Category Archives: School News

Judge: Conflict of interest may exist

Webster English teacher Pat Pegues helps Nevin Swarthout, right, log in as Austin Graves, left, takes a practice test to prepare for the EOI. PHOTO BY KEAUCHA WILSON

Test provider sells software, books, training

By Meisha McDaniel
Staff Writer

A local legal expert says there could be a conflict of interest involving the company that writes the End-of-Instruction exam and provides EOI test preparation to Daniel Webster Broadcasting and Digital Media Magnet High School.

Pearson Education writes the EOI test for all Oklahoma schools. Pearson also owns America’s Choice, a company that was brought into Webster to help with EOI test preparation and school improvement.

Tulsa County District Judge Carlos Chappelle said the relationship between Pearson and America’s Choice could pose a conflict of interest.

“It may be a conflict, because the company will know what’s expected on the test,” Chappelle said.

An administrator for Tulsa Public Schools disagrees.

“The contract with America’s Choice began in 2009. We really don’t see this as a conflict of interest, because we were dealing with America’s Choice before Pearson bought them,” said Verna Ruffin, superintendent for curriculum and instruction, special education and student services.

The larger question is whether Pearson has a financial interest in a school failing the EOI test.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, schools must make academic progress, said Webster Principal Jim Rector.

Progress is measured by several indicators, including graduation rates, test participation, dropouts and EOI test scores.

According to a recent Tulsa World article, by 2014, the percentage of Oklahoma schools failing to meet a crucial goal under No Child Left Behind is expected to go from 25 percent to 95 percent.

Schools that fail to show adequate yearly progress (AYP) are placed on the “needs improvement” list. To get off the list, schools must make AYP for two consecutive years, said Kevin Burr, associate superintendent for secondary schools.

“I don’t really see this as a conflict of interest,” Burr said. “We contracted with America’s Choice to help teachers better teach the concepts of staff development and to provide curriculum support and professional development that will help students that were falling behind.”

Burr did not confirm whether America’s Choice consultants are hired to implement tutoring and test preparation after a school collectively fails to make AYP.

According to the company’s Web site, http://www.americaschoice.org, America’s Choice provides services that “help schools focus on teaching, learning and results.”

A TPS official who did not want to be identified said the district has spent in the neighborhood of $2.7 million to $3 million on its 2009 contract with America’s Choice.

According to http://www.opensecrets.org, Pearson spent nearly $1.1 million on lobbyists at the state and federal levels in 2011.

The company had 12 paid lobbyists working with state governments in 2010.

One of the lobbyists was stationed in Oklahoma, according to http://www.followthemoney.org. Others were stationed in Georgia, Illinois, Michigan and New York.

Pearson representatives did not respond to telephone calls seeking comment.

Rector said America’s Choice provides “test preparation and testing materials with state standards. America’s Choice focuses more on math and literacy, intervention and instructional preparation.”

On its Web site, http://www.pearsoned.com, Pearson calls itself “the world’s leading learning company.”

In addition to writing the EOI test and providing services through America’s Choice, Pearson supplies textbooks, test-prep workbooks and the database used by Tulsa Public Schools to record grades and other student information.

“It is my hope that Webster High School in the very near future will no longer need remedial services like those provided by America’s Choice,” Rector said.

TPS Superintendent Keith Ballard did not reply to e-mail messages seeking comment.

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NHS members inducted

Tyriel Demry, a junior, lights a candle signifying that she has been inducted into the Webster chapter of the National Honor Society as Vanessa Sparks, vice president of the chapter, looks on. PHOTO BY BRITTANY WILSON

By Brittany Wilson
Staff Writer

Keaucha Wilson, a 10th-grader at Daniel Webster Broadcasting and Digital Media Magnet, enjoys helping others.

That’s one reason she is a member of the National Honor Society.

“I have good grades, and I like to help out with the community when I can,” said Wilson, who was inducted into NHS Thursday night.

This is her first year as an NHS member.

“I like being part of it,” she said. “I think it’s a great honor to be in NHS.”

Many friends and family were there to cheer on the new members as they were inducted into NHS last week.

NHS President Chelsey Cochran started the ceremony by welcoming new members. Vanessa Sparks, vice president of NHS, then had everyone stand to recite the Student Creed.

After adviser Emily Priddy, a teacher at Daniel Webster Broadcasting and Digital Media Magnet High School, spoke, Cochran, Sparks, secretary Crystal Davidson, and treasurer Jasie James described the four qualities expected of NHS members.

Before sitting down, each officer lit a candle signifying one of the qualities.

Cochran represented scholarship, Sparks represented service, Davidson represented leadership, and James represented character.

Priddy then introduced the members of NHS by saying their name and how many years they had been members.

The members lit their own individual candles after being introduced.

NHS members said their pledge together, then blew out their candles.

Priddy told the audience how proud she is of the students and how much they help out not only around school, but in the community, too.

To qualify for NHS membership, students must have a 3.0 or higher cumulative grade-point average.

They also must complete an application that lists their accomplishments in the areas of service, leadership and character.

Applications then must be approved by a group of Webster faculty members.

Parent-teacher conferences precede break

By Kimani Williams
Staff Writer

On March 13 and 15, Daniel Webster Digital Media and Broadcasting Magnet High School held parent-teacher conferences before the students were released for spring break.

Marsha Roper came to learn about her daughter, sophomore Natalie Tennant.

Roper said she likes the one-on-one time with the teachers, and she looked forward to seeing Natalie’s grades and what she is doing in school.

“Those areas where she needs help, I’d like to know about,” Roper said.

She also expressed the importance of her presence at the conferences.

“It’s important that I know my daughter is getting the best education,” Roper said.

“As a parent, it’s important to know that your child is getting the best education.”

Joshua Hlebasko  came with his daughter, freshman Sadie Hlebasko.

He said his concern is the students’ behavior and how the class is run.

Parent-teacher conferences are also crucial to Hlebasko “to show students that there is a caring parent.”

He likes parent-teacher conferences because they are “the best time to embarrass my kid.”

Alyssa Scott was at the conferences for her son, freshman Darnell Scott.

She said that she was there “to keep involved in my child’s education — just to stay informed on what’s going on in individual classes.”

Scott said she likes how the teachers keep her updated on school activities.

School wows auditors

Twila Green, left, the Oklahoma state coordinator for High Schools That Work, and observer Trent Hamilton work on the accreditation audit. PHOTO BY KEAUCHA WILSON

By Becky Mallard and Keaucha Wilson
Staff Writers

Daniel Webster Broadcasting and Digital Media Magnet High School recently passed an accreditation audit by High Schools That Work and AdvancED.

Fifteen observers spent two days — March 13 and 14 —visiting Webster.

Kimberly Kiss, an English teacher at Webster, helped with the audit.

Kiss greeted people at the front doors, gave directions and helped them with anything they needed.

“I think it’s a great experience for our teachers, and they’re going to give us a lot of information on how we can improve our school,” Kiss said during the visit. “They will be very impressed.”

Twila Green, the Oklahoma state coordinator for High Schools That Work, set up the accreditation for Webster.

Webster picked some  of the observers from local schools for the accreditation, and Green picked the rest from representatives who came to Webster in the past.

“I observe and help make everyone comfortable and make sure they know what they’re doing,” Green said. “We come back every three years to do a walk-through, but we come back to do an accreditation (audit) in five years.”

Green and Daniel Craig, a state director for AdvancED, both said they liked Webster, which passed the audit.

“We will not be back to Webster unless it’s for coaching,” Green said.

According to AdvancED’s Web site, http://www.advanc-ed.org, accreditation is “a voluntary method of quality assurance” that distinguishes schools that meet certain educational standards.

Craig said he interviews teachers, students and administrators. He has been at this job for two years.

“We are two groups coming together at the same time to save the school money,” Craig said.

“We’ve had six schools to work with.

“We went to McLain last week and Booker T. Washington last fall, and we will be visiting Central.”

Michael Goode, a staff development teacher at Webster, helped with the audit.

“I was here to help give support to the professional learning community,” Goode said.

Lora Reynolds, a career technology teacher at Webster, said it was wonderful to have the observers on campus. Reynolds is Webster’s High Schools That Work coordinator.

She also gave assistance to the observers.

“There was one gentleman that wanted a Mountain Dew, so we went and got him one,” Reynolds said.

High Schools That Work is a school improvement initiative that was created by the Southern Regional Education Board.

The SREB is a network of high schools that look at areas of need to see where the schools need to improve.

Teachers go to a High Schools That Work conference each year to improve their method of teaching.

Monunique Smith, a freshman at Webster, said the observers were fine, but she didn’t like how “the teachers acted different.”

Smith had observers in all her classes the first day.

In an announcement after the audit, Principal Jim Rector said that Webster had impressed the auditors and passed with flying colors.

He thanked students and faculty for their cooperation during the audit.

Bulletin helps seniors find scholarships

By Jasie James
Staff Writer

For many students, Webster’s weekly scholarship bulletin is their main source for information on scholarships.

“If it wasn’t for the school’s scholarship bulletin I wouldn’t have half the scholarships I have now,” said Maira Valencia, a 2011 Webster graduate.

Webster’s scholarship bulletin is a list of available scholarships and a brief description of each that is created weekly by guidance counselor Wanda Murphy.

The bulletin also lists different scholarship databases and Web sites that students can go to on their own.

Murphy gets the scholarships from various places: by mail; from other counselors, teachers and administrators; from the Internet; and even in person.

“Some scholarship donors walk into my office and hand me applications for their organizational scholarships,” she said.

Murphy said she feels the bulletin has made a difference in the number of scholarships Webster students get.

“Many times, the Webster scholarship bulletin is the only resource our students use,” she said.

Murphy said she usually has six or seven of the bulletins picked up by students every week.

The bulletin also is posted to Webster’s school Web site and e-mailed to the faculty.

Gabriel Gordon, a senior at Webster, has used the bulletin.

“If it wasn’t for the bulletin, I wouldn’t know what scholarships are out there,” he said.

Because the bulletin is posted on the Internet, it has made its way to other Tulsa area students.

Excerpts from the bulletin have even made it into the Tulsa Kids College Planner, which is a complete guide for high-school students and their parents.

Murphy said she is “certain that the bulletin is under-utilized,” but she feels “obligated to get the information out there.”

Students looking forward to prom

By Brittani Cunningham
Staff Writer

Webster Broadcasting and Digital Media Magnet High School’s prom is coming.

Prom will be from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. April 28 at the Renaissance Hotel.

The theme for this year’s prom is “Frozen in Time.”

Tickets will be from $40 to $50 each.

Stephanie Short, senior sponsor, said prom tickets will be sold after spring break.

“I am planning on selling the tickets right after we return from spring break up until three days before prom, March 26 to April 25,” Short said.

Jakii Moore, a Webster senior, said he’s excited for prom.

“I’m looking forward to spending time with friends,” Moore said.

Skyler Gill, a 16-year-old Webster junior, said she’s kind of ready for prom.

“I’m looking forward to see how well it goes and how good (and) grown-up everyone looks,” Gill said.

Intern inspires Webster students

Kate McGee organizes graded papers in Emily Priddy’s classroom. McGee spent the first part of this semester at Webster. PHOTO BY MIKAYLA MASSEY

By Jennia Gibbs and MiKayla Massey
Staff Writers

Henry Brooks Adams once said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

Intern Kate McGee has had an opportunity to influence students this semester at Daniel Webster Broadcasting and Digital Media Magnet High School.

McGee is a teacher in training who helps out in Emily Priddy’s classroom.

McGee said she was given the opportunity to go to graduate school for free.

“I fell into it. It wasn’t planned,” she said.

McGee has enjoyed her time at Webster, which ended Friday.

“What surprised me is how good the experience was and how much creativity the job takes — how much fun it was to work with Ms. Priddy also,” McGee said.
“Ms. Priddy has inspired me; one of the best things is meeting Ms. Priddy.”

Several students said they will miss McGee.

“When Ms. McGee leaves, it will be a very sad thing for us students,” said sophomore Jackson Harrison. “She’s nice. She seems very helpful to Ms. Priddy.”

Kimani Williams, a junior at Webster, appreciates McGee’s hard work.

“Ms. McGee inspires me because of her work ethic. She’s always here and there,” Williams said.

Sophomore Jerick White also said McGee inspired him.

“Ms. McGee inspires me because she’s a young, fun teacher that I think will succeed in her career,” White said.

“She makes me realize that education is important, but sadly, she’s leaving, and we will miss her very much.”

McGee said she isn’t sure where she will go in the future; she just knows she’s going to teach. She plans to teach middle school or high school.

She said she loves the small-town feel at Webster. McGee said the things she is looking forward to as a teacher are helping and having independence.

“My weaknesses would be lack of confidence and classroom management,” McGee said.

Priddy said McGee will do well in the future.

“She is very good at teaching writing. She explains things very clearly, and she connects very well with the students,” Priddy said.

“She really cares about the students, and that’s important. You could be the smartest teacher in the world and not care about your students, and they won’t learn.

“She is a very promising teacher, and as she gains experience and confidence, she’ll just keep getting better and better.”