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May 12, 2014

Retiring Edmond teacher dedicates 38 years to 1 site

EDMOND — Edmond Public School’s teacher Carol Stolfa began teaching in the mid-1970s before the Reading Sufficiency Act, before Common Core, before the No Child Left Behind Act, before Smart Boards and smart phones and before the Columbine shooting.

Teaching is in Stolfa’s blood. Her mother was a teacher in the Oklahoma City Public Schools system and an aunt taught at U.S. Grant.

“I really love working with kids,” Stolfa said Monday afternoon, as the calendar advanced another day toward the end of the school year. She was in her second-grade Orvis Risner classroom sifting through items she will either take home, discard or pass on to her successor. “They are just the most innocent creatures there are. Whatever they think comes out their mouth. And they just want to be loved.”

During her Edmond Public Schools career — Stolfa has served the community entirely at Orvis Risner Elementary School — some things have changed a lot. Some have not, like her passion for teaching and the moment a student “gets it.” She has gone through two generations of students, about seven principals and at least 20 students in each class. A former student is a school physical education teacher.

Second graders are like “little sponges,” Stolfa said. Every year there are several students who just can’t get enough instruction.

“They’d stay until 5 o’clock if I were to keep going,” she said as the sound of excited little voices echoed down the hall outside her classroom.  

Part of what has kept her loving her job is the variety of achievers she has seen, which ranges from those who don’t need a lot of instruction due to their learning level and those who are afraid they are not going to measure up.

“You teach them, ‘I believe in you. I know you can do this’ and you see them change throughout the year. That is such a joy,” Stolfa said.

Orvis Risner’s mission statement is “to foster citizenship, leadership and scholarship in a safe and positive environment.” Stolfa said when she started, teachers didn’t have all the help they do today. Now there are more resources, specialized teachers and the Edmond Public Schools Foundation. Testing helps identify student instruction needs, Stolfa said.

Edmond Public Schools is a district that stands behind its teachers, Stolfa said. She said an example is the frequent visits Superintendent David Goin makes to the site. He will stick his head in through her classroom door or have lunch with the students.

Stolfa said she is looking forward to spending her retirement working part-time for a church, traveling, doing yard work and reading. At her job, she will still get to use some of her teaching skills.

Stolfa offered some advice to future teachers. She said teachers have to really love and enjoy working with children. They aren’t going to get rich teaching. They will have long hours. They make sacrifices like doing things at home for the classroom.

“If you don’t really love it then you’re not going to last because it’s just too hard these days,” Stolfa said.

Many other teachers and staff members are retiring from Edmond Public Schools. Only one other teacher in the Edmond district retiring this year has taught longer than Stolfa — Jan Smith, a vocal music teacher, who is leaving Memorial High School. Two others join Stolfa in having dedicated 38 years to education — Becki Teague, who works at the administration center, and Mike Jenkins, a social studies teacher at North High School.

“I would like to extend sincere appreciation to retiring certified and support employees who, collectively, have dedicated well over 1,000 years of service to this school community,” Goin said. “Each has made a significant contribution to the overall success of Edmond Public Schools, and we are better for having had the privilege of working alongside them. We wish them hearty congratulations as they enter the next phase of their lives.”

Likewise, teachers are retiring from Deer Creek Public Schools.

“We celebrate the work and achievements of our retiring teachers,” Deer Creek Superintendent Ranet Tippens said. “Again, we hate to see them go and yet we are happy about the blessings the future holds for them and their families.”

marks@edmondsun.com | 341-2121 ext. 108

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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.

    July 24, 2014

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