By Darla Welchel, Staff Writer
Oklahoma is well-known for many things – beautiful sunsets, immense prairie lands, its ever-changing weather, tornadoes, the trail of tears . . . and being the leader of the pack when it comes to education cutbacks.
There are things to be proud of, and things to learn from – but toping the list of making the deepest cuts to school funding three years in a row is sad, to say the very least.
According to OKPolicy.org, Oklahoma cut funding 26.9 percent per student in 2016. The last time it was above this deplorable margin was in 2008.
Now more than ever, teachers are being asked to do more with less, and now more than ever does the public education system need the help of its community – including Tuttle Public Schools.
In an effort to offset classroom cutbacks, the Tuttle Education Foundation (TEF) was organized last fall to raise much-needed dollars. In its freshman year, TEF filled seven grants last spring for a grand total of $3,500 being funneled into Tuttle Schools.
According to the TEF’s website, the mission statement reads, The purpose of the Tuttle Education Foundation is to enrich the education at Tuttle Public Schools by:
- engaging the community in fundraising
- encouraging teacher innovation
- awarding classroom grants
But, all of this takes money, money raised outside the state education budget.
Spring into action
For the second year in a row, TEF will be hosting its Spring Social at Remington Park. Beginning at 6 p.m on Saturday, April 8 in the large suite, for the mere price of $65 each, the TEF will provide food, an open bar, live auction and a balcony view to watch the horse races. All proceeds are used to fund future Education Grants.
“Tickets are on sale now,” said Chair of the TEF Board Shelley Overholt. “You can find us on Tuttle Education Foundation’s Facebook page or contact me at (405) 408-3449 or any of the other TEF representatives. They are Lee Coker, Kasey Neasbitt, Stacie Baumann, Carrie Streber, Leslie Walker, Stefanie Douglas and Kandi Link.”
In addition to the Spring Social, the TEF held a fall fundraiser and a golf tournament to fund the grants, she said. Teachers can be granted up to $500 and can get more if two or more teachers go in together.
“We award grants the first of December and the first of May,” she said. “After a month, we go into the school to see the grant awards being put to use. We loved seeing the second grade use all their science tubs. It was also awesome to see Crystal Neasbitt’s robotics team use their money to build their competitive robots.”
Second grade teacher Kaylee Berryhill said, “My second grade team received a grant to purchase science interactive tubs. The tubs cover eight different science concepts. The tubs contain engaging, standard based activities covering five core curriculum areas: social studies, language, math, art and science. The lessons can be used as whole group, small group or center based teaching.
Crystal Neasbitt, Tuttle High School Chemistry, astronomy and robotics teacher added, “I applied and received a $500 grant towards the purchase of game structures for our robotics class. These structures allowed us to practice scoring points with the robot the students designed and built. Having these elements to practice with gave us a successful advantage, because we did qualify for the regional competition at Southwestern State university.”
Both educators agree TEF is a vital part of the educating of Tuttle children.
“The TEF’s grant allowed our class to purchase materials we would otherwise do without,” Neasbitt said. “We appreciate the TEF and their support of the Cyber Tigers this year.”
Berryhill added, “As an educator, it means a lot to have so much support from our community. I am grateful to work in a community that is so supportive of their administrators, teachers and staff. I strongly believe community involvement is very important for the success of students.
“The TEF helps provide opportunities for people in our community to help, encourage and raise money for the district. The members of the TEF are helping lead the way for our community to be involved in the success of our schools.”
Neasbitt has already applied for her second grant this spring to further enhance her robotic’s classroom.
“I applied for a competition barrier for the robotics class,” she said. “We didn’t have it this [past] year, and we used duct tape to tape our beacons to the classroom walls. If granted, this barrier will allow us to simulate the competition field and ensure a competitive advantage for next year’s robotics competition season.”
Every teacher who has benefited from TEF’s grant program is very appreciative of the support from the community, and the Spring Social at Remington Park is just one way to support the district.
“We always have a great time at the events, and it’s a wonderful way to bring patrons of the city together for a great cause. We look forward to each event,” Overholt said.
Berryhill concluded, “I would like to say thank you to the TEF. Your continued support for our school district is greatly appreciated and doesn’t go unnoticed. Because of your generosity and hard work, we are able to bring new, engaging activities into our classrooms. The donation you made is evidence of your belief in quality education for our students, and for that, we are truly grateful.Thank you for believing in us and our schools!”