Betty Anderson Staff Reporter
By Betty Anderson
“It’s the beginning of a new era for the Okmulgee Police Department. The officers and employees have experienced a visible moral lift. The experience has been all positive,” says Police Chief Joe Prentice.
The move is done and the officers were busy in their new patrol room. The Police Chief’s assistant, Mindy Bates, was busy unpacking records while Chief Prentice was busy making sure all the phone equipment was in place as they began their new day in their new home. Employees received a cake and a plant to welcome them to their new building.
From the training room to the new EOC (Emergency Operations Center) every room is fully equipped and ready to keep the City of Okmulgee safe.
ONN General Manager, Valerie Rice, was given a tour by Chief Prentice and she was amazed at the transformation from the old Daily Times building where she worked for many years into the newly remodeled Police Department.
“This is truly an amazing transformation from the previous shape of the building that was in disrepair. The City of Okmulgee recognized this diamond in the rough and has transformed the building into a perfectly laid out floor plan for a Police Departmentthat, that is functional, like new and clean. This is what ‘Okmulgee Rising’ is all about, taking something old and worn and completely transforming it into something magnificent,” said Rice.
Okmulgee Police Department is “On the Rise”
By Betty Anderson
Sometimes stories touch you so much that they must be put into narrative so they don’t just filter out into the air, but can be chronicled to share with others. Such a story was told to ONN which is related to our own hometown in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.
As Dale Jacobs watches the new entrance to OSUIT take flight, he recalls walking down 6th Street long before there was an OSUIT. As a child, he has vivid memories of an extremely large 2 story livery stable, which he said might have just seemed large to a small child, in the field where the college now stands. He and his family drove by it often.
He remembers that there also was a Military Hospital and a Prisoner of War Camp there at that time that housed German and Italian prisoners of war from WWII. The Army officials had designated Glennan General Hospital to treat prisoners of war and partially staffed it with captured enemy medical personnel.
Some of the prisoners worked for Public Works, some on water lines and on some country farms. He recalls, at about 7 or 8 years of age, when he was walking to school one day, he passed a big field of peanuts growing on a farm his father managed. He described a tractor, from in that day, that had a long appendage coming off the side which had a cover over it and often people would sit on the appendage and ride when the tractor was in motion.
One day he was walking to school and he encountered a German prisoner who had been assigned to work in the peanut field at harvest time. The soldier, who spoke no English, communicated to Jacobs, by motion, if he would like to sit on the appendage to give him ride. Jacobs tells he was a little frightened by not understanding the German language and what he was saying but he got the meaning and after some hesitation, jumped onto the tractor to take the ride. When they came to the destination, Jacobs remembers seeing how so very, incredibly happy the soldier was that he had accepted the ride and that he knew he had made a child happy and even though there were no verbal communications available to either of them, Jacobs knew he had made a connection that he would never forget. I’m sure the German soldier never forgot it either.
That story was so inspiring to me that in relating it to others I came upon another heart wrenching story that I had to share that involved an Okmulgee Citizen, Brigitte, one of our wonderful German-American citizens.
Before Brigitte was born in West Germany, her mother lived in East Germany in the town of Breslau. The war was in full swing and Hitler had turned the town of Breslau into a fortress to fend off the advancing Russian Army and allowed no one to leave. Every man, woman and child was ordered to stay and fight to defend the city from the Russian invasion until no one was left. There were no more trains leaving and the citizens were trapped.
Brigitte’s mother, Gerda, a widow with one son, lived in this town and had a dear friend, Frau Lausch, who also had a young daughter. They lived in the same building. Brigitte’s father, Rudolf, was a soldier on the Eastern Front and served as a payroll clerk in the German Air Force and was stationed in Breslau. When hearing of the stronghold of the town, he went to assist his friend, Gerda, to help her and Frau Lausch get out before it was too late. He informed them of the situation and that they had to act quickly and pack a very light suitcase. Brigitte’s mother recalled as she was leaving home and turning to lock the door realized that it wasn’t necessary to lock it as sadly she knew she wouldn’t be returning to her home. Off the two frightened women, led by Rudolf, went on bicycles carrying a suit case each as they fled and pulling their children on a sled behind them on that snowy night.
Rudolf, who had been born with a deformity to his right arm which was slightly shorter than the other and his hand, had turned in at the wrist. The family never knew what caused the deformity, it was just accepted and it was something he had grown accustom to and managed well with it.
As the two women and children escorted by Rudolf, were ready to cross the border to get out of the city, they were stopped by an armed guard watching to keep citizens from leaving the city. Frightened and trembling, the ladies waited while he approached the soldier and pleaded with him to let them pass through. The soldier told them they had to go back. Rudolf then showed the soldier his arm and told the guard he had already been wounded once in the war and asked if he couldn’t please, just let them go. The soldier was compassionate and let them leave and saved their life from whatever was to come from the siege of the city.
Brigitte’s mother never returned to her home again but settled in Northern Bavaria in the Spessart Mountains where Gerda and Rudolf were eventually married, where Brigitte was born and she and her brothers were raised.
The moral of this story is; one wonders if there was a reason Rudolf was born with this bad arm, where one might see it as an imperfection, when in actuality it was a Grace, for even if it was only for one day, to help him get these helpless souls to safety.
Marge Porter also told stories of when East and West Germany split, how it separated families and loved ones.
She recalls that she lived in West Germany and a large amount of her relatives still lived on the East German side where the citizens there had to learn to speak Russian while the West Germans learned to speak English.
After East Germany after been taken over by the Russians, Central Planning was established and rations were implemented. The citizens were provided with very little, struggled with everyday life and had the lack of the basics of life denied to them to live and prosper. The West German people were allowed to send their relatives a package, but it had very strict guidelines of packaging and had to weigh no more than 14 pounds. If it went over by 1 ounce, it was discarded or returned. She can remember as a child having to measure out fertilizer into small amounts to be sent to their farming relatives so they could grow their own food. Small amounts of sugar and coffee could be sent along with other items, but they also had restrictions.
They were so longing to see their family and to take food to them and other provisions which they were struggling without, that they risked night time excursions across the border. They carefully watched the armed guards walk the borders, hiding in “pig ditches” until they could safely cross over into East Germany and then risked the same dangers upon their return home. After the barbed wire fence, also known as The Iron Curtain, was built and with fields plowed along the length of it well established with land mines, their trips to visit their extended family ended.
Those of us who grew up in relatively normal conditions of seeing our loved ones at our leisure can only truly appreciate what struggles our German-American friends went through during Socialist and Communist dictatorship and rule.
It was a good thing when President Ronald Reagan stood in West Berlin in front of the Brandenburg Gate and said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
And so it came to pass, and it was a happy occasion for all Germans the day the wall came down between East and West Germany.”
By Betty Anderson
Mayor Steven Baldridge opened the Okmulgee City Council by presenting a proclamation for Autism Awareness in the Month of April.
“Earlier this month we filled the City Hall fountain up with blue water to honor and highlight the importance of recognizing Autism.” The Creek Council House was also lit up in blue lights to recognize Autism Awareness month.
Vicki Jones who has been an advocate for autism, keeping the awareness alive in Okmulgee for many years, was invited to the front along with her grandson Keyshon, and Keyshon's supporter's .
Mayor Baldridge read the proclamation: (Watch Video below of the presentation)
“Whereas Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) affects nearly 1% of the children in the United States and whereas Autism is an urgent public health issue with a profound impact on millions of Americans and whereas Autism Speaks is an organization founded in 2005 which has grown into the Nation’s largest Autism Science and Advocacy Organization dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for Autism; increasing awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorders and advocate for the needs of individuals with Autism and their families and whereas on April 2, 2016, everyone is asked to Light Up Blue which is a unique global initiative by Autism Speaks to help raise awareness about Autism. Now, therefore, I, Steven R. Baldridge, Mayor of the City of Okmulgee do hereby proclaim April 2, the month of April, World Autism Awareness Day in the City of Okmulgee, Oklahoma and urge all officials and general public to learn more about autism, with what they can do to support individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families.”
Vicki Jones then presented the City Council with gifts, including a blue puzzle piece cookie, made by Ms. Laura’s, which reflects the complexity of the autism spectrum, pens and pamphlets for the City’s participation in the “Light Up Blue” campaign.
Jones said, “I just want to thank the City Council and all of Keyshon’s supporters because the more we do bring awareness out about autism, a lot of people will understand, that it is not the challenge of the child, but it is the challenge of the community gaining awareness on what this is. How we can all get together to make sure that when you see someone that is different it's ok, teach your children and grandchildren that it’s ok to be with someone that may be different.”
Jones also thanked councilman Chris Azbell, for putting blue lights in the MCN Council House to honor National Autism Month and the Light Up Blue campaign. Jones also informed the audience and the Council that Keyshon ran with the Special Olympics team at Orangefest.
By Betty Anderson
Evergreen Garden Club met at the home of LaVeta Rhodes on Monday and enjoyed a wonderful brunch prepared by Dee Hennigan of Broccoli and Mushroom Casserole, Fresh Fruit, Fresh Croissant rolls, Orange Juice and Coffee.
Deb Path gave a report on planting the pots that Main Street is putting in the downtown area. She said that she would let the members know when the pots were ready for planting. She further told the members that Mr. & Mrs. Larabee had volunteered to keep up with watering after they are planted. The new petunias which don’t require deadheading were suggested along with Knock Out Roses. They also want plants that will spill over the side; a Sweet Potato Vine was recommended.
Business was conducted including the nominating committee representative, Donna Boss-Martin, presenting the slate of officers for next year. A motion was made and the officers for next year were elected by acclamation: Karen O’Neil, President, Jeanne Thornhill, Vice-President, Dee Hennigan, Secretary, Marge Porter, Treasurer and Jane Cloe as Courtesy Chairman.
LaVeta Rhodes and her aunt, Nadine Warner, presented the program with a talk about gourds. She said “Gourds are one of the first plants to be cultivated throughout the world and have been in use for thousands of years. They are the only plant that experts believe that have spanned the entire globe. They have been used for bowls, vessels, hats, musical instruments and many other utilitarian uses.” She said in preparing gourds to get ready to paint for the Garden Club, they soaked them in bleach water and scrubbed with SOS Pads. The members then enjoyed painting the gourds, each taking one home, to use as a birdhouse or a decorative object.
By Betty Anderson
Superintendent-Elect Renee Dove announced the Summer School Programs for Okmulgee School District:
-Elementary Summer School grades K-5, Reading and Math
-Middle School grades 6-8, Reading and Math
-Gifted Summer Education Program grades 2 thru 8
-Extended School Year (ESY) Summer Services for Special Education Students
-Summer Enrichment Academy partnership with the Multi-Cultural Heritage Association
-High School Summer School for credit recovery and remediation for those students who are not passing courses. Dove said, “We are going to require that they be there for the English and Math so they can get caught up so they aren’t behind.”
-High School Drivers Education
The Okmulgee Board of Education voted to approve the Summer School Programs for June and July of 2016.
By Betty Anderson
The Okmulgee Board of Education room had been newly decorated with the artwork of the students from a recent field trip to Gilcrease Museum where they enjoyed an Infusion Art Program.
The Board Members met on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 and approved several items on the agenda.
The board approved the Application for Temporary Appropriations for FY 17 as prepared by School CPA Jack Jenkins.
The board approved the update to Board Policy #5024, which allows pushing the evaluation for administrators from April to May 1st.
The board then went to executive session for discussion regarding employment, contracts, duties, responsibilities and assignments for FY 17 for Administrative Staff, Certified Staff and Support Staff and resignations or retirements for FY 16.
Upon return their actions regarding the staff for FY 17 were CLICK HERE to view.
By Betty Anderson
Tod Williams, Superintendent of Okmulgee School District, gave his report to the Okmulgee Board of Education on capital improvement projects.
He showed the Board Members 3 massive planning and bid books for the new construction and remodeling bid specifications.
The architectural drawings laid spread out on the school conference table as Williams reported to the board members.
“The pre-bid conference was held with all the potential bidders for our construction projects and they took bids on 22 separate construction packages including, the band room, the middle school secure vestibule, the armory, the field house renovations and other odds and ends," said Williams.
"We expect to have the bids analyzed by the next board meeting and have a list of recommendations for bid packets; some will be rejected, approximately 5 or 6 out of 22 bids and then we will be off and running,” he said.
The building will be located on the lot north of the Armory.
Location for new band room at Okmulgee High School Campus. (Photo by Allen Garnder)
By Betty Anderson
Okmulgee High School Institute of Personalize Learning (ACE High School) kicked off the application process on Monday morning. Renee Dove, Superintendent-Elect reported, “In 45 minutes we had 47 students sign up; now we have 105 that have made application to the school. We have room for 45 more. It is now up and running and we have a consultant coming on site to do an assessment of the curriculum we have and to see the direction we want to go and so that they can work with us in preparing that.”
She also told the Okmulgee Board of Education that she met with the State Department Support Team on Friday while they were here for reading sufficiency.
Dove said, “We talked with them about our ACE High School. They stated that this is exactly the school Oklahoma’s State School Superintendent; Joy Hofmeister is looking for since we’ve partnered with OSUIT and Green Country Vo-Tech. They asked would we be opposed to being the shining star school district for this personalized learning and opening of the school. I told them I was quite certain the school board would be alright with them using us as an example for that. We should be hearing back from her and working with her in the near future.”
Dove further announced that, “The Wellness Coalition has planned a huge party for our juniors and seniors this weekend after the prom party. It should be an exciting and fun time. There will be more information to come next month.
By Betty Anderson
Okmulgee School District Superintendent-Elect Renee Dove informed the Okmulgee Board of Education that there is another great happening in Okmulgee and introduced Brad Ferguson, the new FY 17 Athletic Director and Middle School Principal to tell the board about a PEP FEDERAL GRANT.
The Carol M. White Physical Education program (PEP) is for schools and community based organizations to initiate, expand, and improve high-quality physical education programs.
Ferguson told the board that the PEP Grant is for the whole school community K-12. He recommended to the board to consider working with Sandra Dunning from Grants & Evaluation Consulting, LLC, to write the grant.
Dunning is a 1977 graduate of Okmulgee High School. Ferguson said, “She has been patiently waiting to write a grant for Okmulgee School District.” She has written 13 PEP Grant Applications and has been award 11 of 13. She has received awards from 200,000.00 to 1,000,000.00 in grant money. He informed the board that the application deadline is May 20th. The awards will be announced July 21st and August will start the first year of the grant.
Ferguson said, “She is very confident with the initial State Department numbers and that it looks really good with the information she can input into writing the grant.”
Superintendent Williams asked if there would be a fee for her services. Ferguson replied, “She is not paid, she doesn’t make a dime unless we receive the grant.” Discussion was had that the fee will be approximately 6%.
Superintendent Williams, Superintendent-Elect Dove and Brad Ferguson had an initial meeting with Dunning.
The board then voted to approve the contract with Sandra Dunning (Grants & Evaluation Consulting, LLC) as the grant writer for the PEP grant.
By Betty Anderson
Okmulgee County Homeless Shelter keeps on giving, not only to provide a sanctuary for those in hard times, but they have stepped up to the plate as Open Gate volunteers to provide a meal on Wednesday.
The staff along with OCHS Director Brenda Brewer served a delicious chicken, rice and cheese casserole with baby organic carrots. Dee Hennigan, Director of Open Gate said, “Brenda is an excellent cook and our guests were fortunate enough to have a second helping.”
Hennigan is very grateful to the volunteers helping this week, who were: Stephanie Barnes, Aaron Merit, Barbara Brewer and Thomasin Fife. Also Wayne Walls and Kendall Gibson from Creokes, Jawanna Wheeler, Thersia Franklin, Jessie Brydges, Marie Alexander, Jan Lunney, Hugh Dugas, Al Thomason, Fran Williams, Karen O'Neil, Jeanne Thornhill, Jean Forman, Ken Taylor, Doug Agnew, Jim Martin, Wayne and Delta Truby.
She wanted to give a big thank you to the Lion’s Club of Okmulgee who donated left overs of milk, orange juice and sausage patties from their annual Pancake Breakfast. Hennigan said, “We were able to send milk home with every one of our guests.” (Photo left: Dee Hennigan, Director of Open Gate, works tirelessly to provide meals weekly for those in need.)
Hennigan said, “Open Gate wants to thank all the people for their support with outreach by furnishing milk, desserts, fruits & vegetables and a host of other items too many to list. We appreciate your support more than words can say.”
Open Gate is in need of large containers for left overs and clean plastic bags. (No bags that have contained meat or that are wet.)
Okmulgee County Homeless Shelter generously provided a meal for Open Gate. (Photos by Betty ANderson - ONN)