Tahlequah I-35 School Board members voted Thursday to replace five buses, all of which are close to 20 years old, by approving a lease with Midwest Bus Sales Inc.
The leases are for three years each with annual renewals, said Terry Garrett, projects manager. Garrett said the board should continue to look at purchasing buses as well, but the leases would keep new buses in the district’s fleet. He told the board other districts are also leasing buses.
Randy Underwood, executive director of technology and operations, said the buses to be replaced are 1994-96 models. He said some have more than 200,000 miles on them. Garrett said the district has at least one bus that is nearly 30 years old.
The district wants to put no more than 15,000 miles a year on its buses.
Updating the district’s fleet is a concern for Superintendent Lisa Presley.
“I don’t want the kids to be packed in those yellow buses like sardines,” she said. “I want them to be able to ride home and to school in decency.”
In other action, the board approved three cooperative agreements with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The agreements put in place programs for archery, fishing and bowhunting. The programs will be in place at Greenwood, Cherokee and Heritage elementaries, Tahlequah Middle School and Tahlequah High School.
Game Warden Brady May announced a collaborative effort with the city of Tahlequah late last month. Hopes are that the effort will lead to construction of an archery park for children and adults. May said archery is the top physical education curriculum in the country, and nearly every school in the county is participating in the Oklahoma Archery in the Schools Program. Coweta and McAlester are the first two cities in the state to host archery parks.
During her report to the board, Presley said Underwood learned recently that Jason Proctor, THS math teacher and coach, is a finalist for State Teacher of the Year. The state’s top educator will be announced later this year. Proctor was chosen THS and District Teacher of the Year.
“Jason would represent the state very well,” Presley said.
Presley also told board members it is becoming more difficult for the district to find teachers to hire. She said the district is starting to get some applicants for positions, but very few.
“I don’t want to be negative, but it’s a stark reality,” she said.
Presley said Oklahoma is losing teacher candidates to Arkansas and Missouri. Carolyn Sheppard, board member, said Arkansas is starting teachers $5,000 to $6,000 more a year than Oklahoma.
“We need to take care of our teachers,” Presley said.
Board members approved two contracts dealing with the cafetorium and music room at Cherokee Elementary. One contract was with James R. Childers, architect, and the other is with Trigon General Contractors and Construction Managers, Inc.
The Tahlequah I-35 Board of Education will meet in special session Thursday, July 31 at 6 p.m. in the Board of Education Conference Room, 225 N. Water Ave.