Friday, December 23, 2005

A Response to Anne

My computer has been having problems lately, so I've had to resort to accessing the internet at other places. I would like to elaborate just a bit for Anne's sake. She took the time to post a comment on my last blog.

First of all, I don't suffer from a martyr's complex. I don't go around thinking everyone's got it out for me. I was intimately involved in a charter school initial start up and three years of operations. I was involved locally, at the state level, and at the national level via the national charter school conventions. I do know what I'm talking about.

Opposition from the teachers union:

While attending a state level meeting a few years back, a represetative from the Oklahoma teacher's union came to speak to our charter school group. He stated the union's opposition to charter schools. I must admit, it took guts for him to say that to a group of charter school people. After questioning him a bit, he indicated he personally wasn't opposed, but he was stating the position of the union.

By the way, the Tulsa charter schools employ a majority of teachers with experience. The charter school law states that one of the reason for the law is to improve the opportunities for educators. This indeed is happening.

Opposition from TPS:

When we started up an unofficial TPS campaign of misinformation was launched. We were not accredited, we did not hire certified teachers, we "cherry-picked our students, etc. All lies.

I contacted the TPS Education Service Center to get an application for a charter school. I was told they did not have one and we would have to get it from the State Department of Education. We contacted the SDE and they said it was the districts responsibility. Three years earlier TPS provided TSAS with an application. It was obvious that they were stonewalling.

After the last application you mentioned, Dr. Sawyer publicly announced his oppostion to opening of any more charter schools in Tulsa. So far, not one more has opened. I think everyone knows not to bother, since it won't be approved anyway, and the application is a lot of work!

Have you ever wondered why the Tulsa World doesn't publish any articles about T-Town's 3 charter schools? Word is, they won't fire anything across the bow of TPS on this. Charter schools threaten the status quo of TPS, but offer a real alternative to the traditional public school.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Jump Start for Tulsa's Public Education

We know that Tulsa Public Schools are failing and new leadership and ideas are needed. We also now know that Dr. David Sawyer is retiring and that two TPS School Board members are up for election early in 2006. We have city elections for mayor and councilors coming up next year. The time is ripe for change.

Into this situation, I would like to propose a type of charter school incubator. What I am talking about is a place where interested people could learn the skills necessary to propose, design and implement a successful charter school. I think this should be initiated by the new mayor of Tulsa next year. It needs the full weight of the City of Tulsa behind it.

With the aid of Tulsa, the incubator would find proper charter school buildings at no cost or low cost rent. There is plenty of space available for occupancy. It could aid in recruiting and training qualified board members, as each charter school must have an independent board to oversee the disbursement of public funds for education. Just these two areas, buildings and boards, would go a long way to solving two of the most pressing problems of charter schools.

Most rational people would ask themselves, how do I start a charter school? Those same rational people would need all the help they could get. And there is a lot of help out there. There are schools to design, curriculum to assemble, contracts to draft, teachers to hire, tables, chairs, and supplies to order. It is daunting. The incubator could help with all of this and have a place to put it all together.

With an incubator, charter schools would be perceived more as city or community schools, instead of neighborhood schools. As true schools of choice, students from all over Tulsa would attend them because they want to attend them, not because they have to attend them.

I am sure I could help arrange for some matching grant money to increase the number of charter schools in Tulsa.

Initially, OKC embraced charter schools and included them in their MAPS master plan. In the same time frame, OKC has opened about a dozen and Tulsa has been stuck at three since 2001.

Since charter schools challenge the status quo, and the status quo is so firmly entrenched in Oklahoma, charter schools in general have had an uphill struggle. They struggle with existing public schools, the teachers union, the TPS school board and so on. It is a testimony to Tulsa's three that they not only have survived, but flourished and the majority have overachieved.

Tulsa needs a push from the top leaders to get this reform initiative going here in T-Town. This is a creative and innovative way to begin to address at the city level the dismal state of public education. Tulsa will not flourish with increased economic development alone. Our public education system must be improved.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Exercise Your Privilege and Vote

Regardless of how you stand on the issues printed on the ballot in today's election, I encourage all registered voters to get out and vote!

Early news reports indicated that as usual voter turnout at mid-day was lite.

Hopefully, you will cast an informed vote. Do vote today and in the future, take the time to educate yourself about the issues.

I try to do that, most of the time. I must admit, it's hard to really get to know a candidate, with all the hype and rhetoric that goes on in elections. But this election is not about a candidate, so it was much easier to get informed.

My father passed away just over 7 years ago, after a prolonged and devastating illness, from ALS, or Lou Gherig's Disease. He was a great example and he taught me by his words and his deeds to a) fly my flag during major holidays, and b) vote. These two civic things I try to do. And when I do, I am reminded of him.

Bloggers tend to critical most of the time. But I mean this blog to be an encouragement to you. Yes, we have an imperfect system of government. It has been a 229 year experiment. It is OUR system, a republic, not a democracy.

Get informed.

Get involved.

Vote today!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Tulsa County Isn't Broke, Don't Fix It!

The vote tomorrow on the "4 to Fix the County" and the $.50 fee on cell phones, will be determined by the good citizens of the CITY OF TULSA. It is in our control to determine the outcome of this election. We have the numbers of voters.

A lot is at stake. It is obvious to everyone that the CITY OF TULSA needs the municipal sales tax income stream instead of the County. Although we can all see the fruits of the County's improvements to such things as LaFortune Park and the Fairgrounds, 4 to Fix was always supposed to be a temporary tax.

Have you ever noticed how all these "temporary taxes" just keep getting extended?

The County of Tulsa has been in great shape for some time now. They are amassing tens of millions of dollars in excess tax revenue and that is forecasted to continue into the future. Why? Because with the continuous flight from Tulsa to the suburbs, the tide turned some years back. The major suburbs of Tulsa, Jenks, Broken Arrow and Owasso, have reached a critical mass. No longer do they need good ole T-Town for jobs. They now have more economic development that Tulsa. They have better schools too, so the trend will keep going.

My point here is that Tulsa County is in great shape.

Tulsa is not.

The County is not broke, so let's don't fix it!

Vote NO on everything. Give T-Town a chance to start recovering.

Also, vote no on the $.50 cell phone tax. It will go into a quagmire with the lack of accountability we see so often in local politics. We have to stop slopping the hogs trough with consistent tax increases, that includes this user fee.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A New Use for Corn

With the record setting prices of natural gas, it appears that people in the Corn-belt have started burning corn in specially designed stoves for heating. You see this lady in the picture pouring in the corn.

I used to work for the largest nitrogen fertilizer manufacturer in North America, specifically in their natural gas procurement department. They consume over 160 Billion cubic feet of natural gas per year. Natural gas costs represent about 60% of the cost to manufacture nitrogen fertilizer. A whopping 44% of that fertilizer is used to grow corn. The corn needs the nitrogen fertilizer replaced every year as it leaches from the soil quickly.

My point is this: Although it would appear that people are saving money by burning corn, they in fact are contributing to the consumption of tremendous amounts of natural gas via the fertilizer it takes to grow such corn. It really doesn't make any sense to me, but it must be the fad aspect.

I found this link today on the drudgereport. You can link to it here.

Monday, December 05, 2005

In Search of Excellence

John-Kelly Warren is the chairman of the William K. Warren Foundation here in Tulsa. He wrote an interesting and insightful column for the paper. He looks to the future of Tulsa with a vision of excellence.

To reach that lofty goal he says we need to shift our focus away from the physical capital economy to one that stresses intellectual capital.

To compete Tulsa must replace physical capital with intellectual capital. People, knowledge and communication are the new basis for a competitive advantage. So, what must we do to become a city that attracts these jobs and workers? Interestingly, knowledge workers first choose where they want to live and then choose a job that allows them to live there. So, Tulsa must offer a quality of life like no other. It needs good schools, good higher education and ideally, a research university. It needs creative minds to inspire innovation. It must be a community that offers healthy living, physically and intellectually. Most importantly, we need to accept the new paradigm whereby employers follow the knowledge workers. This has happened in Silicon Valley and Austin. A company or two lay the foundation, other employers follow and the cycle begins.

Tulsa has some fantastic schools. But it also has some of the very worst. It is that disparity that we the citizens need to address. Talk to each other about the need for really great schools, ones that will inspire and educate our kids and arm them with the things they will need to build the city of excellence envisioned by Mr. Warren and others.