What just happened?

Bison Blinds

It’s been a long time since I’ve been an official journalist showing up at meetings juggling an agenda, notes and a microphone. It was so long ago when I covered school boards and town boards, that there was no “smart phone” to be charged, quick video to shoot or planning to live tweet any drama. I just had to get the tape cut (aka soundbites produced) and the stories written for the morning drive. I had all night to do it. I was single then!

There was no live tweeting Monday night. I barely could take notes fast enough. Or read my writing. No way could I process the drama and the numbers. Or remember anyone’s name.

I told a friend that I was going to this LPS board meeting strictly as a journalist. No bias. No opinions.

Silly me.

I think the Luther Register might need a little color commentary.  At least I need to process a few things. Please come along for the read.

The meeting started with public comments. The first citizen launched right in with a diatribe against the superintendent. It was personal and it was passionate (and it was uncomfortable). The next citizen was equally as passionate, as was the next. Accusations flew. Impropriety was alleged. Malfeasance was outlined. Each speaker raised what seemed like valid, very valid concerns. But crickets. No acknowledgement. NO clarification. No THANK YOUS (good manners are always good form). No answers. I know this is how it goes at meetings across the civilized world, but it didn’t seem right. What would you do if someone (actually more than one someone) made serious allegations about you and called for you to get canned? Or told the school board to get some accountability and integrity already.

I guess the superintendent did address the comments somewhat. He quoted leadership author John Maxwell and his maxim that leaders are awesome when things are going great. Not so awesome, always, when there’s a crisis.

By the way, I do have video of those rants  – but wouldn’t you know – I can’t get the video off of my phone. Old broken phone won’t download to my old beloved computer. (Note to self: sell some advertising – it’ll help get the new camera, computer and relieve the stressload). KOCO, the local TV station, was there – stayed the whole 2+ hour meeting for a one minute wrap on the 10pm news – on the  Item 21 issue. But they didn’t get to the real story.

What is the real story? Money. The lack of it, and a dreary outlook for next semester. Seriously, trying to figure out how a school district gets its money is like … figuring out how a school district gets its money. There’s millage, sinking funds,  valuations, revised valuations and surplus funds (there probably won’t be any extra cash but the board needs to okay any imaginary future surplus funds to spread out amongst bleeding budgets, just in case. THAT was an agenda item). Add to that, the above references of allegations of financial impropriety and malfeasance.

The Oklahoma Department of Education sends down a lot of LPS’ money, but they don’t know YET how much they’ll revise that number DOWN. It’s because of the low oil and gas prices, ya know. Can’t be helped. Statewide problem.

So, the superintendent warned hard tonight, drastic cuts loom. Part of his solution: if everybody skips school on Mondays, it’ll save money on diesel fuel for the buses and heat in the classrooms. Hey. It’s working over in Carney. Also,  absolutely no purchase orders. School day field trips – NO. Teachers can say goodbye to personal days, because subs are EXPENSIVE. And the high school principal who is retiring/resigning – won’t be replaced. Meanwhile, the new Dean of Students stays on the job. She’s the superintendent’s wife.

There’s a lot to learn. There’s the board member who questions everything – (did I detect some clenched teeth on the dais from his fellow board members?) He is usually the ONE NO on the 4:1 votes. But tonight there were some 3:2, 2:3 and 2:2:1 votes. Maybe they are listening to the people – or as one impassioned speaker said tonight, maybe the board is listening to “their bosses” – the voters. That’s always a fun one to throw around to elected officials … “you work for me.” To be honest, who wants a job that is so complicated and thankless?

At the end of the day (or that very long meeting), it’s clear LPS is WORTHY. They didn’t brag about it tonight (with all of the gloom on the agenda), but the FOOTBALL TEAM IS UNDEFEATED!  And I also heard that the football players go down to the elementary school and read to the littles. How cute is that? I want to cover it all – investigate those allegations made at the start of tonight’s meeting and do the fun stories with pictures. Because our town needs it.

Maybe I’ll get those videos to post. Or maybe I’ll just move on to the next meeting – the LUTHER TOWN BOARD meets Tuesday night. So, who is the mayor anyway? Was she voted out of that job last month or not? I saw it all on youtube. But YOU can check back to the Luther Register to find out, because I’ll be there.

Hey. If you’re still reading – how about leaving a comment?

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  1. Love it! Excited to learn more! I love learning about our town!! I believe just by getting the message out there, it may lead us as a town to conversations & solutions. As we all want the best for our community. Thanks for taking the time & putting the heart into the people getting the story. Great read! M-

  2. Thank you for going to the board meetings / side shows as a journalist. Many of us don’t attend these meetings because they are extremely unprofessional and as you stated uncomfortable. Giving us the information in a straightforward manner allows us as voters to make decisions based on reality rather than hearsay. Looking forward to your take on the town board meeting.

  3. Thank you for starting this paper and keeping us informed. I wanted to be at last night’s meeting but was unable to attend. After reading your post I feel updated on the important facts that weren’t reported by our local news channels. Our community is important to all of us and the best solutions begin with conversations. Thank you for making that conversation easier.

  4. Dawn, thank you so much for your honesty and clarity! It is time for some of that around here. I am glad that the citizens of Luther are waking up, myself included!

  5. Thank you so much for starting this newspaper. Your comments from last nights meeting were spot on. Thanks again, keep up the good work.

  6. You are fabulous. I wonder if their are some teen journalists who’d like to join your “staff”. Maybe I will take a journalism class (pardon my fantastical ramble). I sure appreciate your willingness to be the eyes and ears of Luther. You are a we awesome. I feel for.the board members as theirs is a Tha kless job for sure. I just can’t imagine the learning curve involved. Rock on.

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