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WHITE: Your vote can make a difference for Piedmont Schools

James White, superintendent of the Piedmont Public School District, writes about the importance of the Dec. 14 bond election.

By James White

Superintendent of Piedmont Schools

On Tuesday, December 14 the patrons of Piedmont Public Schools will be asked to approve a bond issue that will provide the funds needed for construction of Piedmont Intermediate. This new school would serve as a fifth- and sixth-grade center.

Since 2006, Piedmont has grown by over 750 students. As our school enrollment continues to grow at this rapid pace, it is imperative that we continue to provide the space to meet the needs of our students. This new facility would be scheduled to open in August of 2012.

If passage of this bond proposal is successful, there will be no tax increase. The bonds that are being voted on will not be sold until the current bonds are paid off. These “series bonds” are vital to a district that has grown as quickly as Piedmont.

The proposed new school will help alleviate overcrowding at four of our school sites. By moving the 5th grade students out of our current three elementary schools, we will open existing classrooms that will be needed in the very near future. Much needed space would also become available at the middle school with the relocation of the 6th grade students. Each of these four school sites are virtually at capacity.

Piedmont Intermediate will have 24 classrooms, which will include four science labs. In addition, the school will also have a library, band room, vocal room, cafeteria, and full-sized gymnasium. The cafeteria will have a stage and complete sound and video capabilities. This will be a perfect venue for school and community performances and events.

We have received questions in the past few weeks about the possibility of new athletic facilities and a performing arts center. Please be assured these types of facilities are in our future plans. We would love to have modern facilities in which to showcase our talented musicians and athletes. Unfortunately, classroom space must be the priority with the current bond issue. It is our belief that the proposed bond issue is the best option for providing more classroom space for the most students, where the need is greatest. Placing students into portable buildings due to a lack of space is a scenario we would like to avoid if at all possible. We feel fortunate to have the opportunity to create the much needed classrooms without increasing the tax burden on our patrons.

Piedmont is a top destination for families contemplating relocation and Piedmont Public Schools plays a large role in that decision. We want to thank you for all the support you have given the school in the past and we would also ask that you help us continue the progress by supporting this bond issue on December 14th.

If you would like more information on this proposal, I encourage you to visit our school website at www.piedmontschools.org. You may also contact me by e-mail at james.white@piedmontschools.org or by phone at 373-2311.

Give me five: School district’s new website

Each week on PiedmontToday.com we offer a list of five covering an issue, topic or event in the Piedmont community.  This week we present five benefits of the Piedmont Public School District’s new website.

1. User friendly
In this day and age, the first place people go to get information is the Internet.  Businesses, restaurants, churches, cities and really any other organization or business does itself a huge disservice by not having a strong web presence.  As one of the biggest attractors of new residents to Piedmont, the school district’s website is a often the first place potential Piedmont parents go to find more information.  When a family is discussing the idea of moving to the burbs late at night, a community and school district with a website is going to get the leg up on others that do not.

2. Connection and familiarity
The district’s new website includes a directory of board members, administrators and teachers, including e-mail links and mugshots (some are up now with many to be added in the future).  The ability to put a face with a name is huge in today’s Facebook world.  Parents can easily communicate with their child’s teacher and become more familiar with them thanks to the new website.

3. News and information
To be honest, I love the new website, but I realize its a competitor with those of us who strive to be a source of news and information to the community.  If the district can maintain a regular schedule of updates it will attract parents and residents to regularly log on to the new site, meaning it will become a great source for district news and information.  The beauty of the Internet is its potential.  The district has the opportunity to expand on its new site over the years with the addition of audio, video and social networking tools to better connect with the community.

4. Encourage more online use
The new site will also allow the district to encourage more parents, students and employees to take advantage of the online tools available.  Services such as Moodle, PowerSchool, Webmail and other services allow for better communication, grade management and access to educational resources.

5.  The look.
You can’t underestimate good design and the district’s new website has definitely taken a step forward in its look.  Photos of facilities, students and teachers are highlighted on the site, and the site looks and feels like that of a district that is serious about embracing technology and quality as it builds for the future.

District’s new website: www.piedmontschools.org

Councilman proposes school speed limit changes

Citing the pain of having to slow down along several of Piedmont’s major roads, councilman Vernon Woods made a proposal to reduce the hours for local school speed limit zones.

The council discussed limiting local school zones to only be functional during the hours of 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., and 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., but decided to table the issue until its next meeting when a closer review could be conducted.

“We are one of the few (cities) that brought that speed limit down all day,” Woods said.  “It’s a pain, you have to apply your brakes and slow down.”

The council asked for the opinion of police chief Jerry Koester, who said he felt it would be a good idea to first consult with the school district and consider the fact that the primary school and other schools have children coming and going during the day.

Currently, school speed limit zones are valid during school hours.  The timers in each sign are set before the start of the school year and the city pays for a crew to come out each year to set the timers.  City staff said they were unsure how much it would cost to reset the timers.

Piedmot resident elected V.P. of state bar association

Piedmont resident Reta M. Strubhar was recently elected The Oklahoma Bar Association’s vice president.

The Oklahoma Bar Association elected retired Judge Reta M. Strubhar of Piedmont to serve as its 2011 vice president. The elections were announced at the OBA’s 106th Annual Meeting last week in Tulsa.
Strubhar will begin serving her term on Jan. 1, 2011, and officially will be sworn into office Jan. 14 at the Oklahoma Supreme Court courtroom in the State Capitol.

In 1993, Strubhar was the first woman appointed to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals since the formation of the court in 1907. In 1999, she became the first woman to be presiding judge of the court. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business education from Phillips University, a master’s degree in English from the University of Central Oklahoma and her J.D. Oklahoma City University School of Law.

She is the chairperson for the retired judges of Oklahoma and has been successful in the passage of legislation for retired judges. She is active in the Judges Helping Judges Committee, OBA Law-related Education Committee, American Inn of Court and served on the Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee. Strubhar has retained her senior status and serves as an appellate settlement conference judge for the Oklahoma Supreme Court and serves on the three-judge panel for the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court.

The office of OBA president for 2011 will be held by Deborah A. Reheard of Eufaula. This year Reheard served as OBA president-elect, a position which automatically elevates her to president on Jan. 1. She will succeed Allen Smallwood of Tulsa, who will remain on the Board of Governors for one year as immediate past president.
Cathy Christensen of Oklahoma City will serve as president-elect for 2011. She will take office as OBA president on Jan. 1, 2012.

With the election of Reheard, Christensen and Strubhar, this will mark the first time in the OBA’s 106-year history that women will hold its top three leadership positions.

Also elected to the OBA Board of Governors to represent their judicial districts are Gerald C. Dennis, Antlers; O. Christopher Meyers, Lawton, and Scott Pappas, Stillwater. Renée DeMoss of Tulsa will serve as an OBA member-at-large. They will serve three-year terms. Muskogee attorney Roy D. Tucker, who will chair the Young Lawyers Division next year, will serve a one-term on the board.

The 16,000-member Oklahoma Bar Association, headquartered in Oklahoma City, was created by the Oklahoma Supreme Court to advance the administration of justice and to foster and maintain learning, integrity, competence, public service and high standards of conduct among Oklahoma’s legal community. The 18-member Board of Governors meets monthly at locations across the state and governs the association.

District ready for bond push

An election to approve a new bond measure for the Piedmont Public School district is less than four weeks away and the district is gearing up to inform voters on why they feel a $19.5 million bond is necessary.

On Dec. 14, voters will be asked to approve a bond measure which would fund the construction of a new fifth- and sixth-grade school.  If approved, current bonds would be extended to cover the cost of construction and also pay off some debt on the new Northwood Elementary School.

“I think people are pretty aware of this need,” Superintendent James White said.  “We are getting ready to get out there and talk to a lot of groups about this issue.”

White said over the next few weeks he will be meeting with each school’s PTO, booster clubs and other school organizations.  White will also be addressing the Piedmont Chamber of Commerce next month in an effort to highlight the need for a new school building.

“You want to get out there and talk about it when it can be fresh on voter’s minds,” White said.

The district said growing student enrollment has made a new school building necessary.  With large numbers of students about to hit middle school age, White said the new center would relieve overcrowding at the current middle school.

Your Take: The Gazette wants to hear from you on the proposed new fifth- and sixth-grade center.  Share your opinions by leaving a comment or submitting a letter to the editor to bfelder@piedmonttoday.com

Introducing PiedmontToday.com

Welcome to Piedmont Today, the online home of the Piedmont-Surrey Gazette.
Over the past few months we have made several changes in an effort to increase local coverage and improve the way the Gazette functions for its readers.  Changes have included a redesign of our printed edition and now we are proud to launch our new website.
The goal for our new website is to offer an attractive and informative site where readers can stay connected with their community each day.  From breaking news stories, nightly sports scores, photos and feature stories, PiedmontToday.com aims to become the online home for the Piedmont community.
We will continue to work hard to improve both the printed and online edition of the Gazette, but if you have any suggestions, comments or ideas, feel free to contact us at bfelder@piedmonttoday.com or (405) 373-1616.

City in process of updating driving laws

Various new driving laws went into effect on Nov. 1 that can be difficult for local police officers to enforce. Piedmont has put items in this month’s city council agenda to help make that process simpler.

One law prohibits the use of hand-held electronic devices by teen drivers, with the possibility of having their license suspended, and another allows police officers to tow vehicles of uninsured drivers. Another law concerns times when bicyclists and motorcyclists can run red lights was also recently enacted at the state level. As the hand-held device law deals with suspending a license, it is not something that can be handled at the city level.

“If we want to enforce state laws, then we must file the tickets through the district court,” Piedmont Police Chief Jerry Koester said. “If we have a local ordinance, then we can handle it locally.”

If a Piedmont police officer were to issue a ticket over one of the new state laws, they would have to follow the same procedure that highway patrolmen follow. Most city police officers only issues tickets on violations of city ordinances.
One of the major ordinances put in place at the state level will soon be on agendas in Piedmont. The proposed city ordinance will coincide with a state law that allows police officers to tow the vehicle of an uninsured driver.

“Under the ordinance that the city is discussing this month, (the police department) would be able to impound cars of uninsured drivers, drivers under suspension, or DUI and charge an impound fee,” Koester explained. “It follows the line of the state law. The fee would go directly into the city’s general fund.”

This ordinance would also have instances where the owner of the vehicle would not have to pay the fee, such as if the car was stolen. Other area communities have adapted similar ordinances, including Bethany and Midwest City.

Changing police station plans will cost 81k

Ben Felder
News Editor

Earlier this year the city council voted to reduce the total price of a new police station, but revising the original plans will cost at least $81,000 according to recently released architectural and engineer fees.

The price for a new police station in Piedmont was reduced from $1.8 million to $1.3 million.  A federal grant will pay for $1 million of the cost but the city was required to fund the remaining amount.  In an effort to reduce borrowed money the city decreased the price of the station by $600,000 but that required revising current plans to reduce the size of the station.  The city had already paid $77,513 to TAP Architecture but the revisions will cost an additional $81,000.

During last month’s city council meeting the council was asked to approve the additional funds but concern was raised over paying TAP more money.  The council requested more time to review the added expenses but city manager Clark Williams said approval is needed before he can submit a final estimate by the Dec. 31 deadline in order to be eligible for the grant.

“I needed this information so I can fill out the budget requirements for the HUD grant,” Williams said.  “Even though we have already been approved for the grant we have to submit this information.”

Williams said the city may call a special meeting this month in order to approve the expenses but he said he remains confident that everything will be in order by the end of the year deadline.

Design expenses can be refunded

According to the specifications of the HUD grant, up to 20 percent of the grant can be used to refund the city for design and engineering expenses.  That means Piedmont will be eligible to request a refund of up to $200,000 from the grant  for design fees.  If the latest amount of expenses is approved that will bring Piedmont’s total amount spent on engineering and architecture plans close to $160,000.  However, that total is likely to rise as there is still more planning needed before construction can begin on the new police station.

“We still need to hire a civil engineer for the site work to design the parking lots and approaches as well as utilities,” Williams said.  “Right now we don’t know how much it will all cost but we will work to get it under our $1.2 million budget.”

Fire service expands with switch to full time

Andy Logan is a 12-year member of the Piedmont Fire Department, serving as fire chief since July 1. Logan describes himself as a “hometown guy” and was raised in Piedmont where he and his wife continue to live and raise their two children.

Ben Felder
News Editor

Signs of Piedmont’s growth over the years have been new schools, businesses and homes, but the city is also trying to expand its services and after approval from Piedmont voters in 2009 the fire department was able to go full time.

“A lot of people now refer to it as full time but this thing has been full time for a long time, just without pay” Andy Logan, Piedmont fire chief said. “But this is a big step that will allow us to really build for the future and our growth.”

Logan, a 12-year veteran of the fire department, is now one of two full time staff members on the department along with assistant chief Jarrott Dowdy.  Passage of a one-cent sales tax last year has allowed the department to fund two full time positions and pay many of its volunteers when they are on duty.  The transition to full time officially took place on July 1 and Logan said it couldn’t have come a moment too soon.

“As far as growth in call volume alone its been ridiculous,” Logan said.  “When I came on in 1995 we ran a total of 135 calls.  Last year we ran 368 calls.  So, that right there tells you how much we have grown.”

In addition to higher call volume the department has had to keep up with increases in training requirements and maintenance.  Now there is always a at least one firefighter at the station between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and a firefighter on duty within the city limits after hours. Logan said the result has been faster response times to fires and medical calls but it has also allowed the department to focus on other needs.

“We can stay on top of maintenance a lot better,” Logan said.  “We find things sooner that can be repaired cheaply before they become a major expense.”

Logan said the department is also able to better participate in a national fire reporting system that is required by the government and also spend more time in public education programs including visits to local schools to teach fire safety.

Logan said the community’s support for a fire sales tax has resulted in a safer Piedmont but plans continue to be in the works for expanding the fire service even further as additional revenue comes in.  A short-term goal for Logan is  to staff the fire station with at least two firefighters 24 hours a day and over the long-term adding even more firefighters.

“That will happen with more revenue,” Logan said about future expansion.  “We are right now only looking at projections because we have never done this before.  But its coming, its coming quick.

“The transition has been working great.  We are building towards the future.  In no way is this the perfect scenario but its a step.  I feel like the department, city and the citizens are all on the same page and headed in the same direction.”

How Your Fire Department Works

State law only allows cities to field 911 emergency calls with a 24 hour center.  Currently any 911 calls made in Piedmont are routed to Yukon who will dispatch the emergency call to the on duty firefighter.

A total of 17 volunteers and two staff positions makeup the department with plans to expand as revenue increases.  Piedmont firefighters are dispatched to fire and medical calls but volunteers are prohibited by state law to ignore traffic laws on the way to a fire.  Its an inconvenience that Logan said can only be addressed by adding more on-duty members of the department.

Logan said the department has a strong relationship with several other departments that can provide mutual aide in the event of a large emergency.  Depending on what part of town a call is in departments from Deer Creek, Oklahoma City, Okarche or Cashion will assist the Piedmont Fire Department.

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