Jones Elementary School teachers received the gift that keeps on giving.
When Jones School District’s Superintendent Mike Steele told his teachers he was going to do everything he could to see they got a bonus at Christmas, neither he nor the teachers knew for sure how or if it would transpire.
“It has been a while since the teachers have received a raise from the state, seven years in fact,” Steele said. “Even though I was on the opposite side in the negotiations process I gave them a promise that if we could budget a little extra, save a little back, I would like to give certified and non-certified employees a little Christmas bonus.”
Steele said when he mentioned it during the October school board meeting the board members voted overwhelmingly to give certified teachers $200 and non-certified employees $125.
As the months passed many forgot the promise and when the Christmas holidays came around most were surprised to see their December paychecks a little larger.
“It was a small token of the appreciation the administration and the school board have for the faculty and staffs,” Steele said.
What Steele couldn’t know was a non-certified employee at Jones Elementary School was having trouble paying his propane bill for the month and cold weather was forecast. Nor could he know a short time later a teacher with 40 years teaching in the classroom was hit head-on in a car collision, putting her in the hospital with all her limbs broken and in critical condition.
Jones Elementary is a small school by some standards with 550 students enrolled in pre-K through fifth grade and a staff of 50 teachers.
“We are a rural school,” said Principal Cindy Harrison, “ and two weeks before Christmas, one of our staff was having trouble paying for propane for heat.”
The principal sent an email explaining the situation saying the staff member had been there for more than 25 years and if anyone had anything left over to just put it in an envelope.
“We had gotten a bonus check of $200 from the school board and many of the teachers wanted to take their bonus check and give it to the staff member,” Harrison said. “Money started rolling in all day long and into the next day. One of the teachers is married to a Baptist preacher in Choctaw and he brought a check for $300.”
The teachers collected more than $3,000 to help purchase propane and had money left to help the employee with his taxes and buy tires for his vehicle. In an assembly the principal told the students to find a cause and to pay it forward, which is exactly what the teachers had done.
On Wednesday before the Christmas break, a teacher who had been teaching at the elementary school for more than 40 years didn’t show up. She had come in two days prior to sign her evaluation, and at that time she had told Harrison she would be retiring at the end of the year.
“She was always the first one to arrive, and when she wasn’t there we knew something had happened,” Harrison said. “She had been hit in a head-on collision when topping a hill on Britton Road. She has been in the hospital for 30 days now with a severed artery in her stomach and all of her limbs broken as well as other injuries.”
Once again the word went out and everyone started asking what could they do to help.
“We fed her family during the evenings and continue to take quarters to the hospital for the vending machines, and we will take food to the family after she gets home,” Harrison said. “What is weird is the month prior to all of this happening our cheerleaders were chosen to go to the Capital 1 Bowl and several teachers had already given to the $15,000 total raised by the girls in three months.
“They do not have deep pockets,” Harrison said. “They are just that kind of people. So far they have raised more than $1,000 for the teacher and the donating is still ongoing.”
The elementary school has set up an account in a local bank to help with the expenses of the family getting back and forth to the hospital.
“Time and time again we have all been in some situation, something that gave us a spine-chilling feeling,” Harrison said. “These are not monied people. They pay their bills from month to month. They are sacrificing to help someone else. I have lived with this mind-set of the community for years. It shows people do care.”
Harrison said the teachers appreciated the bonus given by the board. But the teachers said they hadn’t budgeted with the bonus in mind.
“Many said the Lord gave it to me, and in giving it away it will come back to me,” Harrison said. “They were paying it forward just like I had urged the students to do in the assembly.”
When Edmond’s Second Street Chick-Fil-A franchise owner Greg Harjo found out what the teachers had done, he and his staff decided to reach across city lines and provide lunch for the teachers to show them Chick-Fil-A’s appreciation for the generosity they had shown to others.
“Jones doesn’t have a Chick-Fil-A, so we, being part of the community from a community event standpoint, just wanted to reach out and show we were supporting them,” Harjo said.
In addition to lunch, the staff was given Chick-Fil-A coupons and cow Pez dispensers, said Laura Longley, spokeswoman for the company. “We wanted to celebrate them taking care of their own, and doing something for someone else, and we as a company are giving back to them.”
The injured teacher is now in rehabilitation and making a wonderful recovery, Harrison said.
The students are making their teacher cards and banners and soon this special education teacher will be skyping with her second- and third-grade students.
“We are thrilled to death with Chick-Fil-A and their generosity,” Steele said. “They are always a good neighbor, and as it turns out, Chick-Fil-A is my favorite place to eat.”
Jones Elementary School teachers received the gift that keeps on giving.
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Candidates disagree with White House’s minimum wage
Gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said the state needs to have serious growth in high-paying living wage jobs that will provide for Oklahomans.
Dorman cautioned that while Oklahoma’s jobless rate improved in June, the state’s rankings for the well-being of children has dropped from 36th to 39th place, for one of the largest declines in the U.S., according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Project.
The unemployment rate in June dropped to 4.5 percent, down a percentage point from 4.6 percent in May, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, Gov. Mary Fallin said this week.
The state’s unemployment rate was more than 7 percent when Fallin was elected during the brink of the Great Depression. Alex Weintz, communications director for Fallin, pointed out that per capita income in Oklahoma was second in the nation from 2011 to 2013.
The non partisan Congressional Budget office reported in February that raising the minimum wage could kill a half-million jobs in the United States.
According to The Washington Times, CBO analysts reported, “Once the other changes in income were taken into account, families whose income would be below six times the poverty threshold under current law would see a small increase in income, on net, and families whose income would be higher under current law would see reductions in income, on net.”
President Barack Obama in February signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour.
Weintz said the governor believes tax cuts have enabled families to keep more of their money.
No one is talking about the under-employment rate of families working minimum wage jobs, Dorman said.
“It’s all fine and good when you have fast-food jobs that don’t cover the bills and that counts toward your unemployment rate.”
Oklahoma’s minimum wage reflects the federal minimum wage set at $7.25 an hour, a standard set in 2009.
Fallin signed legislation this year to prohibit municipalities from raising their local minimum wage above $7.25 an hour.
“If the minimum wage goes up to $15 in Oklahoma City, all of the sudden you would drive retail, business, service industry locations outside of the city limits and that would be detrimental to the economy, consumers and to businesses,” Weintz said.
Fallin has said that she opposes raising the minimum wage in Oklahoma because it would stifle job growth for small business and lay off workers. A lot of people earning the $7.25 minimum wage are part-time workers and many of them are students, Weintz said.
“We believe raising the minimum wage is not a good way to address poverty,” Weintz said. “A lot of people earning the minimum wage are actually people living with their parents or other people who are employed full time, and in many cases they are middle class families. So it’s not a good tool to reduce poverty.”
Dorman said he does not necessarily support the proposed $10.10 an hour minimum federal minimum wage that is being discussed by Congress.
“I think we need to have a living wage in Oklahoma that is reflective of our economy,” Dorman said.
About 102,300 jobs have been added in Oklahoma since Fallin took office in January 2011, according to her office.
The cost of living in the national economy tends to be higher in some other states, Dorman said.
So a minimum wage increase should be tied to economic gains so that families can pay their bills and afford to care for their children, Dorman said.
Independent candidates for governor include Richard Prawdzienski of Edmond, Joe Sills of Oklahoma City and Kimberly Willis of Oklahoma City.
Firefighters sharpen forced entry skills
Of all burglaries, 60.5 percent involved forcible entry, according to recent FBI statistics.
As a result, many home and businesses are installing a greater number of complex mechanisms on their doors and windows. Edmond Fire Maj. Joe Elam said 10 local firefighters recently sharpened their skills during a forcible entry class offered by IRONS and LADDERS, LLC., of Lawrence, Kan.
Preparing for a fall home garden
Gardening can be a year-around activity for those that have an appreciation for fresh and nutritious vegetables. Some of the best vegetables in Oklahoma are produced and harvested during the cooler weather of fall. Successful fall gardens, however, require some work in the summer growing season. Factors to be considered are location, soil preparation, crops to be grown and how/when to plant.
The major consideration for garden placement is sunlight. All vegetables require some sunlight; the most popular vegetables require full sun. “Full” sun means at least 8 hours of intense, direct exposure.
OBU dance team celebrates National Dance Day
In 2010, “So You Think You Can Dance” co-creator and Dizzy Feet Foundation co-president Nigel Lythgoe created National Dance Day in an effort to help people embrace dance and combat obesity on the last Saturday in July.
This year, on July 26, Oklahoma Baptist University’s dance team will host a fundraiser that allows participants to dance all day for $30. The fundraiser will be in the Noble Complex on OBU’s campus.
Cami Gower, an OBU junior and co-captain/co-founder of the dance team, said the team’s officers have been planning for their upcoming season since April. Gower is a graduate of Deer Creek High School.
“Since then we have been coming up with better ways to reach the community with dance,” she said. “This day of dance was a great way to do it and help the team raise funds.”
Local cops arrest NFL player on marijuana complaint
The Edmond Police Department has released the incident report related to the arrest of ex-Oklahoma State star and current NFL player Justin Blackmon.
Blackmon, 24, a product of Plainview High School in Ardmore, is a 6-1, 210-pound wide receiver in his second year with the Jacksonville Jaguars. At Oklahoma State University, he was a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner as the country’s best collegiate wide receiver.
Women aided in Afghanistan, Rwanda through AT&T
AT&T renewed its support for the PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS program Wednesday by making a $125,000 contribution to the program at Lakeside Women’s Hospital in Oklahoma City.
AT&T has been a major supporter of Peace through Business since its inception in 2007, said Steve Hahn, the new president of AT&T Oklahoma.
Salvation Army pantry closes until September
Due to an increase of need, The Salvation Army in Oklahoma County has distributed all of its food supply. July 23 was the last day of the food pantry operations. In preparation for the move to the Center of Hope at 1001 N. Pennsylvania, The Salvation Army Client Choice Pantry will not resume operations until September.
Payne Co. crash sends Guthrie man to hospital
A two-vehicle crash in Payne County sent a Guthrie man to a local hospital, a trooper stated.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper James Ritze stated a 2005 Jeep SUV and a 2013 Ford pickup were about a mile east of Perkins headed west on State Highway 33. When the pickup slowed for a truck pulling out of a private drive, the SUV struck the rear of the pickup, Ritze stated.
Second Street to get new 7-Eleven
The amended site plan for a new 7-Eleven Convenience Store was approved by the Edmond Planning Commission this week by a vote of 4-0.
Guard adds jobs, revenue to Oklahoma
During a Wednesday morning press conference at Joint Force Headquarters, members of the Guard touted the findings of an in-depth study addressing impacts the organization has in areas including gross state product, employment and tax revenue.
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