December 2017 Editorial Winner

Some good news
Wayne Trotter, Countywide & Sun

Finding good financial news in any Oklahoma school district these days is sort of like following the rainbow to the pot of gold … or spotting the four-leaf clover in a sea of its three-pronged cousins … or in pure Oklahoma terms, watching the menacing tornado dissolve to uncover the silver lining hiding in the accompanying clouds.
As rare as it is, nevertheless it happens. It’s about to happen in Tecumseh where School Superintendent Tom Wilsie asked the board Monday night to authorize a $500 “stipend” (school talk for “check”) for each of the “certified personnel” (more school talk meaning “teachers and administrators”).
“During the last two years, we reduced more than we needed to,” Wilsie told the Board of Education Monday night. “Our carryover increased and I’d like to return it by giving the certified personnel a $500 stipend.”
That will amount to a total of $125,000, the superintendent told the board, and he said he’d like to distribute those checks the last day before the holiday break begins.
You can imagine how the board reacted.
For more years than most board members have been seated, bringing up school finances has meant bringing up school trouble … and nobody likes to talk about trouble. But now the man who runs the system, their top administrator, was telling the board there was more money there than anticipated and they could grant the professionals who work for them a $500 Christmas surprise. That’s an easy vote … and easy votes have been few and far between on school boards for the last decade or so.
You got it. The school board said “yes” and that vote rang loud and clear.
To boot (and likely for other reasons), there was another good sign later in Monday night’s meeting. That came when the board approved a change in the support staff salary schedule to raise salaries about 50 cents an hour. Wilsie said he was still working on the figures and would have them ready by the January meeting.
It’s way too early to tell whether all this represents a shift in the financial winds that have buffeted Oklahoma schools for far too long or merely a mile or two of smooth pavement in a bumper crop of potholes. But in either case, Tecumseh is fortunate to have a superintendent as financially astute as Mr. Wilsie has proven to be.
Remember, it was Tom Wilsie who launched the idea of adding a half-cent to the Pottawatomie County sales tax and spreading the proceeds around the county’s school systems on a per-student basis. It also was Mr. Wilsie and Charlie Dickinson, the superintendent at Dale, who did most of the heavy lifting in promoting the idea.
Thanks for this good news, Mr. Wilsie. Got any other surprises like that up your sleeve?

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