Thursday, February 23, 2023

February OSDE School Board – “Where WOKE Will go to Die.”


Today’s Board meeting started just a few minutes late, with Pledges and Sec/Supt Walters leading a prayer. I must say I was not the only person watching on FB Live that was put off by the prayer…Why not, instead of a Christian prayer, have a moment of silence, like all schools are mandated to have, ‘to pray, meditate, or engage in any other silent activity?’ Much more inclusive…Ooooh. That’s why!

The Supt opened the meeting talking about how happy he was that HB 1935, to provide a $5000 per child tax credit to private school parents, and a $2500 tax credit per child for home-school parents; and HB2775, which creates a $2500 raise for teachers and an extra appropriation for schools on a sliding scale…smaller schools will receive much larger per-pupil allocations than the larger schools. Not a surprise that he’s a fan…may be as close to the universal vouchers he really wants. Or maybe he sees this as step one toward vouchers. Sidebar: these bills give educators a raise of about $1 an hour, which is taxable income, and private school parents a $5000 per child tax break. Excuse me if I’m not over the moon with delight.

He then announced the formation of a Blue Ribbon Committee of pastors and community leaders to look at prayer in the schools, “and the role of faith in our K-12 schools.” (see above: Prayer in the OSDE). He wants “to make schools as good as possible,” and thinks this is all that’s necessary. Upon hearing this, one parent online suggested it was about time. Their child’s prayers for a B in math class have, so far, gone unanswered. 

He will also create a Teacher Advisory Committee…more details to come.

He addressed the “fake outrage” over the removal of Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame portraits from the hallway leading to the very Board Room in which he was sitting. He said “wonderful parents and kids” would be at the center of his State Department. Sidenote: My anger is not fake. The symbolism of walking to the Board Room, to do the business of #oklaed, and looking into these leaders’ faces reminds us of our huge responsibilities to every student and every parent and guardian. I have heard that the Supt’s advisor suggested the portraits all go in a dumpster outside. Another Sidenote: These portraits are not the property of the OSDE. Anything that happens to them must be done in cooperation with the Ok Educators Hall of Fame. Keep them safe. They will be back. Sidenote #3:  The addition of pictures of and by students is a terrific idea. Including pictures of parents participating in public education activities are a terrific idea. Sidenote #4: Does the Superintendent know many of the members of the Hall of Fame are…parents? And he removed pictures of parents and grandparents of public school students?

He wants to study whether college is the best course for our students…are we “setting them up for success” by recommending higher education? His hostility to higher education and their “WOKE agenda” permeated the room. Now, schools have been told to push all students into ‘college ready’ curriculum, with that expectation for decades. Many of us educators pushed back and said that a college degree is not the only path to a fulfilling life, to a contributing career. But our pushback on this college-for-all expectation was not rooted in culture-wars ideology, but in our years of experience with students, seeing there are so many ways for young people to find that success that Supt Walters mentioned. He will return to this theme later. 

Open Comments showed a huge weakness in the sound system in the Board Room. I know those in the room could hear names and messages so much better than we at home could. So I missed speakers’ names, and many of their words. Three speakers stood out, and I could hear applause in the room as they returned to their seats.

Ashley Daly spoke again…her comments last month were in support of public schools, parents, students, and teachers. Again today, she brought facts and research to what she hoped OSDE’s mission will be: to support public schools, the 700,000 students attending public schools, and the 33,000 students in her home district of Tulsa. She called for smaller classrooms, higher teacher pay, and addressing the high ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) our students bring with them to school every day. "'re not making a good faith effort until those have been tried." She is authentic and inspiring.

Another speaker pointed about the irony of the Superintendent celebrating an employee for their ‘teamwork’(that happened when I was collecting my notebook and pen, so I cannot share the employee’s name, but good on them!) while attacking diversity and teamwork in our schools. He said that corporations are looking for employees who can work with diverse colleagues…team players. I wish I’d gotten his name. I’d like to thank him personally.

Levi Patrick, one of the authors of the Computer Science standards, gave a scathing statement, alerting us all that the standards had been revised, without input from the authors. His concerns were the fact that the standards the committee approved were not the standards under consideration today. “So, whenever we submit a letter of support for this work and sign off on the final product, it’s a product that we have a lot of confidence in,” Patrick said. “I am afraid today that the document in front of you is not the one that we submitted to you. Perhaps you already know that.”

Patrick said that in the computer science standards, state board members changed the word “culture” to “environment” throughout the standards and changed instances of the term “diverse” users to “different” users when discussing the need to build programs that a “diverse” group of users can operate. The Supt will respond below.

The business of the Board today was not earth-shattering…addressing nine districts who turned in financial paperwork late, and the adoption of academic standards for Computer Science, Fine Arts, and Health and Physical Education. Each curriculum leader gave a short presentation talking about how the previous standards were revised, and asked for approval from the Board. One friend pointed out that having OSDE possibly sanction districts for missing deadlines is ironic, when compared to the Superintendent's first appearance before the House Appropriations Committee...he didn't seem to even understand his job!

Now, our Board is a group of non-educators who may or may not have vast experience in the workings of schools. One new member, in acknowledging that, asked how teachers would know how to take those standards and teach them. Several of us on the Facebook Live conversation knew the answer…that’s our job! And the curriculum leaders were very patient and respectful. 

The Supt took this opportunity to address Patrick’s concerns above, to say that all WOKE language was scrubbed from the new standards. Walters said we want “students who are ready for the workforce, not social warriors.” Because, “This is an agency where WOKE will go to die.” He seems proud of the changes he made. He seemed to imply that now critical thinking skills would address only workforce readiness, and not life…for computer science, fine arts, and health. Certainly not life skills at all, right? All standards were adopted by the Board…with Walters’ changes, without questions, discussion, debate, and over Patrick’s objections. "Thank you for your input."

The Board then met in Executive Session to address one other item on the agenda.

The Superintendent seemed quieter, ‘boxed in,’ to an extent, but from several of his comments sprinkled throughout the meeting, he made it clear HE is still fighting imaginary culture wars. We must stay vigilant. And not allow him to troll. And remember we are professionals and the grownups in the room. 


  1. Great summation of the day, Claudia. I think this is only the beginning of our battles with him.

    1. I so did not want to start writing again. Yet here we are.

  2. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength