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Senate District 22 candidates respond to education-related questions in Gazette forum

The Piedmont-Surrey Gazette asked this multipart question to the two Senate District 22 candidates:

Question: (Part 1 of 3) The Oklahoma Supreme Court recently upheld the decision to repeal the Common Core in Oklahoma Schools. What are your thoughts on the Common Core? Do you feel like it is good or bad for Oklahoma schools and why?
(Part 2 of 3) In further regard to education, Oklahoma ranks at the very bottom of state education in the country (48th or 49th out of 50). If elected, what steps would you take to make Oklahoma schools in your district(i.e. Edmond, Piedmont, Deer Creek) better? Are there specific measures you are already considering?
(Part 3 of 3) If elected, what steps would you take to insure that funding dispersed to Oklahoma schools through bond issues, grants and donations make it to the classroom to be used for education purposes only?

Stephanie Bice:

Stephanie Bice

Part 1: I oppose federally created standards like Common Core. We must improve our education outcomes in Oklahoma, but the standards created must be done at the local level with the guidance of teachers, parents and local school districts. I will fight to give Oklahoma teachers and parents the flexibility they need to help our children reach their full potential.

Part 2: Continuing to throw money into our education system will not fix the root causes of poor performance. I come from a business background where innovation is encouraged and rewarded. I’d like to find ways to take that model into the classroom and reward teachers and schools for excelling.

Part 3: Bond issues are typically used for physical building improvements or additions, and in several areas of District 22 they have been used to build new schools to accommodate the growing student population within our community. They are necessary to ease the burden of classroom size, as some classes have more than 25 students per teacher, making high-quality instruction a challenge.
I’m discouraged, however, that donations are even part of the equation. We must adequately fund our schools in order to ensure the types of quality education outcomes our children deserve.

Mark Thomas:

Mark Thomas

I am a product of the public school system, and two of my daughters still attend Yukon Public Schools, so these chosen topics are still very close to me as I am sure they are to us all. Quality education is one of the foundational cornerstones of a free and prosperous society, and paramount for continued freedom and prosperity.

The three questions asked in regard to education are in reference to my position on Common Core, making the schools better in Oklahoma, and insuring that monies find their way to the classroom. I don’t view these as individual issues, but rather three individual symptoms of one issue, central government control.

The Constitution of the State of Oklahoma provides for education, which is not the same thing as providing education. The provision of resources to support or facilitate a process is not the same as controlling the process. So how is the control of the process working out for us? I suggest not very well.

The short answer to the resolve of these issues is to dismantle the central control of our education system.

History has taught us that central control with concentrated power and money will always create bureaucracies that become inefficient, ineffective and corrupt. These are the very issues that are addressed here.

Common Core is in no way good for our children. Education is a personal issue, not a state mandate. To allow legislation to be written that mandates how our children are taught, or what they are taught, turns our children into property of the state. Our children are not property of the state.

There are no functions that take place within the state educational bureaucracies that can’t be carried out within the individual school districts. Once we remand the education of our children to the local school districts, school boards and parents, we will once again have a much improved chance of providing the quality of education we desire for our children. The local choices will once again open the door for free market models of competition that will result in better education for our children.
Government that is closest to the people is always better. Limited government is where it’s at. As Dr. Phil may ask “how’s the other working for you?”

I will work to remand the control of the education of our children to the parents.

Pierce assumes post as Surrey Hills Elementary principal

Bill Pierce

By Matt Montgomery

Next month, students from Surrey Hills Elementary will see a new faculty member walking the halls. Bill Pierce will assume his duties as the new Surrey Hills Elementary principal, taking over for Maggie Sander, who retired in May.

Pierce, a Yukon resident since 1997, is familiar with this community. In fact, he has several family members who are working or have worked for Yukon Public Schools. His wife is an educator at Yukon Public Schools. His mother-in-law recently retired from teaching at Yukon High School and his children attend Yukon Public Schools.

“For me, living in the community, believing in a school system that, in my opinion, is an exceptional school system and community, the decision to pursue that opening was very clear to me,” Pierce said. “That is something that I thought I should do and wanted to do.”

Pierce said because of the diligent work Sander and the teachers at Surrey Hills Elementary did prior to him taking the job, has created a platform that he would like to build upon.

He added that all of the great work that administration has accomplished has created a foundation that has already been laid. He wants to add to that now.

“My first priority is to get to know the students and the families, and to develop those relationships,” he said. “Then we can focus on academic excellence for our children and our community.”
One thing that means the most to Pierce, is the opportunity to make every student successful.
“It’s our responsibility to help students be successful,” he said. “I’m a service-before-self type leader. I strive to do and be excellent in everything I do. I want those that I serve to be the best that they can be.”

Pierce has a long career in the education system in Oklahoma.

Before taking the position at Surrey, Pierce was the principal at Windsor Hills Elementary in Oklahoma City from 2012 to 2014.

Some of the things he accomplished at Windsor Hills included revamping the safety procedures which resulted in a safer arrival and dismissal process.

He also served on the district technology bond team, which resulted in a $6 Million technology bond.
From 2009 to 2012 he was the principal at D.D. Kirkland Elementary in the Putnam City School District.
At D.D. Kirkland, Pierce was instrumental in revamping that school’s safety procedures, which resulted in a safer arrival and dismissal process for the students.

From 2008-09, Pierce was assistant principal at Wiley Post Elementary in the Putnam City School District.

From 2007-08 he was an assistant principal intern at Western Oaks Elementary in the Putnam City School District.

From 2005-07, he was a substitute site administrative intern at Putnam City High School.
He has his Master’s in Business Administration from Oklahoma City University with a teaching certificate.

Surrey Hills Elementary will host a back to school night Aug. 11. The first day of school is Aug. 14. The 2014-15 Surrey Hills school supply list can be seen here:


Councilman’s wife undergoes heart surgery; Coffman postpones campaign bid for mayor

By Matt Montgomery

Charles and Angela Coffman

Piedmont City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Charles Coffman’s wife Angela Coffman recently underwent heart surgery to repair a hole in her heart.

Angela Coffman has had the hole in her heart since birth, but it had no affect on her until she recently underwent surgery to repair her rotator cuff, and had a reaction to the pain medicine she was prescribed.

Coffman, who was planning a campaign bid to run for mayor of Piedmont in next April’s election, said those plans are off and he is concentrating on being with his wife while she recovers.

Even though Coffman’s chances of being Piedmont’s next mayor have been put on the back burner, he still looks forward to continue to serve as a Piedmont city councilman and mayor pro tem in Ward 4.

“I am looking forward to continue to serve Piedmont,” Coffman said. “I believe there are exciting times ahead. I’m really glad to see the road repair projects scheduled this year.”

The Coffmans were very active for many years, climbing most of the 10 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado, running marathons and half marathons and biking. Coffman said Angela was a premature baby, born at three and one-half months. She spent four months in an incubator. She had a dime-size hole in her heart that went diagnosed.

She underwent a Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) operation. Coffman said the ASD closure procedure was necessary because her right ventricle was enlarged because of the hole and would have eventually led to heart failure.

“The doctors said that the heart defect was one of the reasons many athletes collapse and die during things such as marathons; they were diagnosed until it got bad enough to cause a stroke or failure,” Coffman said. “She was very lucky that it was found after she had a reaction to pain medicine following her recent rotator cuff surgery. She was rushed to the emergency room and the doctors at Mercy wanted to check in the heart. After weeks of tests, they concluded she had an enlarged right ventricle and a large hole. Just goes to show that sometimes good does come from bad.”

Coffman said Angela should be good as new in a few months and while she might not be doing half marathons, she will be back to spin classes.

“I hope everyone takes some time to get checked out, and if they find something, go forward with the tests because even something as big as a dime-sized hole can be fixed,” he said.

Angela is a the library media specialist at Westfield Elementary in Edmond. She also is a mentor at White Fields here in Piedmont.

Angela Coffman will return to work in Edmond once she is cleared and able.

One last victory lap: PHS swimmer Rein prepares for All-State meet

Evan Grice/Gazette
Piedmont’s Kasey Rein poses with her state championship medal earlier this year at the Mitch Park YMCA Building. Rein finished with five state titles in her career. She will be swimming for the University of Evansville Purple Aces this fall in Evansville, Indiana.

By Evan Grice


After four years of unparalleled success as a member of the Piedmont swim team, Kasey Rein is officially ready to take her bow on the high school stage.

Rein will swim her final official high school meet Monday night July 28th from the Jenks Aquatic Center, as she swims at the All-State meet. Read more →

PHS’ Shively inks with USAO Drovers

Photo Submitted
Piedmont’s Jayden Shively stands with USAO head coach Vinson Metcalf, middle and future teammate Caleb McCain, right.

By Evan Grice


From an early age, Jayden Shively always knew he wanted to play college basketball. It was just a matter of who would give him the opportunity to do so.

Recently, Shively got his opportunity, from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha, where he signed an official letter of intent to be a Drover basketball player. Read more →

Car falls on former Piedmont mayor

George Fina

By Matt Montgomery

Former Piedmont Mayor and Piedmont Hall of Fame member George Fina suffered multiple injuries last night when a car he was working on fell on top of him, breaking an unknown number of his ribs and breaking a vertebra.

According to Fina’s daughter Ann Stolfa’s Facebook page, “So for those friends and family who haven’t heard yet, my dad had a bad accident yesterday; a car he was working on fell on him. He was lucky to escape with only broken ribs and a broken vertebra. I say lucky because it could have ended much differently. I’m feeling very thankful today that my dad is still here with us.

The Fina family were unavailable for comment at this time. This story will be updated once more information becomes available and is confirmed.

City schedules Stout Drive road repair

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
The City of Piedmont announced on its website the Stout Drive road repairs are slated to begin Friday or Monday, depending on weather conditions.

By Matt Montgomery

The street repair project on Stout Street in Piedmont will either begin this Friday or the following Monday, according the City of Piedmont’s website.

The project start date was moved to June 18 or June 21 because of impending weather conditions.

The project was approved by the Piedmont city council June 23 and has an estimated unit price of $217,550.80. It consists of roadway stabilization improvements on Stout Drive, from Edmond Road south to below Monroe Ave. NW.

In a letter posted to the city’s website, the City of Piedmont writes, “We will start by grinding up the old asphalt paving. Your street will remain open during the majority of these repairs, but sections will be closed on the days we are installing base stabilization, applying road oil, or laying asphalt.”

Silver Star Construction Company road crews are scheduled to work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. There will be signs at the end of each block, signifying that the city will be working on the street and that the street will be closed for part of that day. On some occasions, city road crews will work on Saturday in the case that an impending storm is heading into Piedmont.

The city also warns residents to be very careful around its heavy road equipment.

“Be very cautious of the large machinery while the road is under construction,” the city writes in its letter. “Be aware that there may be delays getting in or out during certain phases of the construction.”

The city also warns residents to not allow their children to play on or around the construction equipment after work hours.

Also, the city asks that residents who live on or near Stout Drive to keep their vehicles in their driveways and out of the roadway during the road repairs.

“Be patient with our work crews,” the city writes. “It’s our goal to do good work as quickly as possible and to keep you informed along the way.”

For more information about the letter the city of Piedmont sent out, contact the City of Piedmont at 373-2621 or visit the city’s website at www.piedmont-ok.gov.

Piedmont Park Project committee to hold community meeting

By Eric Anderson
F&M Bank President

Have you heard? We are working to build a park in Piedmont, but we need your help. The Piedmont Park Project has several opportunities for all members of the community to help and get involved, including all the little ones as well.

At 6:30 p.m., Thursday, July 24, we will host a community meeting at the Intermediate School. During this meeting, you will have an opportunity to view a slide show regarding the plans and hopes for the future park in our community. There will be refreshments and an opportunity to volunteer in multiple capacities. This park will not be a success without the help and support of our community.

We will be hosting an opportunity for each of you to Design Your Own Dream Park. Take a blank 8 ½ X 11 in. paper and design what you would like as your Dream Park. The sky is the limit on your design.
Read more →

Piedmont Titans win 7-Under tournament

Submitted by Bill Bailey
The Piedmont Titans won a 7-Under baseball tournament in Piedmont last weekend.

By Matt Montgomery

The 7-Under little league baseball team, Piedmont Titans, won the PSA 7-U Machine Pitch Invitational held last weekend at the PSA baseball fields in Piedmont.

The tournament was a double elimination tournament consisting of three pool play games last Saturday to seed the teams for the double elimination tournament on Sunday.

The Titans won two of their three pool play games to earn a No. 2 seed on Sunday playing a No. 3 seed in the first round.

Titans won their first game on Sunday against the El Reno Rumble 8 – 1.

Titans won their second game on Sunday 21 – 9 against the OK Braves. (OK Braves – from Midwest City are ranked # 13 in the state in 7U coach pitch.)

Titans won their third game on Sunday 12 – 0 against the Moore Venom (#28 nationally ranked by USSSA in 7U machine pitch) to clinch the winners bracket and require the challenger in the championship game to beat them twice to win the tournament.

They won the championship in the last inning (fifth inning) scoring three runs and rallying from a two-run deficit (7 – 9) to win (10 – 9) and go undefeated on Sunday.

Piedmont Titans were in Pool A with the Perry Marauders, Yukon Drillers and Moore Venom (#28 in Nation in 7U MP, USSSA).

The tournament offered “Dealers Choice” which allowed coach pitch teams to pitch to their team rather than hitting off the machine.

The OK Braves came through the consolation bracket beating the Venom (third in the tournament).

The Titans are coached by Bill Bailey.

Bailey said the Titans won the tournament by playing great defense and exceptional offense (batting).

“The team’s key to success was to have fun playing baseball with their teammates and outstanding confidence at the plate and superb defense,” Bailey said.

Overall, the Titans scored 88 runs, and only gave up 37 the entire tournament. Averaging 11 runs scored per game and not allowing any opponent to score more than nine runs in any game.

Bailey said this was done playing top-level competition on both Saturday and Sunday as the Titans’ pool (Pool A) had the first, third and fourth place teams in it and then played the third place team and second place team twice on Sunday. Both teams carrying state and national rankings.

“Most of these boys have taken home trophies before,” Bailey said. “This is by far the biggest trophy these boys have taken home. It was a huge victory for us. There was some pretty stiff competition that came into the tournament.”

The Titans “Mercy Ruled” most teams they played in the tournament. The Mercy Rule is applied if the winning team has built a substantial lead, not allowing for the other team to come up with enough runs per inning to come back to win. Each game consists of five innings. And each team is only allowed to score seven runs per inning. If a team is up 15 runs after three innings or 10 runs after four innings, the Mercy Rule is applied by the umpire.

This is Bailey’s third season with the Titans. In that time, he has coached many young Piedmont baseball players.

“It’s mostly about keeping it positive and fun for the kids,” he said. “These are sever-year-old little boys out there playing a game. There’s going to be mistakes all over the place. We don’t get down on kids for mistakes. We try to highlight the things that they did good.”

The Titans are #25 Reese McManis, #10 Anderson Cofer, #11 Tate Cardwell, #9 Drake May, #1 Brent Bailey, #4 Austen Mueller, #12 Titus Boice, #7 Walker Kennedy, #5 Caden Cameron, #21 Wyatt Geissler and # 34 Jackson Payne. Coaches: Head Coach Bill Bailey, Assistant Coaches Robert McManis, Brett Payne and Jason Geissler.

Piedmont family instrumental in N.M. Heart Camp’s formation

Submitted by David Pletcher
Justin Gordon, left, a Cavett Kid, and Tobi Gordon ride a chair lift in Angel Fire, N.M., during the Angel Fire Heart Camp, which the Pletcher family from Piedmont are instrumental components of.

By Matt Montgomery

The Pletcher family of Piedmont were instrumental in the formation of a camp for kids battling terminal illnesses.

The Angel Fire Heart Camp in Angel Fire, N.M. is a destination David and Mandy Pletcher and several of their family members take kids from the Cavett Kids Foundation to relax and enjoy some outdoor activities.

David, Mandy and their daughter Tobi Gordon volunteered at Mercy Hospital before the Heart Camp idea was conceived. His son, Shea Pletcher, worked as an intern for Cavett Kids while he was in college and came up with the basic idea for the Heart Camp.

The family decided if they were going to form a heart camp, they should use their place in the New Mexican mountains.

One of the thoughts behind having the camp in Angel Fire, is to give these kids who are all fighting terminal illnesses a place to go that they normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to go.

The foundation brings along medical personnel on the trip each year, to insure the kids’ safety.
Cavett Kids Foundation founder Danny Cavett said the foundation’s doctors do not want the kids to go much higher than 8,000 feet in elevation and not stay very long. The town of Angel Fire sits at 8,406 feet above sea level.
Read more →

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