Saturday, December 31, 2011

My 2011 State Capitol Top Ten

These are a few of the top stories of 2011 from the State Capitol:
1. Mary Fallin becomes first female governor of Oklahoma

2. Republicans take control of state government:
  • Republicans sworn in to every statewide office for the first time
  • The Governor’s Office, State House and State Senate are controlled by Republicans for the first time

    3. Pension reforms, led by Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-OKC, passed during the legislative session and have reduced the state’s unfunded pension liabilities by billions of dollars

    4. DHS in the headlines:
    • The deaths of several children in state custody leads to changes at the DHS Commission including the creation of a committee to study child deaths
    • A district attorney calls for an OSBI investigation of DHS over allegations workers at the agency withheld information from the DA
    • A settlement agreement appears very likely in the 2008 Children’s Rights class action lawsuit against the OKDHS child welfare program avoiding trial early next year

    5. Attorney General Scott Pruitt files a lawsuit on behalf of the State challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare

      6. Changes in education:
      • State Supt. Janet Barresi and State Board of Education battle during her first board meeting and subsequent changes to the board
      • Several historic education reform measures were signed into law such as the repeal of trial de novo, a new A-F grading system for schools and the tax credit scholarship program Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act
      • State Supt. Janet Barresi selects former OEA lobbyist Joel Robinson as new Chief of Staff

      7. Two school districts sue parents of special needs children establishing a troubling new precedent of intimidation of parents by administrators and school boards

      8. The untimely deaths of friends hurts and reminds me of what's important:
      • Rep. Rusty Farley, R-Haworth, the first Republican elected to a state office from McCurtain County, died July 4 during his first year as a freshman State Representative
      • Sen. David Myers, R-Ponca City, Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee died November 11
      • Judy Copeland, a long time friend and General Counsel to Governors Fallin and Keating, died November 6 at 42

      9. The number and scope of studies during the interim kept legislators and the press busy during the summer and fall months

      10. The Capitol facade began crumbling this summer requiring the area near the front of the Capitol to be roped off until repairs are made

      This is not an exhaustive list but it does represent some of the topics, events or issues I was involved in, find interesting or that personally had an impact on me this year.
      Happy New Year!

      DHS settlement amended by Contingency Review Board, details undisclosed

      Published: 29-Dec-2011) 

      At the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, the Contingency Review Board today (Thursday, December 29) amended and then approved an amended settlement agreement in a long-running lawsuit against the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS). The board consists of Governor Mary Fallin, President Pro Temp Brian Bingman of Sapulpa and House Speaker Kris Steele of Shawnee. 

      DHS and other parties to the litigation must accept the amended settlement before it is binding. The draft accord had passed one round of review by several parties, including the “Children’s Rights” group that has led the litigious attack on the troubled agency, in the case DG vs. Yarborough. 

      The Children’s Rights organization, which is based in New York, has contended DHS inadequately monitors foster children, putting them at risk of harm. The agency has faced a wave of criticism for its handling of child protective services. 

      The commission that governs the agency faced increasing critical scrutiny earlier this year for inattentiveness to the litigation and for open meetings’ violations

      To gain approval, the amended draft accord, which was revised in an executive session of the CRB, must now be pressed anew through the route that brought the possible settlement to the CRB. The accord is subject to judicial review, as well as agreement of the contending parties. 

      Further, legitimacy of the CRB’s involvement is being challenged by Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent, a perennial and often effective critic of government practices. 

      Thus the draft agreement is merely the start of another round of scrutiny. If a binding agreement is not reached, the case could still go to trial in February (a preliminary hearing is slated for January 6). 

      Speaker Kris Steele
      Speaker Steele, who has been a critic of the agency and an advocate of significant changes in the agency’s governance and practices, said, “This is a golden opportunity to improve the agency under Oklahoma’s terms instead of a court’s terms. I’d like to thank Attorney General [Scott] Pruitt and our DHS commissioners for their leadership in steering this process to a path that is truly in the best interest of Oklahoma, its taxpayers and its vulnerable citizens. Make no mistake: This is a good day for Oklahoma.”
      President Pro Tem Bingman, in a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, commented, “There is no obligation we ought to take more seriously than the responsibility to protect the most vulnerable among us - particularly children in heartbreaking situations beyond their control.  The most important thing in this settlement agreement is a focus on improving the quality of services provided for the children of Oklahoma.

      “Today's vote to approve the settlement agreement is a step in the right direction, and still must be approved by U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell.  Like all Oklahomans, I am eager for Department of Human Services officials, state-elected officials, and the legislature to work together for the benefit of Oklahoma's children."

      Gov. Mary Fallin
      After the executive session, which lasted a bit more than one hour, the board returned to open session. Gov. Fallin pointed out, “no votes were taken in closed session.” After return to open session, Sen. Bingman moved, and Speaker Steele seconded, approval of the settlement, as amended. The motion carried and the panel then adjourned.

      In a brief discussion with reporters, Governor Fallin said that while the accord is subject to consent from parties in the litigation, she regards the draft accord as “a positive step.” 

      She reflected, “All parties have negotiated in good faith.” Concerning the validity of CRB actions, Fallin said state officials “don’t believe [Fent’s] analysis is correct.”

      Fallin has been carefully critical of DHS’ performance since assuming office last January. This fall, she named two new members to the commission that governs the agency – former Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane and businessman Brad Yarborough. Soon after his appointment, Yarborough was elected chairman of the DHS commission. 

      Attorney Fent’s challenges to the CRB’s practices have been successful in at least two cases. Further, state Rep. Mike Reynolds, an Oklahoma City Republican, argues the panel impermissibly mixes executive and legislative powers in a single board. 

      In a 2007 state Supreme Court case (103714), “Fent vs Contingency Review Board,” a majority of the justices found “The Legislature cannot participate, either directly or through administrative boards having legislators as members, in the administration of funds appropriated by enacted legislation.” The court concluded CRB’s involvement in administration of funds constituted “a legislative usurpation” of executive powers.

      In “Fent vs. Fallin” (2011 case 109770), the court struck down the Oklahoma Quick Action Fund due to the involvement of legislative leaders in “approval of an expenditure from the fund.” 

      Additionally, Reynolds points to a 1982 opinion from Attorney General Jan Eric Cartwright which found that “a committee consisting of Legislators, may not be authorized by legislation to approve or reject grant applications.”

      However, defenders of the CRB note the fact situation in the current DHS settlement agreement is different and, in legal parlance, “distinguishable” from other cases.

      Discussing the possible settlement with reporters, Sheree Powell, the communications coordinator at DHS, predicted a positive and “very unusual” resolution of the case, although she declined to provide any details. In response to questions from CapitolBeatOK, she said she has not seen the revised draft amendment.

      Powell said, “There is no perfect child welfare system.” She echoed frequently reported views of DHS Director Howard Hendrick, that DHS staff needs to be paid more and case workers need smaller case loads, and higher pay for foster parents and therapeutic homes.

      In this month’s regular meeting of the commission, Hendrick said the Legislature should approve pay raises for agency workers, and reduce employee contributions to the state retirement system. 

      Responding to the views of some critics that the agency is top heavy with management, Powell defended DHS performance, saying operations are “very efficient.” She said child protective work is “very stressful.” She said the full DHS commission should be able to consider the amended draft settlement next week.

      Howard Hendrick
      Director of DHS
      Director Hendrick told reporters today he estimated the agency has spent $7 million defending its practices in the litigation. Costs have included attorneys’ fees, expert witness fees and other expenses.

      Hendrick’s float of the idea to reduce pension system payments to finance pay hikes for DHS employees has attracted criticism from some. Hendrick said he could not address specific aspects of the accord until, and unless, a final agreement is reached. He made it clear the agency was willing to litigate to defend its practices, but that he hoped an agreement could be reached. 

      In an interview with Oklahoma Watchdog earlier this month, state Rep. Randy McDaniel, an Oklahoma City Republican, said this is not the time to curb pension contributions. While sympathetic to pay hikes for state workers, “we cannot do that on the back of the pension system.” 

      Linda Terrell of the Oklahoma Institute for Child advocacy said her group was “optimistic” at news of draft settlement, saying “significant reform” and possible privatization of “certain pieces of foster care,” combined with “wise investment of taxpayer dollars,” could improve performance at the agency.

      In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Terrell also took a shot at proposals to reduce state income tax rates, saying she opposed “cutting taxes for the wealthiest among us” at the expense of “vulnerable children.” 

      Friday, December 23, 2011

      Standstill Budgets Likely Next Fiscal Year

      OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Board of Equalization this week certified approximately $6.5 billion in revenue for the state budget in fiscal year 2013, an increase of $120.3 million over the previous year.
      The improvement from last year is a result of increased tax revenues as Oklahoma’s economy continues to improve. 
      However, the state faces an estimated budget shortfall of as much as $150 million due to the loss of one time funding sources. Even if the current trends continue state leaders are still looking at standstill budgets for the next fiscal year. 

      Governor Announces Appointments

      OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced several appointments. Here are two that caught my eye. Congratulations to Lou Watkins and Dan Keating.
      Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical Colleges
      Lou Watkins of Stillwater is a former college professor and department chair. She currently serves on the board of regents for OSU A&M colleges. Watkins received a bachelor’s degree and a masters in secondary education from OSU. She is being reappointed and is representing Congressional District 3. Senate confirmation is required for her appointment.
      Board of Regents of the Tulsa Community College
      Dan Keating of Tulsa is the president of Summit Consolidated Group, a national brokerage and insurance company. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tulsa and masters in business administration from OU. Keating currently serves on the board of directors for the Salvation Army, State Chamber of Commerce and Valley National Bank. He is replacing Robert Burton who resigned. Keating’s appointment requires Senate confirmation. 

      Thursday, December 22, 2011

      Board of Equalization funds OHLAP, but designates use of agency reserve

      Published: 20-Dec-2011) 

      The Oklahoma Board of Equalization (BOE), chaired by Governor Mary Falllin, met today (Tuesday, December 20) to fulfill statutory requirements to give preliminary certification to general revenues available for appropriation during the 2012 Legislature. The seven-member panel fulfilled its required function at its regularly-scheduled gathering, but also unexpectedly boosted anticipated funds available for general appropriation by $6 million. 

      Mid-way through the meeting, during what was expected to be a routine discussion as prelude to BOE approval of $63 million for “Oklahoma’s Promise” scholarships administered by the Higher Regents, Treasurer Ken Miller asked staff about the program reserve fund. That’s when members of the Board were told the reserve was about $15 million.

      (The Office of State Finance later confirmed the precise figure is $14,530,300.85, a sum that should increase when additional dollars are transferred shortly.) 

      The information provoked discussion and introspection among members of the board. Legal counsel for the state government confirmed the BOE could approve less than the $63 million requested, but fully fund the program request by specifying that some of the reserve could be used for the difference. 

      Miller and others on the board made it clear they supported “full funding.” At the same time, Miller articulated a view, apparently shared by every member, that “a more rational reserve balance” seemed in order. It was clarified in discussion with staff and counsel that the reserve may only be used for scholarship awards, and not for other purposes. 

      In the end, state Auditor & Inspector Gary Jones moved, and Treasurer Miller seconded, a motion to fulfill the $63 million request for funding of the higher education scholarships, directing $57 million from general revenue and the remaining $6 million from the OHLAP reserve. 

      Wednesday, December 21, 2011

      DHS Commission Votes to Settle Class Action Lawsuit

      Reform Effort Shifts Gears

      Oklahoma City—The Human Services Commission of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services held a special meeting December 20, 2011 at 5:30 PM to consider a settlement proposal in the DG vs. Yarbrough class action lawsuit.  Commission members approved a motion by a vote of 6 to 3 to authorize Chairman Brad Yarbrough to sign a settlement if approved by the Contingency Review Board. 

      “While the terms of the settlement remain confidential, I can say that the terms are unique in this kind of litigation,” said Howard Hendrick, Director of OKDHS.  “Both sides were willing to entertain a new approach to resolving class action civil rights claims involving child welfare systems.  The strength of our defense and the excellent work our child welfare workers do every day changed the conversation about how these kinds of cases should be resolved.  The future improvements, the details of which must yet be developed, are outlined in a framework that both sides hope will satisfy our shared desire to meet the needs of vulnerable children and families.”

      The Contingency Review Board consists of the Governor, Speaker of the House, and the Senate Pro Tem.  The board is expected to meet on Wednesday, December 28 to review the settlement proposal.

      The commission first met in executive session for more than five hours before returning to open session to vote on the proposed settlement.

      Attorney General Scott Pruitt intervened in the lawsuit shortly after taking office earlier this year. Intense work by Pruitt and his staff along with DHS commissioners taking a more active role in the litigation in recent months led to the proposed settlement. 

      The settlement is good news because the state is avoiding a potential takeover of our foster care system by the federal courts. It's good news for children in foster care because the agreement is focused on improving safety for children in state custody.

      A working group created by Speaker Kris Steele in September continues meeting around the state with DHS stakeholders exploring ways to improve the entire child welfare system. 

      The speaker has positioned the House of Representatives well by beginning work on significant structural reforms well before last night's vote by the commission. The working group plans to present a report containing findings and recommendations before the start of the 2012 legislative session. 

      Tuesday, December 20, 2011

      DHS Commission to Consider Settlement



      Dec. 20, 2011 at 5:30 p.m.
      Room C-48 – Sequoyah State Office Building
      Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      CALL TO ORDER – Chairman Brad Yarbrough





      ADJOURNMENT DHS commissioners set meeting to consider settlement of class-action lawsuit over foster care |

      Saturday, December 17, 2011

      Board Approves State Education Budget Request

      OKLAHOMA CITY (Dec. 15, 2011) – The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday approved a fiscal year 2013 budget request for public schools — providing details on funds for statewide implementation of reforms, dollars to assist teachers and school personnel with health insurance costs, and a restoration of funding for some programs that were cut as a result of a state budget shortfall last year.
      “This represents a responsible budget request that ensures we can implement crucial reforms across the state, while also meeting requirements for teachers’ retirement and flexible benefit allowances that help with health insurance expenses,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi said. “We're also asking that some additional funds be restored so the state can meet its commitment to pay for items such as bonuses for National Board Certified teachers. Oklahoma continues to face fiscal challenges, and we're mindful that any budget request must carefully prioritize and use taxpayer dollars in an efficient and effective manner."
      Oklahoma's common education budget was cut by nearly $100 million in fiscal year 2012. The FY 2012 Public School Activities budget was cut by 4.42 percent, while state aid for schools was cut by 4.13 percent.
      The $2.4 billion budget request for fiscal year 2013 asks for $157.9 million more than in FY 2012.  A large portion of the requested increase — more than $45.5 million — would fund the Flexible Benefit Allowance for each certified school district employee, other than superintendents, and for support personnel.
      State law requires the State Department of Education to fully fund Teachers Retirement and matching requirements for federal grants. Among items in the budget request, the Department of Education asked for a $78.2 million increase for the Financial Support of Schools. The almost $1.9 billion fund distributes aid to all state school districts through the state aid formula.
      Barresi said the budget request also asks the Legislature to restore funding to some items that were zeroed out during last year's budget crunch, such as funding for National Board Certified Teacher Bonuses amounting to nearly $12 million. The request also asks for restored funding for matching federal funds for adult education, funds for Advanced Placement incentives, dollars for alternative and high challenge education, and charter school incentives.
      A $1.6 million increase also was requested for Achieving Classroom Excellence (ACE) remediation. The ACE Act of 2005 requires remediation opportunities be provided to all seventh- and eighth-grade and high school students (beginning with students who entered the ninth-grade in the 2008-09 school year) who do not score at or above the satisfactory/proficient performance level on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests in reading and mathematics or on End-of-Instruction (EOI) exams. The ACE budget for 2013 is $9.2 million.

      Wednesday, December 14, 2011

      Sen. David to head Health and Human Services Subcommittee

      Sen. Kim David

      State Sen. Kim David has been chosen to serve as chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. 
      David, R-Porter, previously served as vice-chair of the committee. 
      Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, now takes over as vice-chairman. Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman said the appointments would guarantee a continuity of leadership for the subcommittee.
      “Last session this subcommittee had the responsibility of determining the allocations of nearly $2 billion for agencies touching lives in every single community in Oklahoma,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “With Senator Clark Jolley now serving as chairman of full appropriations, we are grateful that Senator David was willing to step up to head the Health and Human Services Subcommittee. I am also confident that Senator Treat will do an excellent job as vice-chairman.”

      The subcommittee determines the budgets of 12 state agencies, including the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma Department of Health and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

      “The agencies contained in the Health and Human Services subcommittee impact some of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens,” David said. “There are limited resources, so it is critical for us to be diligent in our efforts to prioritize every single dollar allocated for these agencies to do the greatest good possible for our citizens.”

      Treat previously served as a member of the Health and Human services subcommittee.

      “I am grateful to Pro Tempore Bingman for this opportunity. Without a doubt, the agencies within Health and Human Services represent an extremely complex but crucial area of state government,” Treat said. “I look forward to working with Senator David in meeting these challenges.”

      Trebilcock Seeks Civil Confinement for Child Molesters

      OKLAHOMA CITY (December 8, 2011) — Rapists and child molesters could face long-term confinement in a mental institution after completing a prison sentence under legislation filed by state Rep. John Trebilcock.
      House Bill 2190 would allow sex offenders to be involuntarily confined in a mental institution upon release from the prison system.
      “As we have seen with the Penn State scandal, a single child molester is capable of devastating the lives of countless innocent children,” said Trebilcock, R-Broken Arrow. “These criminals typically remain a public-safety threat even after completing a prison sentence and it is necessary to ensure they are not allowed to return to the communities they have victimized.”
      Under the proposal, when a sex offender nears the end of his prison sentence, a prosecutor can seek a jury hearing to have the criminal civilly confined.
      If the jury finds there is “clear and convincing” evidence a sex offender does not have control over his actions and is likely to commit similar crimes upon release, the convict can then be confined to a mental institution upon completion of his prison sentence.
      The bill is modeled on laws in Kansas and New York that have been upheld in court.
      “Because civil confinement provides treatment, not punishment, the courts have ruled that double jeopardy does not apply in these situations,” Trebilcock said.
      In addition to recent national scandals involving alleged pedophiles, Trebilcock said several major cases in Oklahoma show the need for a civil-confinement law.
      • After his release from prison, Marcus Berry, a two-time convicted sex offender, kidnapped a two-year-old girl from her front yard in Tulsa.

      • After Bobby Stine was arrested near Jay, Oklahoma and accused of molesting a 14-year-old, Stine confessed to having committed sexual crimes with multiple children prior to the arrest.
      “Sadly, there are numerous cases demonstrating the need to require civil confinement of child rapists,” Trebilcock said. “My legislation will give prosecutors the ability to keep these dangerous and violent criminals off the streets.”
      House Bill 2190 can be taken up at the start of the 2012 session of the Oklahoma Legislature next February.

      Tuesday, December 13, 2011

      Overcoming Challenges: Brett Cunningham

      A great story about Brett Cunningham. I've had the opportunity to work with Brett several times during the last year or so and have been very impressed.

      Monday, December 12, 2011

      Rep. Murphey: State Government Needs A Performance Audit

      Rep. Jason Murphey

      Oklahoma City - Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, discusses on his blog the need to establish regular performance audits by the State Auditor. Below are excerpts from his post this morning.
      "One of the most important components of this year’s House government modernization effort will involve acting on a request from State Auditor Gary Jones.
      "Jones has requested the Legislature to take action and allow his office to establish a performance audits division that could conduct a series of performance audits of state government entities during each year.
      "The proposal would allow the people of Oklahoma to vote next November to place this proposal into the Oklahoma Constitution.
      "Currently, the Auditor can conduct these audits at the request of the Governor, the Legislature, or the head of an agency. As you might image, it is highly unlikely agency officials from a poorly performing agency would ever request the Auditor to audit their agency.
      "Earlier this year, Governor Fallin authorized a performance audit of the state-owned Grand River Dam Authority. That audit was released last week and brought to light a number of concerning details questioning the method by which millions of dollars were being spent."

      Saturday, December 10, 2011

      Lt. Governor Todd Lamb Completes 77 County Tour

      Oklahoma City—Lt. Governor Todd Lamb announced this week that he completed his visit to each of Oklahoma’s 77 counties within his first year office. The Lt. Governor’s town hall in Latimer County this week marked his final stop on his tour around the state. This is the Lt. Governor’s third complete lap around Oklahoma, with each of his county visits serving a purpose. This is Lt. Governor Lamb’s first official 77 county tour in this office and his third 77 county tour during his career.

      “These stops were not just setting foot in each county, but instead included purposeful and productive visits with town leaders and various citizens who wanted their voices heard,” said Lt. Governor Lamb. “Having been to every county before, this was also a great opportunity to revisit old friends and those I have worked with in years past. It is important to get outside of the Capitol and have personal, face to face conversations in every single county. That experience is invaluable.”

      As a result of his various community meetings and town halls, the Lt. Governor is compiling a policy report that he will present to the Governor and legislative leaders. In January, this report will reflect the ideas and suggestions of various Oklahomans the Lt. Governor met across the state. The Lt. Governor heard several good ideas that will be a part of the policy report.

      Some of those ideas include addressing fraud in Oklahoma’s Worker’s Compensation System, lowering the personal income tax and assessing transportation needs.

      Oklahomans have always had an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit that continues to move Oklahoma forward. The thoughts and ideas the Lt. Governor heard on his tour are no exception. Oklahoma is on the cusp of a renaissance. Our best days lie ahead.

      Tuesday, December 6, 2011

      New Rule Restores Health Insurance Market for Children

      Oklahoma City – Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday gave her approval to an emergency rule intended to close an insurance gap created by federal health care reform.
      For some 18 months, “child-only” policies for ages 19 and under have not been sold by any insurance company doing business in Oklahoma, a response by insurers to new federal regulations in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak said yesterday that Gov. Fallin’s signature should revive that market for the vast majority of uncovered children.
      The revised emergency rule permits carriers to determine the age range in which they intend to offer coverage to all applicants during defined enrollment periods. Deputy Commissioner of Health and Life Insurance Mike Rhoads said insurers are expected to resume selling child-only policies for applicants ages 1 to 19.
      A special enrollment period for coverage will take place in January and February 2012.
      “I applaud Gov. Fallin’s decision to provide coverage options to as many Oklahoma children as possible,” Doak said. “I look forward to health insurers re-entering the Oklahoma child-only market during the new year.”
      Doak noted that coverage has always remained available for children of all ages as part of family insurance plans, and that disadvantaged Oklahoma children were still covered by programs like SoonerCare. Child-only insurance is purchased by parents or guardians whose incomes don’t qualify for government programs and who cannot or choose not to buy private coverage for the whole family.
      “For 18 months this specific type of coverage has been completely unavailable due to federal interference in the insurance market,” said Doak.

      Pilot Program Proposed to Evaluate Teachers and Administrators

      OKLAHOMA CITY (Dec. 6, 2011) – Oklahoma’s Teacher & Leader Effectiveness Commission on Monday recommended a pilot program for a new statewide system for evaluating teacher and administrator performance.
      The formal recommendations from the TLE Commission will be considered for possible approval by the State Board of Education at its regular meeting on Dec. 15.
      “This is about helping teachers and school leaders achieve their best. It’s about encouraging the most effective teaching practices in the classroom and the best leadership in our schools,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi. "I appreciate the work of the commission as it will provide important guidance to the State Board in making a decision."
      The commission voted to recommend that Oklahoma implement a pilot year for its new teacher and leader effectiveness system. Pending approval of the State Board of Education after review of cost considerations, the state will pilot a teacher evaluation system first implemented in Tulsa, while setting aside funds for also piloting the Marzano Teacher Evaluation System and the Danielson Framework for Teaching.
      School districts will be allowed to choose between the three models.
      The commission also recommended that the state adopt a default framework for leader evaluation based on McREL's Principal Evaluation System. 
      The 19-member commission has been meeting since June. It received feedback on the evaluation system from a wide representation of stakeholders, including teachers, administrators, students, parents, community members and policymakers.
      The commission will continue to provide oversight and advise the State Board of Education on the development and implementation of the evaluation system.

      Saturday, December 3, 2011

      Costello Calls Federal Labor Rules Frontal Attack On The Rural Family

      Oklahoma City - In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello voiced opposition to rules the U.S. Department of Labor is proposing to the Fair Labor Standards Act regarding child farm workers. Costello charged that the proposed rules are a “frontal attack on the rural family, farm life, and the family farm or ranch as a small business operation.”
      The U.S. Department of Labor proposes that the family farm or ranch, when its legal structure is a partnership or corporation, is not allowed to employ children, 16 years of age or younger, in farm work deemed hazardous. 
      Costello asserts under the new rules “young teens are barred from riding on a tractor, herding and branding cattle, and grandparents are barred from having their grandchildren work on the family farm. I would much rather defer to the authority of a parent to manage the safety of their child than a distant bureaucrat.”
      Costello asserted, “This proposed regulation is suspect, in particularly, originating from an administration headed by someone who has spoken derisively of rural Americans who ‘cling to guns or religion.’ This absurdity will destroy agricultural jobs, hurt American agricultural competitiveness, and damage the cultural integrity of the rural family. This bureaucratic overreach tangibly demonstrates a lack of private sector agriculture experience and would criminalize traditional family farm life.”
      “As Commissioner of Labor, duly elected by the citizens of Oklahoma, I have a lawful obligation to speak out for the economic well-being as well as safety concerns of the citizens of this state,” stated Costello.
      Costello urged Secretary of Labor Solis to stand down from enacting “flawed nanny state rules.”

      Friday, December 2, 2011

      DHS Worker Credited with Saving Girl

      OKDHS child welfare worker Olivia Kyaterekera is credited with saving girl who had been forced to live in a closet. This is a great story.

      Help Foster Wishes bring Christmas Joy to Foster Children

      OK Foster Wishes from Emanate Media, Samson Varughese on Vimeo.

      OKLAHOMA CITY -- To be in the service of others is a powerful thing.

      The OKDHS Office of Volunteerism joins a number of organizations, including OK Foster Wishes, in an effort to make Christmas all the brighter for foster children across Oklahoma.

      Thousands of Oklahoma children in foster care are busy making 'wish lists' for Christmas. Some of the items requested are basketballs, iPhones, X-boxes, dolls and bicycles. Pretty much the same list children everywhere have made for years.

      In 2007, members of contacted OKDHS and asked how they could help provide food and gifts for families and children in foster care. 

      That first year, helped feed 300 families for Thanksgiving and provided presents to another 1,500 foster children for Christmas. The following year they helped 3,000 foster children in Oklahoma County alone.
      Since then, a non-profit organization called OK Foster Wishes was formed to partner with other churches, businesses, individuals and organizations to better serve the hundreds more foster children who have been added to the list. The goal is to eventually provide a happy Christmas to foster children in all 77 counties.

      The OKDHS Office of Volunteerism coordinates the effort. 
      “We ask all county offices if they would like to participate,” says Karen Jacobs, Coordinator of the OKDHS Office of Volunteerism. “For those that do, they submit ‘wish lists’ from children they serve in foster care and our partners take it from there. 
      “There is absolutely no cost to OKDHS. OK Foster Wishes fills all the wish lists and provides coordination with other community partners. They are absolutely wonderful. We couldn't do this without the help of all of our partners.”

      Donations can be dropped-off at various locations including OnCue convenience stores, the Oklahoma Employees Credit Union and numerous churches representing a variety of denominations.

      Foster care caseworkers will distribute the gifts to children during the month of December. 
      “We accept donations right up to Christmas,” says Jacobs. “And we have a toy store at our warehouse so we have presents for children who might arrive late into the system, such as the day before Christmas.”

      Gifts are needed for children from infants to age 18. To request a wish list visit or just bring your donation to the Office of Volunteerism.
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