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.

Low Pay No. 1 Reason Oklahoma Teachers Quit, Survey Says

Jan 23, 2018
Oklahoma State Department of Education

The State Department of Education surveyed thousands of former teachers about why they left the profession, and what it would take to get them back. The survey results, released Monday, suggest most quit because of low pay.

Preschool teacher, Irene Castell, works on counting with a small group of kids.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Kids are scattered around the preschool classroom at Zarrow International School in Tulsa. It’s loud and chaotic, but it’s organized. Some students paint pictures; others write out the letters of the alphabet. The small group sitting around teacher Irene Castell is learning to count and compare numbers.


Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

A group of about 20 parents asked Oklahoma City Public School Board members on Monday to kick former OKC Mayor Kirk Humphreys off the board of a local charter school.

Humphreys recently equated homosexuality to pedophilia while on a Sunday morning talk show, and many John Rex Charter School parents feel his comments were homophobic, and disqualify him from serving on the charter’s board of directors.

StateImpact Oklahoma: A Look at 2018

Dec 28, 2017
StateImpact reporters preview the key health, education, energy and environment issues they'll be tracking in 2018.
StateImpact Oklahoma

2017 is wrapping up, but the growing group of reporters at StateImpact is following important  policy issues that will carry on into the new year.

Senior Reporter and Managing Editor Joe Wertz brought the StateImpact team into the studio for a preview of their coverage in the year to come. Here are some excerpts from the conversation:

Health

Joe Wertz: Give me the big picture for the new year.

And The Rest / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

When Moore Public School Superintendent Robert Romines asked some of his high school students what the district could do better, they told him they needed more help with mental health.

“I was a bit shocked,” Romines says.

More and more of Oklahoma’s teenagers are dealing with mental illness, and the increase has caught a few school administrators off guard.

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Education leaders in Oklahoma say Gov. Mary Fallin’s executive order on school consolidation oversimplified a very complicated issue.

The November 21 order directs school districts that don’t spend at least 60 percent of their budget on instruction to consolidate administrative staff with other districts. A strict interpretation of this rule would force most Oklahoma school districts to cut an administrator, or a support staff person, and then find a way to split that cost with a neighboring district.

Calumet Public Schools Superintendent Keith Weldon stands in an old garage that he now uses for an agriculture program. Weldon worries if lawmakers take some of his local funding, he would have to scale back the popular program.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The wind blows strong and steady in Calumet, a small town about 40 miles west of Oklahoma City.

It’s the wind that’s prompted companies to build turbines here. A natural gas company also built a plant nearby.

Oklahoma Senate minority leader John Sparks, D-Norman, talks about the gross production rate on Oct. 26, 2017.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The Oklahoma Senate is trying to break a stalemate between House Republicans and Democrats. On Thursday, the Senate passed a bipartisan resolution, urging House leaders to include in their budget plans a tax increase on oil and gas production.

Fourth graders at Chattanooga Elementary School play during recess.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

On the playground at Chattanooga Elementary School some kids are pretending to be pirates, a few boys are climbing on a baseball dugout, and another group is belting out the words to various pop songs as they wriggle across the monkey bars.

This is the students’ third 15-minute recess of the day, and they’ll get one more before the end of the school day in the tiny southwestern Oklahoma town of about 450.

Added up: That’s an hour of recess a day — double what these kids got two years ago, and double what most kids in America get.

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

Soon-to-be-released statewide test scores are expected to be much lower than they were in the past, but top education officials say the drop is due to a more difficult grading system, not poor-performing students.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister says the state has a new way of measuring student proficiency.

“This has been a time of recalibrating,” she said in an interview after a press conference held with reporters to explain the declining scores.

Students at Luther High School watch Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech" before a class discussion.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Polls suggest this is one of the the most politically divided moments in American history. There are now tip sheets on how to survive Thanksgiving without disowning your family, and the comment sections of online news articles are full of vitriol.

Schools are not immune to the tension, but not everyone thinks that’s a bad thing.

Lewis Elementary / Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

This year, two of Oklahoma’s largest school districts are embarking on an expensive technological experiment: They’re giving students their own laptops to use in class — and take home.

Rich Anderson is in charge of making sure Edmond Public School’s laptop program rolls out smoothly.

“In my mind, I’m calling it ‘C-day’,” he says.

Oklahoma City Public School's Superintendent Aurora Lora and Board of Education member, Mark Mann, announce plans to sue the legislature over education funding.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education is considering legal action against the legislature for underfunding education.

Board member Mark Mann said the Oklahoma Legislature puts mandates on schools without giving them enough money to fulfill the obligations, which he says creates unfunded liabilities for Oklahoma City Public Schools and other districts across the state.

Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Aurora Lora is considering changing the names of four elementary schools.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Recent violent events in Charlottesville have spurred Oklahoma City Public School board members to consider the significance of school names like Lee, Jackson, Stand Watie, and Wheeler.

The four schools are named after Confederate Civil War officers, and board members have expressed interest in changing the school names.

Superintendent Aurora Lora supports the idea, and said it’s appropriate to consider whether the Confederate officers represent the values of the school district in 2017.

Lindsay Judd will be one of hundreds of emergency certified teachers taking the helm of Oklahoma classrooms this year.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma schools are becoming more and more reliant on teachers with no training.

A lack of school funding, low pay, and waning morale have driven many of the experienced teachers out of the classroom, or out of the state.

State schools superintendent Joy Hofmeister
Emily Wendler / State Impact

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater dropped all felony charges against State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister Tuesday. 

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

For some low-income children in Oklahoma, summer does not mean vacation and playtime — It means being hungry. The lunch and breakfast these kids receive at school is no longer readily available, so they often go without — or they eat junk food. And while Oklahoma has summer food programs to combat this, there are roadblocks for many children.

General Electric's new Oil and Gas Technology Center in Oklahoma City.
Victor A. Pozadas

A new report from the Brookings Institution says Oklahoma City is positioned for growth. It says the city has a solid layer of infrastructure that is essential for development — and diversifying the economy. But there’s a threat to this development, and that’s a potentially weak workforce. Some researchers say local officials need to ensure schools provide the training innovative companies need. And they need to be doing it now.

lockers
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The Oklahoma State Department of Education will invest $2 million dollars in career development programs over the next three years. The money comes from a grant funded by JPMorgan Chase.

 

The U.S. economy is projected to produce millions of high-skill, well-paying jobs over the next decade, but more and more kids are graduating from high school unprepared for college or a career.

 

So JPMorgan Chase is pumping $20 million dollars into 10 states to change that. Oklahoma is one of those states.

Joy Hofmeister, superintendent of public instruction, listens to a question from the audience during the "Oklahoma Watch-Out" forum on Tuesday, March 3, 2015.
Ilea Shutler / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma’s state superintendent is asking legislators to give schools more money next year. Joy Hofmeister is requesting an increase of $220 million in funding, despite a projected budget shortfall.

On Wednesday, Hofmeister made her case for the additional funds to Oklahoma House members ahead of the legislative session that begins next month. She told lawmakers the additional money is essential to keep up with a growing student population and increased health care costs. She also says schools desperately need new textbooks, and new teachers need more professional development.

Pages