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Statewide News

Wednesday, 24 August 2016 13:04

Oklahoma shows increase in ACT participation

OKLAHOMA CITY (Aug. 24, 2016) – More of Oklahoma’s graduating seniors took the ACT college entrance exam than in the previous five years, according to information released today by ACT.

According to ACT, 2,010 more Oklahoma graduating seniors took the test, a 6.5-percent increase over the prior year’s cohort. State participation has been climbing, with 12 percent more students taking the exam since 2012.

Nationally, 64 percent of graduating seniors take the ACT, compared to 82 percent in Oklahoma.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said when more Oklahoma students are taking the ACT, colleges are receiving more information about those students, opening the door to recruitment and scholarship opportunities for Oklahomans.

“Clearly, more of our students are exploring the possibility of extending their education beyond high school,” Hofmeister said. ”More students having access to college-entrance exams means new on-ramps to post-secondary education. This is an important and positive trend, since an estimated 62 percent of Oklahoma jobs will require a post-secondary education by 2020.”

Meanwhile, the number of Oklahoma juniors taking the ACT in 2016 skyrocketed by at least 58 percent over 2015. Last spring, the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) offered an ACT pilot program that enabled all public high school juniors in the state to take the exam at no cost to districts or students. Nearly every eligible high school participated, with 457 of 459 taking advantage of the voluntary program. In all, 35,477 juniors took the ACT as part of the initiative, compared to 22,500 the year before. The performance of Oklahoma’s juniors will be reflected in next year’s ACT score report of graduating seniors.

“Higher participation gives us a better picture of how we are doing at preparing our young people for college and career,” Hofmeister said. “The ACT, like any test, is a tool to show us areas of strength and weakness. We then act on that valuable information.”

The state’s average composite score went from 20.7 to 20.4, while the national average composite score dropped from 21.0 to 20.8. Data shows that state composite scores are in line with changes in scores across the nation, dropping 0.3 points and 0.2 points, respectively. Oklahoma ranks 29th overall in average composite scores nationally.

The fastest growing racial/ethnic group testing with the ACT over the last five years in Oklahoma is Hispanic/Latino. This group has increased by 45.2 percent. The percentage of Native Americans in Oklahoma taking the test has declined in the same time period by 9.2 percent. However, Native Americans in Oklahoma are performing better than those in the nation. Oklahoma’s Native Americans averaged a score of 19.1, while the national average for the group was 17.1.

Oklahoma’s performance in reading matches that of the nation, both with an average score of 21.3. Meanwhile, the state still lags in math with a score of 19.5 versus a national score of 20.6.

Levi Patrick, OSDE director of secondary mathematics, said the recent instability of academic standards is one reason Oklahoma’s math scores are below average.

“With the flurry of academic standards within the past five years, our seniors have experienced a constant fluctuation in what they’ve been expected to learn. Mix in a culture of over-testing, and it has been hard to maintain a focus on content,” Patrick said. “We feel good about the future because with our new Oklahoma Academic Standards, we have identified and corrected weaknesses from previous standards. In addition to being more rigorous, the new standards have closed instructional gaps and incorporated meaningful progression across grades. We will begin to see a real difference in deep and conceptual understanding over the next few years as the transition between middle school and high school mathematics becomes much more seamless.”

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today signed election proclamations that place five additional state questions on the November 8 general election ballot.

The paperwork signed by the governor placed these issues on the ballot:

State Question (SQ) 779, which would increase the state sales tax by 1 percent to fund teacher pay raises and other education causes.

SQ 780, which reclassify some criminal offenses, such as drug possession and property crimes, as misdemeanors instead of felonies.

SQ 781, which would take money saved from implementing SQ 780 and allow counties to fund community rehabilitation programs.

SQ 790, which would remove a section of the Oklahoma Constitution prohibiting use of state resources for religious purposes.

SQ 792, which would allow wine and full-strength beer to be sold in grocery stores and convenience stores.
The deadline for the governor to sign election proclamations for state questions to be placed on the November8 general election ballot is Friday.

Two other state questions already are on the ballot. SQ 776 would declare that the death penalty is not cruel or unusual punishment and would allow the Legislature to designate any method of execution if a current method is declared unconstitutional. SQ 777 would prevent lawmakers from passing legislation to regulate agriculture unless there is a compelling state interest.


Founded in 2007 the Oklahoma Thunder was undefeated for three seasons and have been ranked number one in the minor league football for two years in a row.  

The Thunder won the Impact Conference Championship this evening against the Memphis Blast at Holland Hall Stadium with an ending score of 37 to 11 earning them a spot in the Gridiron Bowl.

The Oklahoma Thunder football team is a member of the Gridiron Developmental Football League.

Class Photo and Student Session 070

(Shawnee, Okla. – August 19, 2016) Orientation leaders, Resident Assistants (RAs) and the St. Gregory’s University community have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of new students on campus. On Friday, August 19, students and families made their journeys to campus for move-in day.

Alyssa Woolums, an incoming freshman from Texas, is looking forward to getting involved in all that student life at St. Gregory’s has to offer.

“I’m so excited for the whole college experience here at St. Gregory’s. I have been looking forward to getting to campus all summer, so it’s great to finally be here,” she said. “I’m excited about the aerial silk dance class that I’ll be taking and I’ll be a member of the Buckley Team. I’m so excited to get involved in whatever else I can during my time here!”

New students and their families were greeted by current St. Gregory’s students who helped move boxes, bags and refrigerators into their new home on campus. As the vice president of the Student Government Association and assistant resident director, senior Ruby Arani from Midwest City, Okla., enjoyed the new energy that incoming students brought.

“My favorite thing about move-in day is getting to meet all of our new Cavaliers and their families,” said Arani. “They come in with such a great energy and passion for St. Gregory’s, so it’s great to be part of welcoming them into our St. Gregory’s family!”

Freshmen and transfer students settle in quickly, as move-in day also serves as the kick off to New Student Orientation weekend. With activities such as a meet and greet with the monks of St. Gregory’s Abbey, an introduction to campus and closing with the Academic Convocation on Sunday, students have the opportunity to connect with their future classmates, as well as learn more about the St. Gregory’s community.

New Student Orientation also signifies the kick-off to the 2016-2017 academic year, with fall classes beginning on Monday, August 22.
Class Photo and Student Session Photo Caption: St. Gregory’s University’s new students gather for a photo on the steps of historic Benedictine Hall.

Move In Day 2016 042: St. Gregory’s freshman Alyssa Woolums poses for a photo with her parents as she sets up her dorm room during Cavalier Move In Day.

Move In Day 2016 010: McCrae Lopez, sophomore, helps unload a new student’s car to help them get their dorm room set up during Cavalier Move In Day.

Founded in 1875, St. Gregory’s University is Oklahoma’s oldest institution of higher learning and only Catholic university. St. Gregory’s offers a liberal arts education rooted in the Benedictine tradition of cultivating the whole person – mind, body and spirit. With campuses in Shawnee and Tulsa, St. Gregory’s features both traditional and adult degree programs, including associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. For more information about the cardboard boat University, visit www.stgregorys.edu.

Move In Day 2016 010

Move In Day 2016 042

Agreement settles long-standing water disputes, establishes framework for future cooperation and conservation, and provides certainty for water resource management

OKLAHOMA CITY/DURANT, Okla./ADA, Okla. – The Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations, the State of Oklahoma and the City of Oklahoma City announced today that they have reached a water rights settlement, which will be presented to Congress for final approval.

When finalized, the settlement will resolve long-standing questions over water rights ownership and regulatory authority over the waters of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations’ historic treaty territories, an area that spans approximately 22 counties in south-central and southeastern Oklahoma. The agreement provides a framework that fosters intergovernmental collaboration on significant water resource concerns within the Settlement Area, while at the same time protecting existing water rights and affirming the State’s role in water rights permitting and administration. Additionally, the agreement will implement a robust system of lake level release restrictions to allow Oklahoma City’s measured use of Sardis Lake for municipal supply purposes while continuing to support regionally critical recreation, fish and wildlife uses.

“We are proud to be part of this historic agreement among the State of Oklahoma, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations and the City of Oklahoma City,” said Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin. “We all understand the importance of water for sustaining life and as the engine that drives our economic growth. By choosing cooperation and collaboration over conflict and litigation, this agreement strengthens governmental relationships based on the common interests of the State and the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations.

“While the State will continue to exercise its authority to manage and protect water resources throughout Oklahoma, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations will rightly play a role in significant water allocation and management evaluations within the Settlement Area. This agreement is an important first step in all Oklahomans coming together to address the wise use and protection of our shared water resources.”

For decades there has been legal uncertainty in the Settlement Area regarding water rights and regulatory authority arising from unresolved questions of federal law and tribal rights. These uncertainties have contributed to long-running conflicts over Sardis Lake and the Kiamichi Basin in southeastern Oklahoma, resulting in multiple court actions. Once finalized, the settlement will end ongoing litigation including a federal lawsuit the Nations filed against the State of Oklahoma and the City of Oklahoma City with regard to Sardis Lake and other waters of the historic treaty territory and a second lawsuit the State filed to adjudicate water rights in the Kiamichi, the Muddy Boggy, and the Clear Boggy watersheds. By reaching this settlement, the parties avoid decades of litigation and associated expenses and uncertainty for the State, the Nations, Oklahoma City and property owners throughout the Settlement Area.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt commented, “Water is a shared resource, so finding a way to work together was vitally important. I commend the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations and City of Oklahoma City for working purposefully and tirelessly with the State over the past five years to reach an equitable agreement. The State retains its permitting authority over water in the Settlement Area, which is important since uniform permitting and administration provide certainty and consistency for the management and use of water resources. When finalized, the agreement will protect existing rights and provide certainty for future uses in southeastern Oklahoma and other areas of the state.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations will participate in technical evaluations of significant future water right allocation proposals within the Settlement Area. The agreement also formalizes protections for the current and future water needs of communities throughout the region, ensuring adequate water for south-central and southeastern Oklahoma and enhancing stewardship of water resources both for future consumptive use within the region as well as protecting lake levels and stream flows on which the vibrant tourism industry relies.

“This agreement is a win for all Oklahomans,” said Gov. Bill Anoatubby of the Chickasaw Nation. “We have forged this deal based on our common interests with an understanding that we all want the same thing – to take care of our vital water resources responsibly with respect to the needs of all Chickasaws, Choctaws and Oklahomans. The Nations now have a meaningful and active voice in significant water transfers from our area. Furthermore, this settlement preserves and protects water resources essential to economic growth and quality of life in south-central and southeastern Oklahoma. Unity and cooperation among all stakeholders offers our best chance to help ensure a strong economy and thriving natural environment for our children and grandchildren through proper stewardship of our shared water resources.”

Chief Gary Batton of the Choctaw Nation stated, “What happens in regards to the protection and preservation of water is of great importance. When finalized, this agreement secures existing uses of water and provides certainty with regard to the future use of Sardis Lake for the benefit of recreation, fish and wildlife, and local water use. Importantly, moving forward, both the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations will have a seat at the table in the protection of southeastern Oklahoma water resources for municipal and recreational use. And, as we all know, a vibrant recreation and tourism industry creates jobs and strengthens economies inside and outside of the Settlement Area. Additionally, we are pleased that the agreement supports keeping water in the Settlement Area within the State by maintaining current state law prohibitions and adding significant protections.”

“Five years of concentrated research, analysis and modeling provide the underpinnings of this agreement,” stated J.D. Strong, Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) executive director. “All parties were committed to basing decisions on fact and science, building upon the foundation of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan using the best information we had or could develop regarding potential impacts on lake levels and stream flows. The State, the Nations and Oklahoma City were committed to applying what we have learned through decades of study so that our water resources can be protected while supporting a strong and growing economy in the region and throughout the state.”

The agreement also establishes the legal security of Oklahoma City’s water supplies and gives the greater Oklahoma City metropolitan area access to water for its future needs. Oklahoma City’s releases from Sardis Lake will be governed by a system of lake level release restrictions based on the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s lake level management plan, which is designed to protect fishing and recreational resources. Oklahoma City will also gain access to the Kiamichi River dependent upon lake level release and minimum stream flow restrictions intended to protect the environment and recreational uses.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett commented, “We expect the considerable growth we have experienced in Oklahoma City over the past decades to continue well into this century. Our future growth will be propelled by our ability to attract capital, promote innovation, maintain affordable energy, increase productivity, and probably most importantly, manage our water and land use. And while this agreement ensures we have access to water through a clearly defined and orderly process for decades ahead, we must continue to promote water conservation. We are pleased to be part of this agreement and the opportunities it creates for even greater collaboration and cooperation in the future.”

The agreement achieves the State’s goals of affirming the OWRB’s role in water rights administration, allowing for an orderly system of water allocation and administration. Additionally, the agreement resolves the outstanding debt associated with Sardis Lake and provides vital water supply to local water users and to Oklahoma City, while at the same time protecting recreational uses and the reservoir’s trophy bass fishery.

Existing water rights or rights to surface or groundwater will not be affected by the agreement, and the agreement does not authorize out-of-state use or diversion of water, which remains unlawful absent of State legislative approval. The settlement calls for a commission to evaluate the impacts of future proposals for out-of-state water use or diversion, which would remain subject to State legislative authorization. Should the Oklahoma Legislature ever approve such a proposal, the agreement ensures that any proceeds would be devoted to meeting water and wastewater infrastructure needs, particularly in southeastern Oklahoma.

In response to the announcement of an agreement, The Honorable Judge Lee R. West, with the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, commented, “I have been on the bench for 51 years, but this is an especially proud moment to witness all of these diverse parties coming together to find solutions that are in the best interest of all Oklahomans and my home state. This is without doubt an historic achievement.”

After the agreement is signed by all parties, it must be approved by federal legislation and executed by the Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior. The parties are now working with the Oklahoma congressional delegation to secure appropriate legislation.

Additional information can be found online at www.WaterUnityOK.com.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor May Fallin today issued this statement on the announcement that $140.8 million initially cut from agency allocations midyear can now be allocated.

“I’ve begun discussions with legislative leaders to consider calling lawmakers to return in special session to address the issue of teacher pay raises. I continue to support a pay raise for teachers, having called on lawmakers at the beginning of this year’s session to approve a teacher pay raise. Lawmakers considered it, but this was an extremely difficult budget year and a funding agreement couldn’t be reached. With this available money, I am again asking lawmakers to act on this important issue of providing a raise for every teacher in this state.”

The money is available because General Revenue Fund allocation reductions required by the FY 2016’s midyear revenue failure were deeper than necessary. Without a special session, the $140.8 million would be distributed equally among all agencies receiving general revenue allocations.

PokemonGoReutWASHINGTON — The Pentagon lost more than 1,000 man-hours of work over the past week due to fully grown adults blowing off work to look for Pokémon, a news release said today.

“I suspended training and gave the entire school a few days off,” said Capt. Kevin Byrne, commanding officer of Naval Nuclear Power Training Command. “Funny thing was it wasn’t because of the students. All the instructors threatened to strike if they didn’t get to play ‘Pokémon Go.’ I decided it was fine because it’ll be the only exercise they’ve had in years.”

“Cell phones are forbidden in Rickover Center because of all the classified information inside,” Byrne added. “But I’ve suspended that rule because there’s a venusaur on the third floor. Also I’m not worried about classified information anymore because nobody else is.”

The reports of service members playing ‘Pokémon Go’ were not limited to just one command.

In Norfolk, a sailor was arrested for forcing his way onto a submarine so he could capture a gyarados, and soldiers of the 10th Special Forces Group scheduled a training mission in the Rocky Mountains because they heard there was a graveler on top of Mt. Elbert.

A pilot died in a plane crash near Edwards Air Force Base, and his last transmission was apparently “There’s got to be a flying type up here!”

Meanwhile, Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, announced plans for invading Syria sometime early next week.

“Our mission is simple,” Dunford said. “Defeat ISIS, restore regional stability, and catch rare fire types. They thrive in the desert.”

Hardesty Center for Dance

Broken Arrow, OKLA. – After more than a year of construction, the Hardesty Center for Dance Education will open its doors in Broken Arrow this month. Community members, families and potential students are invited to attend a grand opening event on July 30 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event will include class demonstrations, facility tours, meet and greet with the faculty, refreshments and special performances by Tulsa Ballet’s second company, Tulsa Ballet II.

“Opening this facility has been a dream of Tulsa Ballet for a long time,” said Tulsa Ballet Artistic Director Marcello Angelini. “Tulsa Ballet has recently been called ‘one of the five most influential American ballet companies’ by the Italian critics. It’s our mission and duty to share the quality, expertise and excellence intrinsic to our organization with a larger segment of our community. Achieving this goal was a dream of ours, one that was impeded by lack of space: our Brookside facility has been near capacity for years. Now with a new space, and a stellar staff to match the architectural attractiveness of the site, we will be able to reach everyone from the future prima ballerina to the little girl or boy who just wants to dance for fun.”

Located off of New Orleans street in Broken Arrow, the Hardesty CDE primarily serves Broken Arrow, Bixby and South Tulsa to complement Tulsa Ballet’s existing Brookside location. The new location is home to four ballet studios with basket-woven sprung floors with Marley covering, ten-foot mirrors and a state of the art sound system. One of the studios will be used for performances and has seating for 160 people. The facility also has administrative office space, dressing rooms for both boys and girls, a lobby spacious enough to accommodate waiting parents and 4,000 square feet of warehouse storage space for sets and costumes.

“Having danced and taught all over the world, I can truly say this is a state-of-the-art facility,” said Hardesty CDE Co-Principal Andre Reyes. “From the level of instruction these students will receive to the amenities, you can’t help but fall in love with dance by being here.”

The Hardesty CDE will offer classes to both children and adults, making it a place for everyone to have the option to further their talents. Enrollment for fall classes has begun and will remain open until they become full. Educational Outreach programs for elementary school students will also be offered through the Hardesty Center.

For more information about fall classes, the grand opening event and the Hardesty Center for Dance Education, please visit www.tulsaballet.org or call (918)712-5327.

July Commission Wrap-Up:

Highlights of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission’s Monday, July 11 meeting include details of a federal grant for major work on US-69/75 in Bryan County, action on an agreement to move forward with a bond issue for transportation projects and consideration of new memorial highway and bridge designations. Commissioners voted to award contracts for major projects on SH-51 in Stillwater and SH-39 near Lexington and to repair vehicle damage on I-40 in Oklahoma City and US-169 in Tulsa.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation Executive Director Mike Patterson highlighted a recently-announced $62 million federal grant that will help fund a project to upgrade four miles of US-69/75 to a controlled-access highway between Calera and Durant in Bryan County. This corridor currently has interstate-like traffic traveling on a highway with several at-grade intersections and traffic signals, which causes significant congestion and safety concerns.

“There is an amazing amount of economic growth and development in this area of Oklahoma and this grant makes it possible for ODOT to upgrade the highway and support the increased freight movement in the region,” Patterson said. “I’m very thankful and proud of the agency for obtaining this grant, which was one of only 18 awarded nationwide.”

Patterson also expressed his thanks to Oklahoma’s congressional delegation and the Choctaw Nation for supporting the project. The total cost of the improvements is estimated at $120 million, and ODOT is expediting the environmental review, engineering, right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation to prepare the project for bid in Federal Fiscal Year 2019.

The commission voted to allow ODOT to enter into an agreement with the Oklahoma Capital Improvement Authority for a $200 million bond issue to help finance highway and bridge projects in the Eight-year Construction Work Plan. The legislature authorized the sale of bonds through OCIA to help offset cuts to ODOT in the State Fiscal Year 2017 budget. The proceeds of the bond issue will be used to pay for work that is starting soon and construction projects scheduled in the Eight-year Plan.

Commissioners awarded a more than $7.3 million contract for bridge reconstruction on SH-51 in Stillwater and a contract with a $9.7 million base bid for a project to resurface, add paved shoulders and replace a bridge on SH-39 east of Lexington. They also approved contracts to repair vehicle impact damage to the I-40 bridge over Choctaw Rd. in Oklahoma City and the US-169 bridge over Pine St. in Tulsa.

As part of the consent docket, the commission also gave its approval to install signs designating five memorial highways and bridges, including the “Meteorologist Gary England Bridge” on US-60 in Major County.

In all, commissioners awarded 24 contracts totaling $50 million to improve bridges, highways, interstates and roads in 19 counties. Contracts were awarded for projects in Blaine, Bryan, Canadian, Carter, Cleveland, Garfield, Grant, Harmon, Jackson, Kay, Kingfisher, LeFlore, McClain, Major, Oklahoma, Payne, Seminole, Texas and Tulsa counties. A list of all awarded contracts can be found by visiting www.odot.org/contracts, selecting the June letting and clicking Go and then Award.

The eight-member panel, appointed by the governor to oversee the state’s transportation development, awards project contracts for road and bridge construction every month. Due to the Independence Day holiday, the next meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. August 1.

Contracts, bid information, the commission’s monthly agenda and project details may be viewed at www.odot.org.

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At their Monday, July 11 meeting, members of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission praised a recently-announced $62 million federal grant that will help fund an Oklahoma Department of Transportation project to upgrade US-69/75 between Calera and Durant in Bryan County, pictured here

Art fallin

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today welcomed Kaitlyn Haught to the state Capitol to celebrate the artist’s success in the inaugural Western Governors Association (WGA) “Celebrate the West” regional art competition.

Haught, a recent Hooker High School graduate, earned second place in the contest with her colored pencil drawing “Cutting Horse.”

The drawing will displayed in the lobby of the governor’s office at the Capitol for the next 30 days.

“This is a truly beautiful picture, fully deserving of a place alongside the works of other great Oklahoma artists here at the Capitol,” said Fallin. “I’m looking forward to seeing more of Kaitlyn’s work as she continues to hone her artistic talents.”

Haught’s drawing was one of more than 200 entries in the WGA contest, which drew from 19 Western states.

WGA staff selected the winners from each state, then the governors who attended the association’s summer meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyo., picked the “Best of Show” winners. Haught’s drawing won a $500 prize for finishing in second place.

"I have always loved horses, and I want to be able to show the power and the beauty of them in my artwork,” she wrote on her entry form. “This piece means the world to me, and I want the world to be able to appreciate its beauty as much as I do."

Haught, who plans to attend Oklahoma Panhandle State University in the fall to study computer graphics and animation, said she has been drawing since she was 2.

Haught said her drawing always has been an outlet for her imagination. She started by copying her mother’s sketches and borrowing as many drawing books and animal encyclopedias as she could from the local library.

She credits her art teacher, Joshua Muller, with showing her all of the media available to her and encouraging her to enter her work in competitions.

Her work earned top prizes in Texas County, Woodward and Mooreland, before she set her sights on a larger competition.

Haught said she spent a total of three months working on her “Cutting Horse” drawing, hoping to qualify for a competition in New York.

That didn’t work out, but the drawing did win best in show at the Panhandle Area Art Jubilee in April before earning second place in the WGA competition.

Haught said she hopes people who see her drawing will “not only see the spirit of Oklahoma but also the beauty God created.”

For more information about the WGA art competition, click here.

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