Sunday, October 30, 2011

Person Convicted of DUI Praises Erin Swezey Act

Sen. Clark Jolley posted an email he received praising the Erin Swezey Act – from a person convicted of DUI. It confirms what Sen. Jolley and I said during session:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Continued Good News on Pension Issues

OKLAHOMA CITY  – For the second time in two months, state lawmakers were told this week that reforms enacted this year have resulted in significant improvement to a state pension plan.
Thanks to legislative reforms, the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System’s unfunded liability has been slashed by approximately $1.7 billion, officials told members of the Pension Oversight Committee today.

Friday, October 28, 2011

School supply drive to benefit Oklahoma City Public Schools children

OKLAHOMA CITY - A two-week community-wide school supply drive to benefit students and teachers in Oklahoma City Public Schools will kick off Tuesday. With more than two dozen drop-off locations across the metro area, participating is easy.

Simply take supplies – a “wish list” is available at – to one of the designated drop-off locations by Nov. 15. When the drive is over, all donations will be delivered to the Teachers Warehouse at The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

“The business community recognizes that the needs of our students and teachers are more than schools can meet on their own,” said Michael Morrison, the owner of Comtech Direct Mail Solutions who is spearheading the drive. “We want to help.”

Teachers in Oklahoma City Public Schools can place online orders on a monthly basis for the supplies their students need most. White copy paper, crayons, markers, glue, safety scissors, backpacks and construction paper are some of the most requested items.

Sponsors of the TeamUpOKC drive include Comtech, Farmers Insurance Group, Oklahoma City Barons, Oklahoma Employees Credit Union, Bank of Oklahoma, FAA Credit Union, T&S Web Design, American Cleaners, Panera Bread, Ideal Homes, Oklahoma Gazette, OKC Biz, Clear Channel Communications, Feed the Children, SportClips, Hertz, Red Bud Financial Group, The Journal Record, and Jason’s Deli.

Since its inception in 2008, Teachers Warehouse has distributed more than $700,000 in free supplies to Oklahoma City classrooms. The vast majority of the school district’s students and their families live at or near the poverty line and struggle to provide even the most basic supplies. Teachers often try to fill the gap themselves – an expensive proposition. Through the warehouse, the Foundation seeks to close the gap between what students and teachers have and what they need to be successful.

Teachers Warehouse operates 10 months out of the year in recognition that the need for supplies is an ongoing. Even with generous Teachers Warehouse sponsors including Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy and OG&E, the demand for supplies exceeds donations, particularly as the school year creeps toward Christmas and beyond the holidays.

The warehouse typically “sells out” of copy paper, hand sanitizer and other high-demand items within minutes after the monthly ordering period opens. Hundreds of volunteers are required to conduct inventory, unload and sort donations and pack orders.

“We’re grateful for the business community’s support of Teachers Warehouse and what it means for the children and teachers in Oklahoma City Public Schools,” said Lori Dickinson, the Foundation’s executive director. “Academic success will be difficult to come by if students don’t have the basic materials necessary in every classroom.”


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Barresi Releases Districts And Schools on Needs Improvement List

OKLAHOMA CITY (Oct. 27, 2011) – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi on Thursday morning released the names of schools and school districts on the Needs Improvement list because of failure to meet Adequate Yearly Progress for two years in a row based on Academic Performance Index (API) scores.

The lists have been posted on the state Department of Education's website,

“We know that schools are working very hard to constantly improve, and we’re looking forward to helping all of our schools continue to find innovative ways to gain ground,” Barresi said. 

“We will be looking at ways to help every school in every district on this list determine effective strategies for improvement. There is not a blanket solution. The strategy will vary in each school. The failure of even one child in Oklahoma to reach his or her potential is something we should all be concerned about.”

Maridyth McBee, the interim assistant state superintendent over school accountability and assessment, delivered reports to the state Board of Education during the board’s regular monthly meeting Thursday.

McBee explained that AYP, as required by federal No Child Left Behind legislation, is determined from reading and math scores, percent of students tested and graduation and attendance rates. Schools that fail to meet AYP face a number of sanctions.

The number of districts and schools on the Needs Improvement list rose from 2010 in large part because of changes made in 2009 to threshold benchmarks that mark the difference between a passing or failing grade.

Districts that have not met AYP for two years are placed on the Needs Improvement List. There are 56 districts in year one on the Needs Improvement list this year, up from 9 districts in 2010. There are five districts in year two on the list, compared to zero districts at this stage in 2010. There are 172 schools in year one on the Needs Improvement list this year compared to 62 schools in 2010; 37 schools are in year two on the list versus 17 in 2010.“We are taking this seriously,” Barresi said. “The increases in our benchmarks were an important change. These changes have been planned since 2002, and we knew the requirements would be more challenging.

“This should not be a reason to pull back,” Barresi said. “This is all the more reason to push forward with our reforms.”

Barresi said waivers to No Child Left Behind legislation, which are being requested from the federal government, will lead to a new accountability system that will in turn focus on individual growth of students and on the hard work being done by districts.

The state’s new A through F grading system for schools, expected to be in place by summer 2012, also will help parents and community members gain a clearer understanding of work that is being done in districts and give them direction in how to help support that work, Barresi said.

API scores for each school will be posted on the state Department of Education’s website next week.

For a list of districts on the Needs Improvement list, go to

For a list of schools on the Needs Improvement list, go to

For state test scores, go to

Stronger DUI law starts Tuesday

Erin Swezey

OKLAHOMA CITY – Starting next Tuesday, November 1, Oklahomans who drive drunk will face tougher penalties—changes that supporters say will save lives.  Sen. Clark Jolley and Rep. Jason Nelson authored the Erin Swezey Act last session, which won overwhelming approval by the legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin.  The legislation was named for a 20-year-old Oklahoma State University student from Edmond who was killed in 2009 by a drunk driver with numerous DUI arrests and convictions.
“We want people to know that if they choose to drink too much and get behind the wheel, they will face greater consequences.  Hopefully that may discourage some people from driving drunk in the first-place,” said Jolley, R-Edmond.  “If not, the provisions of the Erin Swezey Act will make it much more difficult for them to drink and drive once they’ve been convicted of DUI.”
Sen. Clark Jolley speaking at a Capitol press conference with
Erin Swezey's family, Rep. Nelson and State Troopers
As of November 1, an interlock device will be required for 18 months on a first conviction for those with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or higher.  For a second or subsequent offense, the interlock will be mandatory for those with a BAC of .08 for a period of four years, and for five years on subsequent offenses.  Under the new law, those convicted will have the designation “Interlock Required” on the face of their driver licenses as long as they’re required to have an interlock device.
The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office has already begun airing a new Public Service Announcement about interlock devices, which can be viewed on their website ( and will also be working to raise public awareness about the Erin Swezey Act.
“Keeping the public safe on Oklahoma roadways is a top priority for law enforcement,” said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Major Rusty Rhodes.  “This law provides stricter rules for DUI offenders and will help us keep impaired drivers off the roads.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, interlock devices are credited with reducing repeat drunk driving offenses by an average of 67 percent, with a 30 percent reduction of alcohol related fatalities.  However some states have seen even greater results. 
Keith and Dixie Swezey visit
with Rep. Nelson after Erin Swezey
Act passed the final House vote
“In Arizona, they’ve cut their fatalities by nearly half.  That’s pretty dramatic,” said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City.  “We’ll never know whose life we’ve saved with this law, but it could be any one of us or our own children or grandchildren.”
Among those attending Thursday’s State Capitol press conference to raise public awareness about the new law were Erin’s parents, Keith and Dixie Swezey, her brothers, and other friends and family members.
“Drunk driving is not a victimless crime.  Erin’s life was cut tragically short by a senseless and 100 percent preventable act,” said Keith Swezey.  “But if this new law is properly enforced, countless Oklahoma citizens will not have to suffer the tragedy that our family and so many others have gone through.”

(For digital audio go to and select “Media”)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chiefs for Change Statement on Lack of Teacher and Principal Accountability in ESEA Bill

Washington, DC – Today, the members of Chiefs for Change released the following statement regarding the lack of teacher and principal accountability in the ESEA bill that passed out of the Senate Committee on Heath, Education, Labor and Pensions last week.

“In today’s economy, it’s more important than ever that we give all our children the excellent education they deserve. That’s why we are disappointed that senators from both parties are backtracking on reforms that would hold teachers and principals accountable for what matters most: helping students learn. We are particularly disappointed that they would endorse the same retreat from accountability that national special interest groups are seeking, namely not requiring that teacher and principal evaluations be based in part on student achievement."

"The federal government shouldn’t tell us how to run our schools, but it has a right to demand results when we take taxpayer money intended to help students. Our country can’t afford to keep sending billions of dollars a year to schools without asking whether teachers are actually helping students learn. Now is not the time to turn away from common-sense reforms that value results over bureaucratic red tape. We look forward to working with Senators Harkin and Enzi and members of the U.S. Senate to strengthen this bill.”

Chiefs for Changes is a group of state education officials that includes Janet Barresi, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction;  Tony Bennett, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction; Stephen Bowen, Maine Commissioner of Education; Chris Cerf, New Jersey Commissioner of Education;  Paul Pastorek, former Louisiana State Superintendent of Education; Gerard Robinson, Florida Commissioner of Education; Hanna Skandera, New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary-Designate; and Eric Smith, former Florida Commissioner of Education.

AG and Water Resources Board Comments on Tarrant County Water Decision

Attorney General Scott Pruitt
Judge denies rehearing for Texas water provider

OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Scott Pruitt joined the Oklahoma Water Resources Board in backing Oklahoma water rights, following last week's positive decision at the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The court denied a petition from the Tarrant Regional Water District to rehear their lawsuit seeking to allow Texas to take water from Oklahoma. 

“We are pleased with the court’s decision,” Attorney General Scott Pruitt said. “The ruling underscores that the people of Oklahoma should not be mandated through litigation to shape water policy. Water is an important resource that is vital to Oklahomans, and my office will continue to defend our state’s interests.” 

“The Governor and Oklahoma Legislature made it clear that Oklahoma must set its own water policy,” said J.D. Strong, executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. “The court’s decision further supports our position.”

AG Says Funds From Sale of School Property Financed by Bonds Cannot be Diverted

In an opinion by Attorney General Scott Pruitt released last week schools are told that they cannot divert funds derived from the sale of school property, if the property was purchased with bond funds, to another purpose. 
The request for an official Opinion of the Attorney General was requested by Rep. Jabar Shumate, D-Tulsa. Rep. Shumate asked two questions: 
1.) When a school district sells or disposes of property that was financed in whole or in part by the issuance of bonds, how may the proceeds be used?; and, 
2.) Is there a time limitation past which a governmental bond issuer need not account for proceeds from the sale or disposal of property financed in whole or part by the issuance of bonds?
The opinion states: 
“When a school district borrows funds by the issuance of bonds for a specific purpose and the school district later sells the property, it must either use the sale proceeds representing the funds borrowed and applicable interest paid for the same specific purpose stated in the bond measure, if possible, or it must pay back the proceeds into the sinking fund.”
The opinion says there is no time limit on the requirement to use the funds appropriately saying, "the use of the borrowed funds [being] applicable to subsequent uses as well as to the first use thereof."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Oklahoma Economic Report Released for October

State Treasurer Ken Miller has released the October edition of the Oklahoma Economic Report
Stories this month include:
  • Guest commentary by Governor Mary Fallin
  • Tax reform brewing
  • Oklahoma economy shows steady growth
  • First quarter general revenue exceeds estimate
  • Gross receipts vs. General Revenue Fund
  • Economic Indicators

Video: Recap of two events at State Capitol this week

It was a significant week at the State Capitol considering that the legislature is not in session.

The election of T.W. Shannon as Speaker Designate and a major announcement by Speaker Kris Steele regarding OKDHS were highlights. CapitolBeatOK's Pat McGuigan discusses these events with News9's Alex Cameron.

Friday, October 21, 2011

OKDHS Commission Special Review Committee Met Yesterday

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Special Review Committee of the OKDHS Human Services Commission held its first organizational meeting yesterday. 

The Oklahoma Constitution states that the OKDHS Commission "shall formulate policies and adopt rules and regulations for the effective administration of the duties of the department."

"In executing its role, it is incumbent upon the Commission to ensure that such policies, rules or regulations are effective in protecting the lives of children or adults in its custodial care," said Wes Lane, Chair of the Commission's Special Review Committee.

The Special Review Committee will have four primary purposes, said Lane. First, to define those situations, events, or occurrences concerning which it wishes to make a special review, including, but not limited to, the deaths of children or adults in its care. Second, the committee will establish a process in which all agencies and authorities having investigative or other insight on the subject matter can provide such reports or insight to the Committee. Third, the committee will review such information and present findings to the Commission for any necessary action. Fourth, obtain the aid of members of the community in order to expedite such reviews.

The nature of yesterday's meeting was organization, but some matters of confidentiality were also discussed. While the meeting was closed to the public, commission members were available for media interviews at the conclusion of the meeting. 

The working group of State Representatives task with recommending structural changes at OKDHS announced earlier this week by Speaker Kris Steele will be working closely with the Commission in a coordinated effort to overhaul the agency.

Senator Childers takes oath, begins service

The newest member of the Oklahoma State Senate is now officially on the job. Sen. Greg Childers was officially sworn in during a special ceremony in the Senate Chamber on Wednesday. Among the many friends, relatives and supporters attending the State Capitol ceremony were Childers’ wife, Melanie, and sons Cameron, 12, Connor, 8 and Cole, 6, who joined Childers on the floor for the oath of office.

“I am extremely humbled to have been entrusted with this responsibility, and I do not take it lightly,” said Childers, R-Del City. “I will do everything in my power to make my district and this state the best they can be for all our citizens, and that means creating more jobs, better economic opportunities and a great quality of life.”

2011 Session Review Posted on House Website

The 2011 Session in Review is published online by the great staff at the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The Session in Review is a list of all measures passed by the House of Representatives during the First Session of the 53rd Legislature. The list contains a synopsis of and a hyperlink to each measure.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Speaker Outlines New DHS Strategy, Rep. Nelson to Lead Effort

Speaker Kris Steele

OKLAHOMA CITY – House Speaker Kris Steele and a bipartisan group of five representatives today unveiled the first steps of a strategy to reform the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

The House’s aggressive, four-pronged strategy is designed to improve DHS through significant study of and potential reforms to governance structure, agency structure, personnel policy and resource allocation. The plan is in response to a shared desire between House members, agency officials and other stakeholders to improve delivery of services by DHS, particularly for children in state custody.

“Today we begin working together to find a better way,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “The Legislature has made incremental DHS reforms over the years, but more improvements are needed. The comprehensive reform we seek is only achievable if we all truly cooperate and work toward a common goal. It won’t be easy, but what we’re saying today is we’re going to buckle down and get there together.”

Steele has asked a bipartisan group of five representatives to engage in a strategic review of DHS to develop policy to consider next legislative session.

Governor Mary Fallin released a statement today after the announcement.
“When I appointed Brad Yarbrough and Wes Lane to the DHS commission, I asked them to pursue reforms that would allow the agency to better protect our children and increase accountability, transparency and efficiency,” Fallin said. “The goals outlined today by Speaker Steele, a bipartisan group of legislators, and agency officials is the logical next step in that process.”
Leading the group will be Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, who has spent this summer and past years reviewing DHS to look for potential reforms. Other members of the group are Reps. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore, Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City, and Wade Rousselot, D-Okay. All members of the group have certain areas of expertise in human services.
“Make no mistake: This is no typical legislative committee. There will be no sitting in hearings making motions and watching PowerPoints all day,” Nelson said. “DHS faces serious challenges that necessitate us getting out of the Capitol and into the field.”
The group will operate in a unique manner, with much of its work occurring in small meetings with DHS workers in the field, where the group will observe how policies are implemented and analyze organizational strengths and needs. The group will also meet with other agency officials and leaders, DHS commissioners and other stakeholders.

“The Legislature already has a wealth of knowledge about this agency, so there is no need to duplicate what we’ve already done. Instead, we’re taking a somewhat outside-the-box approach,” Nelson said. “I’m confident this is exactly the type of approach needed in order to achieve real reforms that ensure DHS delivers the results Oklahomans expect. Our sense of urgency could not be any higher.”

The group’s meetings with workers will be private to allow for candid conversation and disclosure of sensitive information. The group will also engage in an in-depth study of the agency’s structure and resource allocation to determine if better results could be achieved through reorganization and reprioritizing resources. A public report on the group’s findings will be presented during a public meeting sometime next year.

Steele said DHS reform will be a policy priority in the House next session.

“My expectation is one I believe most Oklahomans share, and that is to do whatever it takes to produce serious improvement at DHS,” Steele said.

Officials at DHS – the largest agency in state government – pledged to give the group the access it needs to the agency in order to do its work.

“We thank Speaker Steele and the House for their willingness to work together to find solutions and look forward to assisting in every way possible,” DHS Director Howard Hendrick said. “This process will do a lot of good and I’m glad to be part of it.”

DHS commissioners also expressed support for the group’s plans.

“We are fully committed to building a better DHS for the 21st century and appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with Speaker Steele and all legislators in this process,” said incoming Oklahoma Commission for Human Services Chairman Brad Yarbrough. “It won’t be easy, but the best work never is. We stand ready for the challenge.”

The Oklahoma Public Employees Association also expressed support for the House plan.

“We appreciate these representatives for their willingness to get out of the Capitol to spend time with the workers who are on the ground protecting Oklahoma’s children,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. “The front line employees’ unique perspective and their experience will be valuable in this critical process.”

Rep. Ron Peters, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Human Services, said he is appreciative of the work the group plans to do.

“I am thrilled to see my colleagues and DHS working together on solutions. It’s the right thing to do and I commend them for it,” said Peters, R-Tulsa. “I stand ready to assist in any way.”
“As a state, we must all work together to prevent the abuse and neglect of our most vulnerable citizens,” Fallin said. That’s especially true when it comes to child abuse and the heart-breaking deaths of children in state custody. We have, unfortunately, seen too many instances of both recently, and the current results are unacceptable. Today’s announcement puts us on a path to reform our systems of child welfare and better protect vulnerable Oklahomans.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


WHO: House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, House members who are reviewing the state Department of Human Services, DHS leaders, incoming DHS Commission Chairman Brad Yarbrough, and an Oklahoma Public Employees Association representative.

WHAT: Press conference to discuss strategies the House will use to improve DHS.

WHEN: 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19

WHERE: Governor's Blue Room, 2nd Floor Broadcast Press Room, Room 432-B, State Capitol

Speaker Steele and other House members will unveil the House’s strategy to produce better outcomes for those who come into contact with DHS, particularly children in state custody. The representatives will unveil an aggressive, four-pronged strategy to improve DHS through significant reforms to governance structure, agency structure, personnel policy and resource allocation. Steele will outline plans to work with DHS officials, commissioners and others in effort to improve the agency and increase accountability.

STATEMENT: Speaker comments on Ahonesty Hicks

According to a report by the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, 17-month-old Ahonesty Hicks died May 3 from abuse. In the weeks preceding Ahonesty’s death, DHS officials decided against removing Ahonesty from her mother’s custody despite knowing her mother had recently tested positive for PCP and been involved in a domestic dispute with her boyfriend. Ahonesty’s mother’s boyfriend has been charged with Ahonesty’s murder.

“Ahonesty’s tragic and untimely death is another indication of the need to reform the policy, infrastructure and delivery of services at DHS. These outcomes must end. The House has been and will remain fully engaged in working with DHS officials at every level of the agency to identify better methods to protect our children and all our vulnerable citizens.” – House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee

State Senator Andrew Rice Resigning Senate Seat

Oklahoma City - Today Sen. Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, submitted letters to the Secretary of the Senate, President Pro Tempore Bingman, and Governor Fallin informing them that he is resigning his duties as State Senator effective Jan. 15th, 2012.
“I am supporting my wife in her pursuit of a career opportunity outside of the state of Oklahoma,” Rice said in a statement. “She has made immense sacrifices for me in her support of my political career and public service, and I am honored to be able to reciprocate that for her now.” 
The move would prevent Rice, currently the Democratic leader in the Senate, from completing his four year term, which ends in November, 2014. 
President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Supulpa, today released a statement wishing Rice and his family well.
"Though we may not have always seen eye-to-eye on every issue, I have nothing but respect for Senator Rice and his service to the state of Oklahoma,” Bingman said. “He is compassionate, intellectually honest, and relentless in the defense of his constituents. I could not have asked for a better Senate colleague and Minority Leader counterpart.”
By law, Gov. Fallin will call a special election for Senate District 46 within 30 days of the effective date of resignation. The Senate Democratic Caucus will hold an internal election in the coming months to choose a new Senate Democratic Leader. 
“It has been an immense honor and privilege to serve the people of Senate District 46,” Rice said. “I will miss the many friendships that I have formed with colleagues on both sides of the aisle and the senate staff. We are sad that this change will take us away from Oklahoma, but this is the best decision for our family at this time.”
“I'm honored to count Andrew and his wife, Apple, as friends,” Bingman said. “I wish their family the very best as they embark on the next chapter in their lives."

This afternoon state Rep. Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City, announced his intentions to seek Senate District 46 in the special election.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb Hosts Nelson Fundraiser Tuesday, Oct. 25

House Speaker-designate elected

OKLAHOMA CITY - Rep. T.W. Shannon has been elected House Speaker-designate for the 54th Oklahoma Legislature.
Rep. T.W. Shannon
The House Republican Caucus elected Shannon, R-Lawton, as Speaker-designate during a caucus meeting Monday morning at the Capitol.
Should Republicans maintain their majority in the House following next year’s election cycle, Shannon will be next in line to serve as Speaker of the House beginning in November 2012, when current House Speaker Kris Steele leaves office due to term limits.
“The House will be in good hands under Representative Shannon’s leadership,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “T.W. is a dynamic and capable leader who will continue to work hard for the state of Oklahoma. I look forward to begin working with him to ensure a smooth leadership transition next year.”
Shannon and Reps. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, and Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, were the candidates for Speaker-designate.
“The three candidates who made themselves available to fill this position are fine public servants and are to be commended for their enthusiastic desire to be leaders in Oklahoma’s effort to grow as a state,” Steele said.
Shannon, 33, said he looks forward to working with Steele and the rest of the House in the coming months.
“I was extremely humbled by the support shown by my colleagues today,” Shannon said. “I am excited and ready to stand behind Speaker Steele to help grow our majority in the coming election and assist in advancing a conservative agenda that will make Oklahoma a destination to live, work and raise a family.”
House Democratic Leader Scott Inman also congratulated Rep. Shannon on his election as House Speaker-designate.
“On behalf of the House Democratic Caucus, I would like to congratulate Representative T.W. Shannon,” Inman (D-Del City) said. “I look forward to working with him to find common-sense, middle-of-the-road solutions to Oklahoma’s problems. Together, we must reject overtly partisan agendas, stand up to the fringe elements of the political process and, in a bipartisan manner, focus on ensuring Oklahoma’s economy remains strong and attracts new jobs, improving public education and protecting our most vulnerable citizens.”
Shannon, an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation, is a sixth generation Oklahoman and third generation Lawtonian. He has served in the Legislature since 2006, representing House District 62. Shannon previously served as a congressional staffer for U.S. Reps. J.C. Watts and Tom Cole.
Shannon and his wife, Devon, also a Lawton native, are the parents of a daughter, Audrey Grace, and a son, Tahrohon Wayne II.
Shannon holds a bachelor of arts in communications from Cameron University and a juris doctorate from Oklahoma City University.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

8046 Campaign Teams Faith Communities with Children in Foster Care

OKLAHOMA CITY -- An 8046 Conference will be held on Oct. 27 in Tulsa. The conference will provide resources and tools for faith communities statewide to help Oklahoma children in foster care, and increase the number of Bridge foster families.

The 8046 Campaign is named for the number of Oklahoma children that were in state custody on Jan. 2, 2011. The Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives has partnered with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Arrow Child and Family Ministries, and area foster care and adoption ministries to reach a common goal of being the difference in the lives of Oklahoma children.

The 8046 Conference will be held from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at The Church at Battlecreek, 3025 North Aspen Avenue, Broken Arrow. The training will focus on starting and maintaining a foster care/adoption ministry, addressing obstacles, and training local congregations how to become invested in this significant ministry opportunity. Topics include, "A Child's Journey Through the System: How a Church Could Have Helped," "A Call to Action: How Churches can Minister to Foster and Adoptive Kids," "Who Are These Kids?", and "Proven Methods for Ministering to Adoptive and Foster Families."

Advanced registration for this free statewide conference is required by Oct. 21. Visit (link opens in new window) to register. Lunch is provided.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chiefs for Change Comment on ESEA Legislation Introduced by the Senate Education Committee

San Francisco, CA – Representing more than 11 million students in our states, the Chiefs for Change commend Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) for forging a bipartisan agreement for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). 
Congressional action on this critical piece of legislation is needed and long overdue.  It must, however, be done thoughtfully and in a way that supports State reforms that hold schools accountable for student performance, support teacher effectiveness, and broaden options available to students.
Supt. Janet Barresi
Chiefs for Change is a coalition of state school chiefs and leaders that share a zeal for education reform. Together, they provide a strong voice for bold reform on the federal, state and local level. Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi is a member of Chiefs for Change.

The draft legislation addresses a number of important issues, including support for high college and career ready standards, assessments to help measure student progress, and more effective systems to measure student progress.

We are concerned, however, about unintended consequences that could result from the proposed accountability framework.  For example, the school turnaround options are too prescriptive, and, more importantly, do not empower states to strategically intervene in their persistently low performing schools. State chiefs should have the option to use all the resources and interventions available to them under state law.  These tend to be more appropriate and vigorous than the six federal models.

We are also concerned that the legislation does not go far enough in addressing the changes needed to the highly qualified teacher requirements under current law.  We believe that while qualifications and credentials are important, we must quickly shift to teacher and principal evaluation systems that recognize and reward the value added by teachers and administrators to student achievement. These evaluations should be used to provide teachers targeted professional development, guide hiring and firing decisions, and inform licensure, tenure, compensation, and teacher assignment. Nothing is more important than ensuring that we have an effective teacher in every classroom.

We look forward to working with members of Congress to strengthen these legislative proposals so that a reauthorized ESEA will deliver the results that our students need and are worthy of this great nation.

AG Pruitt Hosts Children's Poster Exhibit to Raise Awareness of Domestic Violence

Artwork from children around the state will be on display at the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office throughout October to honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The 2011 “A Home for Hope” poster project provides an opportunity for children in domestic violence shelters to draw their ideas of “A Home for Hope.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Completing the Circle" Workshop Designed to teach Native American Children in Foster Care

OKLAHOMA CITY -- “Completing the Circle,” a workshop designed for Native American children in Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) foster care, will be held from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Oct. 14 at Camp DaKaNi, 3309 Hefner Road in Oklahoma City.

“Completing the Circle” is a program that helps foster children, their foster and biological families and their tribal families travel a path together toward healing.  The program teaches Native American culture, practices and heritage to Native American foster children in central Oklahoma who are placed in non-Native American foster homes.

In Native American culture, the circle is especially sacred, as it symbolizes the Sun, Moon, and the Earth.  Perhaps more importantly it represents a symbol for the circle of life, which is forever evolving and teaching new lessons.

"'Completing the Circle' helps Native American children in foster care feel good about who they are, where they came from, who their ancestors were, and that they can draw strength through their mind, body and spirit," said Deloris Ferguson, OKDHS Rockwell County Director.

The workshop is free, but registration is required.  Additional information may be found by visiting (link opens in new window) or by phoning (405) 470-6221.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Barresi Welcomes New Director of American Indian Education

OKLAHOMA CITY (Oct. 13, 2011) — Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi recently welcomed Dwight Pickering as the new Director of American Indian Education at the state Department of Education.

“We are so excited to have Mr. Pickering fill this position,” Barresi said. “We have been looking for ways to develop strategies at the state level to effectively educate American Indian children and to infuse this rich part of our state culture and heritage into our curriculum.”

Pickering, of Sapulpa, is a member of the Caddo, Otoe, and Kaw Tribes and worked most recently as the Education Director for the Caddo Nation. In that position, he was responsible for all education programs, including development, implementation and evaluation of higher education, adult education and job placement and training programs as well as some supervision of the nation’s Head Start Program.

"I am very excited about this position, and the opportunity it provides to work with not only the education of Indian children but all children in the State of Oklahoma," Pickering said.

Pickering has a general education degree from Haskell Indian Jr. College in Lawrence, Kan., and a Bachelor’s of education from Tarkio College in Tarkio, Mo.

In his duties at the state Department of Education, Pickering will work with American Indian tribes in implementing a proposed new state plan of education for American Indian children. He also will direct the planning and development of statewide technical assistance and professional development programs to improve the learning environment for American Indian children enrolled in Oklahoma public schools.

Desa Dawson, director of World Language Education at the state Department of Education, said the Oklahoma Advisory Council on Indian Education (OACIE), a relatively new council of advisors established by the state Legislature, participated in the director’s selection process by serving on the interview panel along with agency staff.

“We very much appreciated their willingness to offer their expertise in this matter,” Dawson said.

Pickering fills the vacancy left by the department’s much beloved Valeria Littlecreek, a long-time advocate for Indian education issues. Littlecreek retired from her position but remains active in Indian affairs.

Rep. Dan Sullivan accepts new job at GRDA

House Floor Leader Dan Sullivan today accepted a job as chief executive of the Grand River Dam Authority. Sullivan, R-Tulsa, issued the following statement on his new position:

“I have been humbled and honored to represent the voters of District 71 these past seven years. We have accomplished so much together in our effort to improve Oklahoma's business climate, most notably this year's historic reforms to our lawsuit and workers' compensation systems. I'm so proud of what we have done. Moving forward, I am excited for this new challenge and new opportunity with the GRDA and will always fondly remember the pleasure I have had serving in our Legislature.” – Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa

House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, today issued the following statement on Sullivan’s new position:

“The positive impact Floor Leader Sullivan has had on our Legislature and state is immeasurable. He is an extremely talented, effective public servant whose legal background and expertise are natural fits for GRDA. I know he will serve the mission of the organization well and continue to do great things for Oklahoma. I wish him all the best as he makes this transition and thank him for his wonderful contributions to our state.” – House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fallin, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma Honor House Speaker Kris Steele

OKLAHOMA CITY – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma (BBBSOK) and Governor Mary Fallin presented the first-ever Big Brothers Big Sisters Governor’s Award to House Speaker Kris Steele during an event Wednesday, Oct. 12 at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Steele has served as a Big in the organization since 2010 and is a major supporter of the BBBSOK Amachi program, which provides mentoring to children of incarcerated parents.
“I am very thankful for the influential, positive role models in my life as a child. Unfortunately, not every Oklahoma child experiences such blessings. I became a Big because I believe it is important to help children who, by no fault of their own, have been left without a steady, positive presence in their lives,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “I am honored to accept this award on behalf of everyone who devotes time to serving Oklahoma’s children through Big Brothers Big Sisters. Every child has the potential to succeed if given the chance.”
The Amachi program is designed to break the intergenerational cycle of crime among incarcerated parents and their children. Statistics show that children with incarcerated parents are five times more likely to become incarcerated themselves at some point in their lives. Children matched through the Amachi program show significant outcomes after being matched one year with a Big Brother or Big Sister. Reports show that 68 percent show improvement in their classroom behavior, and 73 percent report a better sense of the future.
“At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma, we work hard to change the lives of these children and provide them with the support they need to be successful,” said Sharla Owens, CEO of BBBSOK. “We could not provide that support without the help of dedicated volunteers like Speaker Steele, and we are so grateful to him.”
Gov. Mary Fallin said programs like Amachi make a difference in the lives of Oklahoma children and encouraged citizens to get involved in their communities.
“Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma and their volunteers are making a difference by providing friendship, positive role models and support to young children across the state. I want to thank BBBSOK and all the Bigs across Oklahoma for all you do to support our families and our communities,” Fallin said. “I can think of no better recipient of the first annual Governor’s Award than Speaker Kris Steele.  Speaker Steele serves as a Big in his hometown of Shawnee. I appreciate his commitment to his community and the Amachi program and congratulate him on this award.”
About Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma is a donor-supported volunteer organization that provides vulnerable children with a caring adult mentor and friend who, through a professionally supported relationship, stand in the gap to change their lives. In 2009, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma served approximately 2,500 children. Independent research shows that the positive relationships between youth in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and their Big Brothers and Big Sisters have a direct, measurable and lasting impact on children’s lives. The program is proven to improve children’s odds for succeeding in school, behaving nonviolently, avoiding drugs and alcohol and breaking negative cycles. To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters and how you can change how our children grow up in Oklahoma, visit
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