Concern over Grand View School’s possible closure brought about 100 parents and staff to hear Derald Glover, Fort Gibson Schools superintendent, speak Thursday night about funding and the future of rural schools.
Grand View also hosted the Do Your Best Parent University, with several community service providers and educational representatives set up at tables around the room.
Ideas for supporting the school, encouragement to contact legislators, and the financial impact schools will experience due to budget cuts were shared by Glover. He pointed out oil drives the economy in Oklahoma.
“Income tax is our most stable revenue,” he said.
Glover explained tax cuts since 2005 have cut the state’s revenue by about $3 billion, with the average tax payer receiving about $19 a month in return, while oil and gas industries have received more than $200 million in tax incentives since 2008.
He asked students in the audience if they would like a four-day week and got a positive response.
“Will a four-day week save money? I’ve put the pencil to paper, and it doesn’t save enough to make it worthwhile,” said Glover. “Ask your legislators to make education a priority in actions. Tell them you can’t support them if they can’t.”
Two seats are coming open due to term limits: those held by Sen. Earl Garrison and Rep. Mike Brown.
“Put someone in there who will make your child’s education a priority. Tell [him] – and I mean the people running for election, ‘If you won’t fight for us, we’ll get someone in there who will,’” he said. “We are the top state in the nation in education cuts.”
One of the Parent University coordinators said its focus is college and career readiness for American Indian students.
Grand View’s Do Your Best project is one of only 12 in the nation, and it’s part of President Barack Obama’s Generation Indigenous initiative funded by the U.S. Office of Indian Education, according to Margaret Carlile, project director.
“We’re doing leadership training, and partnerships with a number of agencies, including the city of Tahlequah, Indian Capital Technology Center, Cherokee Nation, and Cherokee Nation Foundation,” Carlile said. “Tonight, we have the high schools here to provide support with parents to help these first-generation college and career students find the pathways to success and expose them to career op-ortunities here and outside the community, whether at ICTC or in college.”
Employment and continuing education resources for parents were also available.
Along with visiting the tables and representatives offering a variety of information, parents, students, teachers and staff enjoyed hot dogs, chips and cookies provided by Cornerstone Counseling Services case managers who work on site at the school.
“We’ve seen so many parents come though tonight eager to learn how they can help their students educationally and improve their lives outside of school,” said Elizabeth Wulf, Cornerstone counselor.
Parents Don and Velva Eubanks came early to get seats on the front row.
“We wanted some information about the possibility of closing the K-8 schools. I’m not cool with that,” said Don Eubanks. “Grand View is a good school. In my opinion, the bigger the school, the more it takes away from the kids’ education.”
He likes that smaller schools, such as Grand View, can focus on individual students.
“That’s been my experience with my daughter. Tahlequah is a good school; not saying it’s not. It’s just that smaller classrooms are better for the kids,” said Don Eubanks.
One mom, Sarah Butler, said she got a text indicating they might close the school, so she came to check it out.
“I wanted to know what’s going on and be informed,” said Butler. “I learned I should contact a legislator and fight for our school. And I am.”
Crystal Baker spoke with Tahlequah High School counselor James Williams about getting her daughter enrolled.
“I work here, but I also came to get information I needed about enrollment for the high school and about OLAP,” said Baker. “I’m impressed with the turnout.”
Williams said he appreciated the opportunity to meet with eighth-graders and their parents and get them an early start on enrollment forms. Oklahoma Promise scholarship, Head Start and GED information was also available.
Eleven people registered to vote, said Rusty Clark, assistant secretary of the Cherokee County Election Board.
“We shared election dates and sample ballots and talked about school elections,” sad Clark.
Others at the event included Cherokee County Health Department, Cherokee County Healthy Living Coalition, THS, Sequoyah High School, and Cherokee Nation Career Services.