KGOU

Emily Wendler

In graduate school at the University of Montana, Emily Wendler focused on Environmental Science and Natural Resource reporting with an emphasis on agriculture. About halfway through her Master’s program a professor introduced her to radio and she fell in love. She has since reported for KBGA, the University of Montana’s college radio station and Montana’s PBS Newsbrief. She was a finalist in a national in-depth radio reporting competition for an investigatory piece she produced on campus rape. She also produced in-depth reports on wind energy and local food for Montana Public Radio. She is very excited to be working in Oklahoma City, and you can hear her work on all things from education to agriculture right here on KOSU.

A supporter of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at the Oklahoma Republican Party's watch party at Main Event in Oklahoma City
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

There were few surprises at the national level as Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly chose Republican nominee Donald Trump to become the 45th president of the United States.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister speaks during the Teacher of the Year Ceremony in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister pleaded not guilty Friday morning to two counts of conspiracy to commit a felony, as well as charges of campaign contributions by a prohibited corporation, and violating limits on campaign contributions to candidates.

Updated Nov. 4, 11:13 a.m.

Hofmeister appeared in an Oklahoma County courtroom. She was also booked and released from the Oklahoma County Jail shortly after 9:30 a.m.. A preliminary hearing was set for December 13.

Original Post

lockers
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The State Board of Education released the newest A-through-F school report cards at Thursday’s board meeting.

Overall, grades were down this year. This year’s tally included 196 A’s, 455 B’s, 582 C’s, 319 D’s and 213 F’s. By contrast, in 2015, schools earned 212 A’s, 497 B’s, 536 C’s, 333 D’s and 183 F’s.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said she isn’t sure why there's a dip, and said it would be irresponsible to make a guess, but her department will start digging through the data looking for answers.

Ryan LaCroix / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Just over a year ago—under the dark of night—a Ten Commandments monument was removed from the state Capitol grounds.

State Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Tulsa, paid for it. Gov. Mary Fallin supported it. But its placement prompted a public debate—and ultimately a lawsuit—that forced its removal.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled it had to come down and based their decision on a section of the Oklahoma Constitution—Article 2, Section 5—that says public money and property may not be used to benefit religion.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The state question that proposes raising Oklahoma’s sales tax one percent to pay for $5,000 raises for teachers could cause issues for city governments that also rely on sales taxes to pay for streets, fire stations, and other municipal projects.

Two University of Oklahoma economists – Cynthia Rogers and Gregory Burge – looked to past sales tax increases to see how municipalities were affected. They analyzed the impact of four previous Oklahoma state sales tax increases (in 1984, 1984, 1987 and 1990) on the timing of municipal sales tax rate changes.

The Oklahoma City Public Schools administration building.
Oklahoma Watch

Data presented at Oklahoma City Public Schools' Monday board meeting show many of the district’s academic goals for the year were not met. 

The goals were set last year during the Great Conversation, which was a series of community meetings where parents and school staff produced goals for the district. They also agreed on specific skills they wanted each child to leave school with.

empty classroom
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Oklahoma teachers haven’t received a statewide pay raise in eight years. But this November, voters will have a chance to boost teacher pay if they approve State Question 779.

It would fund the raises through a one percent sales tax. Education advocates say this could prevent teachers from fleeing the state, or the profession for better paying jobs. But opponents argue the proposal would create an entirely different set of problems.

The Department of Education released statewide student assessment scores at Thursday’s State Board of Education meeting and the results show an overall upward trend of improvement. But a slight one. 

Overall, Oklahoma students are performing better at reading than they are in math. On average, 70 percent of third through eighth-grade students are proficient in reading, and 65 percent of students are scoring proficient in math.

Gloria Torres, Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education, District 6.
Oklahoma City Public Schools

The president of the Oklahoma City chapter of the American Federation of Teachers is calling on an Oklahoma City Public School Board member to temporarily resign.

During Monday night's OKCPS board meeting, Ed Allen said Gloria Torres should step down over accusations she may have been involved in enrollment fraud at Oklahoma City Community College.

“I think it is appropriate – if any board member is under investigation for criminal conduct – that board member should not participate in any board activity until cleared by the investigation," Allen said.

Monta Johnson, a fifth-grade teacher at Adams Elementary School, passes out books to her class in Oklahoma City on August 3, 2016.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

Oklahoma City Public School Board members approved a $180 million bond proposal at a special board meeting on Tuesday. The bond will not increase taxes, and instead extends a bond that is set to expire.

Superintendent Aurora Lora said Oklahoma City Public Schools has dire basic needs throughout the district, and the new bond will address transportation, technology, and building maintenance issues.

Students rally against Oklahoma City Public Schools budget cuts in May 2016.
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

A new statewide survey found that at least 2,800 public school jobs have been lost to budget cuts this year.

The survey, conducted by the Oklahoma State School Board Association, showed that 1,500 of those jobs lost were teaching positions and 1,300 were support staff.

The OSSBA conducted the survey during the first two weeks of August. Districts representing about 83 percent of the state’s public school enrollment participated.

Other survey results show:

empty classroom
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Leaders of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration are supporting a legal challenge filed in the state Supreme Court this week by Oklahoma City attorney David Slane.

Superintendent Aurora Lora has officially signed a three year contract with the Oklahoma City Public School District. The new superintendent of the state’s largest school district will make $220,000 a year. Her predecessor, Rob Neu, made $240,000 a year.

The contract, signed on July 29th, states that the Superintendent and Board of Education shall discuss and mutually agree on district goals, that will then be a part of the Superintendent’s evaluation. Lora will be evaluated on those goals no later than June 30th of each year of the contract.

Oklahoma's new academic standards
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

School starts Monday for Oklahoma City Public Schools, and many more districts across the state will begin classes in the coming weeks. With the new year comes new academic standards, but the teacher training on these new standards may be compromised by tight school budgets.

“With the current budget situation, I’m not going to lie, our professional development budget was one of the first things that they cut,” said Shannon Thompson, the Dean of Academics for Moore Public Schools.

Kevin McDonald, Edmond Memorial High School English teacher, directs the percussion session of the band during a practice in Edmond, Okla., on Thursday.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

State officials are considering what to do with $140.8 million dollars cut from state agencies in the middle of Fiscal Year 2016, but can now be spent. The money is available because General Revenue Fund reductions required by FY 2016’s midyear revenue failure were deeper than necessary.

Gov. Mary Fallin says she is considering using the money to fund teacher pay raises.

Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent Aurora Lora proposes a revised KIPP charter school expansion plan during a July 18, 2016 board meeting.
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

After months of debate, board members of Oklahoma City Public Schools voted to expand KIPP Charter Schools at Monday night’s meeting. But the expansion will not go as originally planned.

KIPP currently runs a middle school out of F.D. Moon Academy, and has been fighting to extend its rigorous academic model within the district. The charter school proposed starting an elementary school in Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary and hoped to share space with Douglass High School as well. However, Superintendent Aurora Lora says a task force will do more research to decide the locations.

The Oklahoma City Public Schools administration building.
Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma City Public Schools released a more detailed breakdown of its massive budget cuts Thursday afternoon, showing specifically how cuts could affect students this school year.

The district’s fine arts budget will be slashed by 50 percent. The entire library media budget will be eliminated, which will impact the purchase of new resources for all schools. The elementary school budget will be reduced by $10 per student – from $25 to $15 – affecting funds for classroom supplies and other needs.

You can normally find Shawn Sheehan teaching math and special education in Norman, Oklahoma, just south of Oklahoma City. But school's out for the summer and instead, he's knocking on doors.

One-by-one he's asking voters in the state's central Senate District 15 to cast their vote for him. He's running unopposed in today's primary as an Independent, and after the polls close he'll know his Republican opponent.

Students from Classen School of Advanced Studies, an Oklahoma City high school, wave as they are recognized in the gallery of the Oklahoma House in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 18, 2016. The students were at the state Capitol to protest budget cuts.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

Parents, students, and educators are rallying at the state Capitol Wednesday because of dissatisfaction with Oklahoma’s $6.8 billion budget deal. They want to see more money go to education.

test with a pencil
shinealight / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Lawmakers are considering a measure that would significantly reduce school testing. The House passed a bill Monday that eliminates all tests that are not federally mandated. That includes five tests in the lower grades, and the seven end-of-instruction exams high schoolers take to graduate.

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