Needed: A road map for change

The Oklahoman - - OPINION - BY GARY GREENE

Tourism be­came a fo­cal point in John­ston County when Mi­randa Lam­bert opened the Pink Pis­tol in Tishomingo. Peo­ple were on Main Street daily vis­it­ing shops and din­ing in lo­cal restaurants. Not sur­pris­ingly, they were ask­ing why al­co­holic bev­er­ages were not avail­able.

A lead­er­ship group called Tishomingo Area Projects Com­mit­tee be­gan dis­cussing the is­sue, and af­ter sev­eral meet­ings, re­luc­tantly rec­om­mended that a com­mit­tee be formed to pur­sue the pas­sage of liquor by the drink in John­ston County. That was fol­lowed by a process to al­low a coun­ty­wide vote. The pro­posal was sub­mit­ted to the county com­mis­sion­ers and passed 2-1. The cit­i­zens of John­ston County then passed the res­o­lu­tion by a 62 per­cent mar­gin.

This is a good ex­am­ple of de­cid­ing con­tro­ver­sial is­sues at the lo­cal level. The same can be done to solve sig­nif­i­cant ed­u­ca­tion prob­lems.

The Leg­is­la­ture has ap­proved Se­nate Bill 1493, Se­nate Bill 1169 and House Bill 2115, which are de­signed to en­cour­age school con­sol­i­da­tion and pro­vide sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance. The vol­un­tary con­sol­i­da­tion por­tion al­lows for a lo­cal pe­ti­tion to be for­warded to the state su­per­in­ten­dent who, in turn, no­ti­fies the county elec­tion board to call for a vote. These new laws are good but lack suf­fi­cient struc­ture.

The law needs one more step that would pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for cit­i­zens to ini­ti­ate change. That step would in­volve a process for in­di­vid­ual cit­i­zens or groups to be able to contact the state su­per­in­ten­dent to re­quest the ap­point­ment of an of­fi­cial en­tity that would have state-rec­og­nized au­thor­ity to ad­vise boards of ed­u­ca­tion of a pe­ti­tion re­quest and to con­struct a foun­da­tion to cir­cu­late a pe­ti­tion.

The ad­di­tional law could al­low the pe­ti­tion process to ad­dress op­tions such as con­sol­i­dat­ing schools, des­ig­nat­ing coun­ty­wide school boards, set­ting guide­lines on su­per­in­ten­dent salaries, etc. This step would pro­vide a clear process to pe­ti­tion and vote in­de­pen­dent of un­due in­flu­ence or po­lit­i­cal ma­neu­ver­ing by su­per­in­ten­dents and school boards. It would give cit­i­zens power and au­thor­ity to at­tempt change.

Many Ok­la­homa fam­i­lies want to raise the aca­demic bar and pro­vide qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion for their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren. This pro­posal is worth con­sid­er­ing. Give the cit­i­zens a road map for change, and let’s see what hap­pens.

Greene, of Tishomingo, taught 20 years at the Univer­sity of Ok­la­homa in the Col­lege of Ed­u­ca­tion, fo­cus­ing pri­mar­ily on hu­man re­sources and train­ing and devel­op­ment.

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