This week marked another milestone in my life: the graduation of my youngest son, Parker.
When he finishes up school next week I will no longer have a child in Oklahoma’s public school system.
When my oldest son was born in 1991, Oklahoma’s commitment to public education was at a high point, at least in my lifetime. House Bill 1017 had passed the year before, funding major education reforms including limits on class sizes.
Since then, especially in recent years, state lawmakers have piled more requirements on our public schools while slashing their budgets and rolling back or suspending needed reforms.
Our teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation and our state’s per-pupil education funding cuts led the country from fiscal years 2008 to 2015. (The new state budget has spared education from additional cuts, but left no money for teacher pay raises or to address the teacher shortage.)
On top of these macro issues, educators must contend with occasional curve balls from state lawmakers, like the bill that would have banned AP history courses for not being patriotic enough.
Being a teacher in Oklahoma must, at times, feel like a completely thankless undertaking.
So I thought I’d thank at least a few of the teachers and administrators who helped my boys along the way.
To Amy Hudson, assistant principal at Jenks High School: Thanks for the reminder call about mandatory graduation practice last week. Without that phone call, my family could have been deprived of seeing Parker walk across the stage.
To Eric Fox, assistant principal at Jenks High School: Thanks for not letting Parker’s countless cell phone violations go unpunished — but also not allowing them to totally derail his education.
To all of the teachers at Jenks alternative program: Thank you for seeing the potential in Jordan, even when he didn’t see it himself at times. You’d be proud of the man he has become.
To Joy Edwards, Nancy Pettus and Shannon Fitzpatrick: Thank you for inspiring Parker and Jordan to enjoy writing and literature and to become better writers.
To Mr. Raphael: Thank you for taking a chance on a senior with a less than perfect academic record and accepting him into your screenwriting class. It has inspired him to embark on a new path.
To Rob Miller and other administrators at Jenks Middle School: Thanks for keeping both Parker and Jordan in line, but understanding sometimes that boys will be boys.
To Judi Barrett and other teachers at Jenks Southeast Elementary: Thanks for your patience, encouragement and for making school a place my boys wanted to come to every day.