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Piedmont Parent

Local woman gives birth to quadruplets

Jessie and Joel Lekites hold their newly-born quadruplets in Jessie’s parents’ home in Piedmont. She gave birth in April to three girls and one boy, all born one minute apart from each other. The babies (left to right) are Jaclyn, Jamison, June and Joseph Lekites. The Lekites were living in Houston, Texas, where Joel was working, but since the birth of their quadruplets, they have moved into Jessie’s parents’ home until they find a permanent home here in Piedmont. Joel designs homes and works from home now, while he and Jessie and their parents take care of their four newborns.

By Matt Montgomery

New Piedmont residents Jessie and Joel Lekites are now the proud parents of quadruplets. Lekites gave birth to three girls and one boy in April at Mercy Hospital.

But, due to some complications and health issues, the babies weren’t cleared to leave the hospital until just recently.

The babies were born one minute apart from each other. The new Lekites are June, Jaclyn, Jamison and Joseph. Joseph had a shunt in his head to release fluid built up around the brain and some of the other babies had some oxygen issues. The Lekites’ babies were spread out in different hospitals, from OU Medical Center to Mercy. From the time Lekites was admitted to the hospital in March, it was 142 days before all the babies were home.

The babies were born at exactly 27 weeks. The girls all weighed around 1 pound each–Jamison weighed 1 pound, 10 ounces; June weighed 1 pound, 12 ounces; Jaclyn weighed 1 pound, 14 ounces; Joseph weighed 2 pounds, 4 ounces.

The odds of having three girls and one boy in a quadruplet birth are very small, according to the specialist Lekites saw during her pregnancy. He told her that with the treatment she was on, there was only about a 2 to 3 percent chance they would end up with quadruplets.

Because the babies were born three months early, they had to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital, on ventilators for some time.
“That in itself was unbelievable,” Jessie said. “You don’t realize the world of NIC U … and I’m a nurse, but I don’t do pediatrics or any of that. It’s hard because you don’t get to take your babies home.”

The babies were in the intensive care unit for 62 days. Joseph and Jaclyn were released from the hospital in June. June was released in July and Jaclyn just came home a few weeks ago.

Read more →

Piedmont High School welcomes new band director

Laura Ketchum

By Matt Montgomery

When Darnell Zook resigned as Piedmont High School’s band director earlier this year, administrators found his replacement not from Oklahoma, but from Michigan.

Laura Ketchum, of Kalamazoo, Mich., will lead the multi-state champion Pride of Piedmont Marching Band this year.

She graduated from Western Michigan University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, and earned her Master’s Degree from Southern Oregon University. Her B.A. is in music education and her master’s is in conducting.
Ketchum brings a lot of experience to the table, having taught music at several schools in Michigan, including Brandon High School, Big Rapids High School and Flushing High School. She was head band director at Flushing High School. That school had a competitive marching band comparable to the Pride of Piedmont. That school is slightly larger than Piedmont High School. Read more →

Piedmont High school construction nearing completion

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
Construction of the addition to Piedmont High School is nearing completion. The facade of the school is virtually complete. This view is from the south end, entrance to the school.

By Matt Montgomery

Summer is almost over and school is almost back in session, but when students from Piedmont High School return to school Aug. 19, they will see a larger main building.

Over the summer, construction crews have been hard at work to complete the additions to Piedmont High School.

Those additions include a secured entrance and attendance office in the front of the building, two additional classrooms and restrooms, and a physical education gymnasium, wrestling room, restrooms, locker rooms and training room.

“This much needed construction will meet a number of pressing needs as our enrollment continues to increase at a rapid pace,” the district wrote in an update earlier this year. “First, this project includes an expansion of the current cafeteria space. With an expected enrollment of almost 900 students in the high school next year, this added space will be extremely beneficial.”

Piedmont Schools Superintendent James White said Tuesday, the construction isn’t fully completed but is almost there.

“Construction at the high school is still ongoing, but it is in the final stages,” White said. “The classroom and restroom addition is complete, and the flooring is being installed in the cafeteria today (Tuesday). There will be a few finishing touches taking place after school resumes; however it won’t be a hindrance to the school day.”

The gymnasium section of the addition was much needed in addition to more classroom space, since the district has had to bus their student-athletes to Piedmont Elementary for many years. Read more →

Piedmont High School teacher named finalist for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year

Cyndi Brown

By Matt Montgomery

Piedmont High School Advanced Placement (AP) English language and literature teacher Cyndi Brown was one of 12 teachers statewide who were named finalists for the state’s top teaching honor: Teacher of the Year.

Brown has been recognized for being a top teacher before. This past year, Piedmont Schools Superintendent James White, PhD, named Brown the Piedmont High School Site Teacher of the Year.

“We are extremely proud of Cyndi Brown,” White said. “Being named a finalist for the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year is a tremendous honor and accomplishment. We are very fortunate to have a teacher of her caliber and she is a terrific representative of Piedmont Schools.”

Brown said what makes her an effective teacher is making the things she teaches relevant to what is going on in the real world.

“To teach them how to engage in intelligent, informed discussion and debate about events in the world about classic and contemporary issues is important,” she said. “I had a great opportunity to do that with my wonderful AP students. They are so smart and insightful. I’ve learned just as much from them as they did from me.”

Brown said she thinks it’s important to teach her students to listen to each other and listen to other people’s perspectives and to view things from multiple viewpoints so they can see there are so many valid ways to look at things.

“I want them to be great students and have great success in college, but I also want them to be successful people,” Brown said.

Her classroom can be described as a discussion-oriented, respectful environment where students have the freedom to express themselves in an energetic and high-level way of thinking. Brown said the goal in her classroom isn’t necessarily to learn and regurgitate copy from the textbook, but rather to let the students debate among themselves in an intellectual way.

“One of the things we do in AP English is to take issues and break them apart,” she said. “I want them to develop their own viewpoints and listen to other people, too, and not just put other people down by trying to ramrod their opinions down other people’s throats.”

She changes her curriculum yearly by integrating current events into each year’s course.

“When they take that test in May, it’s going to deal with very current issues,” she said. “It asks them to weigh in on things that are very current. So, we read the paper, pay attention to politics, and that’s what keeps it exciting for me. It’s a very relevant class and I think the students appreciate that.”

Brown keeps in touch with her students after they graduate Piedmont High School.

“I would rather have a student say that mine was their favorite class,” she said. “Rather than just I’m their favorite teacher. I try to teach them what they need to know. I love to hear back from my students and knowing that they are doing well.”

The other 11 finalists are Tonya Boyle of H. Cecil Rhoades Elementary School; Roger Clement of Noble High School; Amber Elder of James L. Dennis Elementary School; Adam Forester of Bethany High School; Monica Hodgden of Woodward Early Childhood Center; James LeGrand of Altus High School; Jennifer Luttmer of Liberty Elementary School; Romney Nesbitt of Jenks West Intermediate School; Jason Proctor of Tahlequah High School; Diane Walker of Muskogee High School and LeaAnn J. Wyrick of McCall Middle School.

The teacher of the year will be chosen and announced sometime in September of this year. No date has been confirmed.

Surrey Hills 7-11 gives away free, small icees for 7-11 Day

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
Piedmont residents Magan Word and her soon-to-be pre-school son Trace Word stop by the Surrey Hills 7-11 for a free icee as part of 7-11’s promotional free icee day. The convenience store chain is offering the free, small icees only on July 7, which is 7-11 Day.

Piedmont HS senior earns spot at prestigious Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute

Marisa Brown, a senior at Piedmont High School, earned a spot at the prestigious Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute recently at Quartz Mountain.

By Anne Peters
Oklahoma Arts Institute

Years of hard work and dedication have paid off for Piedmont High School senior Marisa Brown. She earned a spot at the prestigious Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute to be held June 14 to 29 at Quartz Mountain (OSAI).

Brown is studying drawing and printmaking at OSAI with nationally renowned artists from across the U.S. In conjunction with acceptance, Brown received a full scholarship to the program, worth over $2,500.

“I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s performances and talents as well as learning new styles and techniques from the instructors and guest artists. I am hoping to gain experience that will further my artistic ability,” Brown said.

At OSAI, Oklahoma high school students spend at least six hours a day studying one of nine artistic disciplines in the literary, visual and performing arts.

In the evenings, they attend a variety of performances, lectures, and demonstrations that give them an appreciation of the arts outside of their chosen discipline. Students from different disciplines and backgrounds study, reside, and eat meals together. Read more →

A record breaker


Blake Colston
Sports Editor 

EDMOND – Madison Berryman wasn’t a star. Or at least that’s what she said coming out of Piedmont High School.

Now a senior at the University of Central Oklahoma, she owns UCO’s 60-meter indoor sprint record, the school’s record high score for the heptathlon and the school’s javelin record.

But for most of her high school athletic career she was on the cheer squad and played tennis. Berryman always liked track and field, but gave it up after competing in seventh and eighth grade and part of her freshman season to focus on other sports.

Fast forward to her junior year and she still wasn’t on Piedmont’s track team. PHS was good, though. So good they won a state championship. But after their championship season in 2009, PHS lost some key cogs, including sprinter Katie Jirak.

The coaches and players on the team knew Berryman could run, so they started recruiting her to join the next season’s team.

“My senior year I actually played tennis and ran track,” Berryman said. Read more →

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