Education board members share views on school progress

Robert Smith

January 2020 is School Board Recognition Month in Oklahoma, and that brings attention to more than 2,700 state residents who give time to their communities as members of local school boards and boards of education.

The Journal-Capital took the opportunity to ask members of the Pawhuska Board of Education about issues and events that are meaningful to them.

Tom Boone, who is serving his second term on the board, said the work of administrators and staff members is making this a good time to be a board member.

“It’s a really good time to be on the board now, because we’re not putting out fires every day,” Boone said. “We have the different areas of the community all working together to make the schools better. We’re bringing that Huskie pride back.”

He expressed thanks for strong community support for the schools, and added that he thinks the school district’s possibilities for improvement have increased.

“There are great things that can happen now, because we do have the community behind us,” Boone said. He commented approvingly of the in-district testing that Pawhuska is now doing a couple of times per academic year to measure student academic progress and address needs.

“It’s a work in progress,” Boone said. “It always will be. We want to make it better for our people.”

Mike Tolson, who is in his first term as a board member, cited student and staff safety as a key concern.

“In my mind, first and foremost is the safety of the students and staff,” Tolson said. He explained it is important to him that school buildings have been equipped with door-locking mechanisms that prevent just anyone from walking unobserved into a school.

Tolson said a second area of concern for him has been identifying and bringing on-board qualified administrators. New administrators have enhanced communication between administrators, staff members, students and the community, he said. District administrators have also been identifying curriculum enhancements and getting a steadying hand on financial details, Tolson said.

A third important area, Tolson said, has been the improvement of the school district’s physical plant, to include athletic facilities with which community donors have helped quite a bit.

“These are certainly much welcome and beneficial changes to the physical plant,” he said.

Tolson also cited good school district communication with the public as essential, and he praised efforts to ensure all students are provided with stimulating extra-curricular activities.

Addie Roanhorse, who is still in her first year as a Pawhuska Board of Education member, cited the re-opening of the Junior High as something that mattered to her that has already happened. She has also been involved in the creation of an annual fundraiser that features student art, and generates funds for Pawhuska teachers. The Facebook page of her art gallery downtown, the Big Rain Gallery, recently noted that each Pawhuska teacher received a $200 gift card as a result of the fundraiser held in late 2019.

Scott Laird, who is in his first term, commented in a text message shared through Assistant Superintendent Beverly Moore.

“All board issues of Pawhuska Public Schools are important to me,” Laird said. “Anything that involves our school district will always be considered an important issue for me as a board member and a member of our community.”

Laird also pointed to the revitalization of the school district.

“I am proud of our accomplishments of our revitalization of our school district and the reorganization of our administrative leaders,” he said. “Our board has a great working relationship together and within the school district. I am proud of the pride that has returned to our school, which was on a sharp decline. It’s a great time to be a Huskie!”

Patricia Counts, who is finishing up a five-year term and not seeking re-election, said she is very pleased by the school district’s efforts to end bullying and promote kindness.

“Something that has been near and dear to my heart is bullying and showing kindness,” Counts said. “I think we have made leaps and bounds to show that we are moving forward.”

Counts mentioned the importance of the Rachel’s Challenge program, which promotes kindness in schools and works to prevent violence.

“I just think that seeing that happen in our community and our school district has been amazing,” Counts said. She mentioned that she has also seen an increase in the past couple of years in teachers and staff members feeling appreciated for the commitment they make, and that she has learned a lot about the amount of time and effort that school staff members give to the community and to kids in the schools.

“That has been so huge — to see how much time they put in and how much they care about these kids,” Counts said.