast. What an enviroment of learning is cultivated there! By the way, you will see parents welcomed and involved there throughout each day. It's one of the keys of success.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The BEST Public High School in Tulsa

For all those parents and students interested in a fantastic quality college preparatory high school experience please check out Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences or TSAS as we like to call it. TSAS was started in the fall of 2001, at the same time of the renaming of McClain High School to Tulsa School of Science and Technology or TSST. Unfortunately, the two schools frequently get confused, and there couldn't be two more distinct or different centers of education.

TSAS was started by a group of long time educators from Memorial High School. Each person brought their own set of skills to the table and with a lot of vision and hard work, they achieved the goal of opening the first charter high school in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I can't tell you how enthusiastic all the teachers, parents and prospective students were at the time we were organizing and opening the school. The charter or contract to open the school was signed sometime in June 2001 and there was just over two months to get the school opened. Mind you the contract was just a signed piece of paper!

Over that two months with the help of many dedicated, skilled and motivated parents and students; staff were interviewed and hired, contracts drafted, policies formed and approved, grants were written, a building lease was secured, the building was remodeled, permits were acquired, advertising written, and so on and so on......

We were beggars that couldn't be choosey. We took on all interested students and ambitiously opened with all four grades of 9-12.

What we were able to achieve, most of all, was a true environment of learning. At TSAS it is cool to learn and to be smart. And it is cool if you are not, but you are just curious or just doing your best. I assure you that a learning environment is not available at 8 of the 9 traditional public high schools in Tulsa.

So all you parents just moving into the Tulsa area, or you Tulsa realtors, take note! Peruse the TSAS website and you will get a feel for what the future of Tulsa public education looks like today.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Errors and Omissions

As a product of Tulsa Public Schools including Walt Whitman Elementary, Eli Whitney Junior High and Nathan Hale High School, I feel I must apologize to all my teachers, especially my grammar and English teachers over the years. It seems that my punctuation, grammar, spelling, syntax, etc. have all suffered over the years. Sorry for the errors and omissions. Really!

When Is Enough Enough?

As I heard on the morning news program, Jenks America is holding a school bond election today. As usual, you don't hear any real details about how the funds are to be used. There has been some rhetoric that if it (the bond election) fails, teachers will be laid off, but honestly, since when have we funded teachers pay from bond revenues? If, I am wrong, please, somebody enlighten me! Anyway, this situation reminded me of something else I would like to get out into the public forum.....

In Oklahoma, our state constitution requires/guarantees a free and appropriate public education. As the laws now stand, we have traditional public schools and charter schools. However, as the charter school law clearly states, charter schools are public schools. They are publicly funded, but operated independently from the local school district. Or, as I would like to think, they in essence create a new school mini-district.

But the charter schools funding is only a part of what the traditional public school receive. That revenue stream is the state appropriated amount of funding. It does not include most of the county and local funds available to the traditional schools, principally through property taxes. Yet in large part, the ever increasing property taxes that the citizens of Tulsa pay go to fund the "bricks and mortar" buildings it is assumed necessary to have for a public school system. And need I remind you, TPS is the district which has over 58% of its schools on the needs improvement list (and growing each year).

My deduction is therefore, that Tulsans are paying increasingly more property taxes to fund a system (district) that is on a downward spiral. But it does not have to be so. You see, charter schools (a type of public school) are able to fund their entire annual budget based upon the state appropriated funding. That includes all the teachers salaries, building expenses, admin fees, etc. How are they able to do that?

Well, they don't have an education service center filled with administrators and public servants managing all kinds of social services and programs. More of the charter school budget goes directly into the classroom, where most parents agree the money should be spent. Charter schools tend to rent available space or share space with other organizations. Therefore, they are helping pump up the local economy and improving the occupancy rate of local available rental space. With the same partial funding the charter schools create opportunities for educators, entrepreneurs, cooks, janitors, secretaries, parents, students, you name it.

There's no doubt about it, charter schools use the public funding more efficiently that the traditional schools. They have to. And they tend to be better public schools. They have to be. Because if they don't measure up to their own goals, or the goal of parents and students, they will be shut down. I repeat, they will shut down.

I assure you that has never happened so far with TPS. Case in point is McClain/TSST.

TPS in typical government style reacts to each crisis with a reorganization that results in hiring more administrative staff, or remodels building or changes the name and pours millions of taxpayer dollars into the effort. All this to support a system that is unable and unwilling to heal itself of the terminal disease it suffers.

Think about the differences the next time you look at your property tax statement. Those taxes could be a lot less if we had more charter schools in the public education mix.