Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence
   

Life 101 Seminar for Graduating Seniors

Cheyenne Educational Foundation

An etiquette expert demonstrates proper etiquette for a formal dinner during the Life 101 seminar sponsored by the Cheyenne Educational Foundation. Students had the opportunity to try their skills during a luncheon hosted by foundation board members. (Photo provided by the Cheyenne Educational Foundation)
Recognizing the need for graduating seniors to be better prepared for life’s challenges after high school, the Cheyenne Educational Foundation has worked together with Cheyenne High School to present “Life 101: Necessary Knowledge for Life in the Real World.” The annual seminar, which began in 2008, is organized and funded by Cheyenne Foundation Board members to help prepare both college-bound and non college-bound students for the responsibilities of adult life. The seminar is held in the spring and offered to every graduating senior in Cheyenne.

“Although Life 101 is not a requirement for graduation, the program fills a need in the final preparation of a successful student and future citizen,” said Cheyenne Public Schools Superintendent Rick Garrison. “Cheyenne Educational Foundation members and the school administration believe that this program is an integral part of the ‘complete education’ of the student. Armed with the knowledge gained in this seminar, students will feel capable of making important decisions that will affect their future success.”

The four-hour seminar is organized with 20-minute presentations given by community experts on such topics as banking and finances, insurance, real estate, legal issues, business ethics, college life and etiquette. One portion of the seminar involves students working in groups to formulate solutions to problems in real-world scenarios, which they present to the entire audience. The event also includes a panel discussion, with time for questions and answers, featuring a medical professional, district judge, county official and recent high school graduates. The seminar concludes with a luncheon, complete with formal table settings, to teach students hands-on etiquette lessons for dining and formal events.

Student evaluations following the seminar have been extremely favorable, said foundation president Larry Smith. “Thank you for explaining the terminology of insurance,” said one student. “I’ll have to pay for it all on my own beginning June 1.” Another student wrote: “My family never sits down at the table for dinner with real dishes. It was nice to have a formal meal and actually learn how to eat at a banquet.”

Induction and Support for Novice Principals Program

Foundation for Tulsa Schools

Katy Ackley (standing with microphone), a fellow with the Office of Teacher and Leader Effectiveness at Tulsa Public Schools, leads a training session for novice principals, which was made possible by support from the Foundation for Tulsa Schools. The Tulsa foundation is one of two selected for an Outstanding Program Award for Local Education Foundations, to be presented in October by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. The Tulsa foundation is being recognized for its sponsorship of the Induction and Support for Novice Principals Program. (Photo provided by Foundation for Tulsa Schools)
In November of 2010, the Foundation for Tulsa Schools decided to shift its charitable focus from providing grants for teachers to supporting programs that could have a stronger impact in a district where 88 percent of students are living at or below the poverty line, said executive director Lucky Lamons. “We decided to focus on two core initiatives that could really move the need,” he said. “With Tulsa having 85 school sites, we wanted to help make sure every child had a great teacher, and every building had a great principal. So we decided to focus on teacher and leader effectiveness and assist Tulsa Public Schools with professional development for new and incoming principals and administrators.”

Beginning in 2011, the foundation partnered with the district to launch an intensive training and support program for incoming principals. Training for the Induction and Support for Novice Principals program is provided by the University of Oklahoma Professional Development and Learning Academy.

The training includes a three-day induction session focused on essential information needed by new principals as they begin their first administrative assignments. Principals are assigned coaches to mentor them throughout the year, with a focus on performance standards and related data to support principals in their strategic work. Quarterly networking sessions are also offered for first-year principals to learn from their peers and receive additional support. Plans are under way to offer monthly training sessions designed by Tulsa Public Schools for second- and third-year principals to focus on instructional leadership and school management, the shift from operations/management to data-driven analysis of student achievement, and the alignment of goals and supervision and evaluation of teachers.

The district is beginning a formal external evaluation of the training program, but comments from participants have been positive. “Topics discussed during our meetings were not only interesting, but relevant to what we do and face every day,” said one participant. Another principal appreciated the opportunity to network with other new administrators and discuss every-day challenges.

Jane Burk, director of Teacher Leader Effectiveness for Tulsa Public Schools, said past participants in the principal training program have gone on to positions of increased responsibility, such as leadership of the expanded Mayo Program, the expansion of the Zarrow International School and the new dual language immersion school, as well as central office leadership positions. “One of our graduates was just named the secondary principal of the year for the State of Oklahoma,” Burk added.

Tornado Response Efforts

Moore Public Schools Foundation

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence President Les Risser (left) and Local Education Foundation Outreach Chair Stewart Ryan (second from right) present a surprise Outstanding Program Award for Local Education Foundations to members of the Moore Public Schools Foundation in recognition of the foundation’s response to the May 20 tornado that destroyed two Moore schools and damaged many others. Accepting the award on behalf of the foundation are President Joshua Hinkle (second from left) and board member Ashley Miller.
The Moore Public Schools Foundation was recognized for its exceptional fundraising and response to the May 20 tornado that destroyed two schools and damaged many others.

“We were impressed with how the foundation immediately came to the aid of the district and partnered with First American Bank to create a relief fund and an emergency website to receive charitable gifts,” said Risser, stating that the foundation had raised nearly $1 million for Moore Public Schools tornado relief. “We were also moved by how - in the midst of chaos and personal loss - foundation officers juggled duties to ensure that the organization could fully support the school district in its recovery.”

Joshua Hinkle, now president of the Moore Public Schools Foundation, was serving as secretary at the time of the tornado. He unexpectedly became the coordinator of the foundation’s relief efforts since the foundation’s president, veterinarian Kristi Scroggins, was focused on setting up a shelter for displaced animals in Moore, and the vice president, Aiden Street, had lost her home in the tornado.

“In that morning after the tornado, I had two cell phones and both of them were dead by 9:30 a.m.,” Hinkle said. “There were so many people who had seen the devastation on the news and wanted to help. People called from all over the U.S. just wanting to send books, desks, clothes, money – anything they could do to make an impact.”

Hinkle worked with his employer, First American Bank of Norman, to set up an emergency website since district computer servers and electricity were knocked out, taking down the foundation website, as well. First American created a webpage with the capability to receive online credit card donations.

Gifts came from all over the country – from Hurricane Sandy survivors in New York and tornado survivors in Alabama, to school children who held penny campaigns and sent handmade greeting cards. ATX Mafia, an Austin-based T-shirt company, donated $65,000 by designing and selling t-shirts specifically to benefit the Moore Schools’ relief effort. An anonymous corporate donor gave $500,000, designated to help rebuild an underground locker room at Central Junior High, which was flooded in a secondary storm one week after the initial tornado.

Through its 501(c)(3) status, the Moore foundation has been able to partner with other organizations and community groups to sponsor fundraisers benefiting the schools. The biggest effort was an Adopt-a-Teacher program organized by some community leaders, which provided $2,000 for affected teachers, primarily at Briarwood and Plaza Towers, to purchase supplies for their temporary classrooms. During reconstruction, their schools are currently housed in Emmaus Baptist Church and a secondary building at Central Junior High School.

Because of the timeline for getting FEMA and insurance money in place and the restrictions of school purchase orders and fiscal year requirements, Hinkle said the district was concerned about giving teachers enough time to get supplies for their new classrooms.

“Through the Adopt-a-Teacher program, we were able to get money to those teachers immediately so they could start buying materials for their classes well before school started,” Hinkle said. “This gave them a jumpstart on making their classrooms as superb as they could be for those kids coming back. The last time those kids were in school was a very scary day, so we wanted to make it as welcoming as we could for them.”

The Moore foundation also partnered with the Pioneer Library System, which brought in nationally known children’s book illustrators for a fundraiser to benefit tornado-damaged school libraries. The event, titled “Drawn Together,” raised more than $20,000.

The foundation has worked hand-in-hand with new district Superintendent Robert Romines to plan the distribution of relief funds and ensure that funds are directed to the most critical needs. So far, the gifts have been designated to the Adopt-a-Teacher program and the reconstruction of the Central Junior High locker room. Remaining funds will be designated as needs become apparent.

Hinkle said he is grateful that, as a 501 (c)(3) organization, the Moore Public Schools Foundation had the capacity to “step in like a knight in shining armor” and help meet immediate needs. But their efforts wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of people in Oklahoma and around the country, he said. Throughout the recovery process, Hinkle said he has been reminded of the famous Mr. Rogers quote that in times of tragedy, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”