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By Sean McDaniel, Mustang Public Schools superintendent
Thank God Oklahoma has some of the brightest and most passionate legislators on the planet! If not for legislators who ask sincere questions, ask for input from those who would be most affected by proposed legislation and take action to advance or in some cases halt legislation, many, many lives might be altered in a very negative way.
During the 2014 legislative session, Rep. Katie Henke took on a fight that she could have just as easily turned down. In a professional and diplomatic manner she penned and promoted House Bill 2625, and in doing so took on not only several of her counterparts and colleagues in the Legislature, she took on the leadership of the state Department of Education as well.
The stakes were high. Hundreds and hundreds of Oklahoma’s third-graders would have been retained based upon a single assessment and/or their failure to meet any number of possible exemptions. Proponents of this “one-size-fits-all” mandate espouse that third-graders should be retained if they are unable to demonstrate that they can read at grade level. They typically use a variation of the slogan: “If they can’t read, they can’t do anything else.”
The slogan, though, is incomplete. It’s a no-brainer that reading is important. What most proponents fail to acknowledge is that reading skills are developed over time with sound instruction and a commitment from parents and teachers to an intensive process that results in reading proficiency. To place a deadline at the conclusion of third grade equates to a complete lack of understanding of the vast amount of research that speaks to the development of reading skills. Certainly, a third grade end-of-year assessment can add to the body of evidence that should be considered when discussing the retention of a student, but to use a single assessment as the end-all is dangerous.
In Mustang, a very straightforward and simple exercise was conducted in order to determine the potential impact of the third grade retention law. Because educators understand that reading is a developmental process and that students progress at varying rates, the results of the exercise surprised no one. Progress for all 2012-13 fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders in the Mustang district who scored unsatisfactory on the third grade reading test when they were in third grade were examined.
A total of 89 students from the three grades scored unsatisfactory when they were third-graders on the third grade reading test. These 89 students, along with their parents, would have faced the real possibility of retention and many of them would have been retained. Fast forward to 2012-13. Fifty-four of the original 89 students who scored unsatisfactory as third-graders scored at least limited knowledge on the state assessments as fifth-, sixth- or seventh-graders. In fact, 23 students of the original 89 scored proficient or advanced as fifth-, sixth- or seventh-graders. Additionally, of the 35 students who scored unsatisfactory as third-graders and again as fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders, 24 of them actually showed progress at a 41 point average growth rate from their original unsatisfactory score as third-graders to their unsatisfactory score as fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders.
At the very least, what this data seems to suggest is that students do indeed progress at varying points in time, particularly when sound instructional strategies are in place and effective instruction is occurring. When making decisions about retention, academic progress is a significant piece of the conversation and must be considered; however, it is a piece that was missing entirely from the third grade reading law.
An important question to ask is what has been done for the 35 students who scored unsatisfactory as third-graders and again as fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders in 2012-13 – particularly the 11 students who have not shown progress? The answer to this very important question is critical. In Mustang, like in many other districts, there are individual learning plans in place for every single one of these students. Teachers and administrators, along with members of each schools’ support staff, know exactly what the areas in need of improvement are for each child. Teachers receive training on research-based strategies that are being incorporated in the classroom for each child and these strategies are monitored for effectiveness and modified or changed as necessary.
The truth is, every struggling student was very likely identified by a team of educators as far back as kindergarten and a variety of measures have been and will continue to be taken until each student is proficient in reading. It is not an accident, nor is it a coincidence, that students continue to show progress in Mustang. The idea that one single pass or fail score based upon a single assessment, at a single point in time in the spring of a student’s third grade year determines whether or not to retain a child is not the answer. HB 2625 is the answer, as it places the decision whether or not to retain back into the hands of the educators and the parents.
We are grateful for legislators like Katie Henke who do more than simply take up a cause. Anyone can do that. Rep. Henke took up a cause, provided evidence to support the cause and fought until she had persuaded others that this cause was worth the fight. Thanks to her and to others who studied and listened carefully, Oklahoma students are the winners.
By Traci Chapman
For the seven men on Mustang Fire Department’s blue shift, their last weekend shift was an unusually busy one, but one of their last calls was the most surprising.
They helped bring a new life into the world.
The call came in at 1:25 a.m. Monday, Capt. Andy Willrath said. The crew – Deputy Chief Roy Widmann, Willrath, firefighters Buddy Corbin, Paul Smith, Tom Lewis, Eric Halter and new volunteer firefighter David Williams – headed out to Arbor House, located on North Clear Springs Road, where a couple had pulled over when the woman went into active labor.
“They were on their way to the hospital when it was too late to get there,” Willrath said. “The dad was attending to mom when we got there.”
As the group worked to help, Willrath realized he knew the father, an Oklahoma City paramedic who attended school with him. The father was at work in Oklahoma City when his wife called him. After rushing home and picking up mom and the couple’s older child, they were off, although they didn’t get far. The baby was crowning when they arrived at Arbor House.
“We suctioned the baby’s airway, clamped the cord, and the father got to cut the cord,” Willrath said.
Mother and baby eventually did make it to Canadian Valley Hospital, where both were doing fine Monday afternoon, firefighters said. It was an experience none of them would soon forget, they all said Monday evening.
“What a weekend – it started out with a fire, literally went to fireworks (for July 4 holiday) and ended up with a birth,” Willrath said.
By Traci Chapman
About 80 Oklahoma National Guard soldiers headquartered in Mustang were welcomed home Monday after a six-month deployment to Afghanistan.
Battery A, 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery, 45th Field Artillery Brigade was sent last September to support coalition forces in Afghanistan. The unit returned to Oklahoma July 8 and were formally welcomed during a ceremony attended by National Guard officers, family members and area residents, held at Mustang Armed Forces Reserve Center.
While in Afghanistan, soldiers provided route security and served as convoy escorts during several missions, Oklahoma National Guard officials said. Members of Battery B, 171st Target Acquisition Battery and 120th Forward Support Company were also deployed with forces headquartered at MAFRC. Battery A was commanded by Capt. Sean Bryant of Edmond.
Battery A forces made history Jan. 16 when they provided “indirect artillery fire support” to coalition forces in Afghanistan. Using the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, MAFRC soldiers fired two rockets in support of Task Force Duke, destroying a communications repeater sight, officials said.
A repeater sight is used to assist insurgents in their fight against coalition forces, officials said.
This combat operation support was the first time since Operation Desert Storm an Oklahoma Army National Guard Unit fired rockets, officials said. Battery A’s launcher crew included gunner, Spc. Joshua Hale of Chickasha, driver, Staff Sgt. Steven Stanley of Carnegie, and launcher, Chief Sgt. Matthew Schoolfield of Ninnekah.
During Desert Storm, the unit fired 903 rockets, officials said. Hale’s father, Spc. Chad Hale, and Sgt. Richard Schoolfield, Schoolfield’s father, were part of the unit’s Desert Storm deployment, which deployed 429 National Guard soldiers during the Gulf War.
Mustang’s guard was replaced last month by its sister unit, Battery B, 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery.
By Traci Chapman
A Mustang man accused of embezzlement in connection with his employment with the Oklahoma American Legion now faces new charges.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on June 10 filed one felony and one misdemeanor drug charge against David Austin Kellerman. The 43-year-old Mustang man was charged in January with felony embezzlement in a federal case filed in Canadian County District Court. District Attorney Michael Fields said Tuesday the Kellerman charges were the first he could recall filed by the attorney general in District 4 since he took office.
“The AG’s office has a multi-county grand jury with statewide jurisdiction, they have a Medicare fraud unit that investigates and prosecutes fraud and abuse cases and they have a consumer protection unit that investigates and prosecutes consumer scams,” Fields stated via email.
District 4 encompasses Canadian, Garfield, Blaine, Grant and Kingfisher counties. Officials at the attorney general’s office said the original embezzlement charges stemmed from an indictment issues by the multi-county grand jury.
The new charges involve one count of felony possession of a controlled dangerous substance – methamphetamine – as well as drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor. If convicted, Kellerman could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $5,000 on the felony charge.
Kellerman’s embezzlement case is set for a July 28 preliminary hearing, after being postponed three times since it was originally scheduled in February. On June 18, Oklahoma City attorney R. Scott Adams, listed as defense counsel, filed a motion to withdraw as Kellerman’s attorney, based on the Mustang man’s “inability to make the appropriate financial arrangements.” Special Judge Jack McCurdy signed an order allowing Adams’ withdrawal June 18. It was unknown whether that would impact the July 28 hearing date. Kellerman also faces a July 28 preliminary hearing on the drug charges, according to Oklahoma State Courts Network.
Kellerman served as Oklahoma American Legion state adjutant from September 2003 until December 2011. Investigators said Kellerman was charged with collecting historical weapons loaned to American Legion posts across the state by the U.S. Department of the Army. Once a post disbanded or stopped using those rifles, they were to be returned to the Army. Investigators said that didn’t happen under Kellerman’s watch.
Kellerman allegedly sold the Army’s rifles to various individuals, including the owner of El Reno-based Star Amusement, Adlai Stevenson Brinkley. Brinkley himself is the subject of federal criminal charges in a case where Kellerman is listed as a witness.
The investigations into both Kellerman and Brinkley took place over a period of several months, according to court documents. During a March 2013 raid, investigators seized gambling machines they said were operated illegally by Star Amusement for 22 years. Machines were located in various locations throughout Oklahoma and Kansas, including the American Legion Post in El Reno. It was a meeting at that post that tipped investigators to Kellerman’s alleged criminal activity, they said.
According to the probable cause affidavit filed in Kellerman’s case, U.S. Department of Homeland Security special agent Eric Coburn met with Kellerman and others in August 2013 at El Reno American Legion Post. While there, Coburn said he learned of an alleged “scheme” involving the sale of the rifles for Kellerman’s “personal profit.” Three of the El Reno post’s rifles were “missing,” and a witness named J.C. Taylor said Kellerman sold them to Brinkley, Coburn said.
Brinkley allegedly purchased as many as 120 rifles from Kellerman in 2012 for about $350 each. When investigators searched Brinkley’s home in connection with the Star Amusement illegal gambling warrants, Coburn alleged in his report he found the three rifles missing from the El Reno post there.
Kellerman’s alleged thefts took place between January 2010 and December 2011, AG investigators said. If convicted on the embezzlement charges, Kellerman could serve five years in prison and pay a $5,000 fine.
In July 2012, Kellerman received a deferred sentence on three misdemeanor counts – possession of controlled dangerous substance and paraphernalia and driving while under the influence. As part of that deferment, Kellerman was placed on probation until July 18, 2014, which meant the Mustang man agreed “not to violate any statutes of the state or federal government or any municipal ordinances.”
It was not known whether that deferred sentence would be impacted by the 2014 charges filed against Kellerman.
Jon Dotson joined Mustang Public School District July 1 as its new chief financial officer.
Mustang Board of Education voted to hire Dotson during its June 30 special meeting. Dotson has worked in education for 30 years and was most recently Varnum Public Schools’ superintendent.
Mustang Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel led the team interviewing candidates for the CFO position. McDaniel said Dotson was the clear choice for the job.
“Superintendents for smaller school districts have to serve as the chief financial officer for the district as well,” he said. “It was obvious from the interview that Dotson knows school finance inside and out.
“It will be a bonus for the district that he has served in multiple capacities in school districts, including in a classroom and as a building principal,” McDaniel said. “He understands the needs at every level.”
Dotson attended Guymon High School, graduating in 1975. He earned a bachelor’s degree in math and physical education in 1979 from Panhandle State University and a master’s in school administration from University of Central Oklahoma in 1991.
Dotson began his career in education in 1980 as a teacher/coach for Fairview High School. He has worked as a math and science teacher on several levels, including chemistry, physics, anatomy, algebra, geometry and trigonometry, and has served as a coach for a variety of sports, he said. Dotson served as middle school principal for Harrah Public School District from 1996 through 2000 and is former superintendent for Paden, Madill and Varnum school districts.
Dotson was getting settled in after the long July 4 weekend, working with Interim CFO Nancy McKay to it the ground running.
“I want to thank the Mustang School Board, Dr. McDaniel and the administrative team for this opportunity,” he said Tuesday. “I cannot wait to meet the principals, teachers and support personnel when they return for the new school year.
“I have felt from my first day on the job that the priority for the central office is to affect student learning and safety – it seems apparent that my co-workers are fully engaged with the vision of Mustang Schools,” Dotson said. “I feel honored and blessed to be a part of the Mustang school family.”
One Mustang North Middle School student and the father of another middle school student were killed in a Sunday automobile accident in Bryan County.
According to Oklahoma Highway Patrol reports, Leonard Fly II, 40, of Yukon was driving west on U.S. Highway 70 near Mead. Traveling with him were his 13-year-old son and a 14-year-old Mustang Public Schools student. Authorities did not release the boys’ names.
According to a preliminary report, a truck driven by 47-year-old Richard Ardrey of Colbert crossed the center line and crashed into a pickup driven by Fly. Highway Patrol officials say Ardrey was killed in the crash, along with his passenger, 37-year-old Matthew Kraemer of Colbert. According to OHP reports, all four casualties of the accident were transferred to Brown Funeral Home in Durant.
According to the OHP report, Ardrey was driving a 1998 Chevy pickup truck eastbound when he crossed the center line and hit the 2000 Ford PK driven by Fly on the driver’s side.
The injured boy was flown to a hospital in Dallas, where he is now listed in good condition.
The wreck is still under investigation, OHP officials said.
Jewell Ann Higgins, age 50, died Monday, July 7, 2014.
She was born Nov. 2, 1963 at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to Paul and Mary (Kennedy) Higgins. She was a graduate of Mustang Public Schools. She had a “green thumb” and loved to work with her plants. She worked for a time at Whispering Springs Garden Nursery in Mustang, but her greatest enjoyment was that of being a caregiver to her family and friends.
She was preceded in death by her brother, Wayne.
Jewell is survived by her daughter, Shali Lynch and husband Jacob; son, Shelby Seabourn; grandchild, Aaron Lynch; parents, Paul and Mary; sister, Trina O’Neal; and numerous other friends and family.
Memorial Services will be held at 1 p.m. July 14 at The Vine Church in Mustang. Online condolences may be made at www.mcneilsmustangfs.com
Caleb Connor McBride, age 14, died Sunday, July 6, 2014.
He was born May 5, 2000 in Oklahoma City to Greg and Dana (Carlton) McBride. Caleb was an eighth grader and played football for Mustang North Middle School. He loved playing PlayStation and hanging out with his friends and going hunting with his family.
He is survived by his parents; brother, Gage; grandparents, Earl and Mary McBride and Barbara Carlton; aunts and uncles, Ryan and Amanda McClain, Steven and Michelle McBride and Teresa Carlton and Larry Palin; three great-cousins; nine cousins; and numerous other family and friends.
Caleb was preceded in death by his grandfather, Bill Carlton; great grandparents, Leon and Pearl McBride, Laura Stapp, John and Lois Carlton and Clarence and Ethel Stidham; aunt, Fonda McBride; and great uncle, Ronnie Killmer.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 9, at The Bridge Assembly of God in Mustang with interment to follow at Mustang Cemetery. Online condolences may be made at http://www.mcneilsmustangfs.com/.
Geraldine “Gerry” Mae Beisner Marzec, aged 90, passed peacefully into everlasting life on June 26, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas, in the presence of two of her sons, Philip and Andy.
Geraldine was born in Natoma, Kan., on Sept, 30, 1923 along with twin brother, Gerald ”Jerry” Beisner. They were the last of nine children of their mother Nora Belle Beisner (nee Hogan), who died the day after their birth, and Otto Louis Beisner. Geraldine was raised through childhood on a farm north of Natoma by her father’s sister, Alvena and her husband Henry Pruter.
Gerry attended Marymount Academy and the Marymount College in Salina, Kan. and graduated with a B.S. degree in Medical Technology. Gerry interned at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, La., after graduation. After moving to Tulsa, she met and married Edmond Richard Marzec in 1949, and together they provided clinical laboratory services to the medical community and patients. They were blessed with five sons. After Ed’s retirement in 1982 they moved to Tucson, Ariz., to be near his mother, and became active in the church-based peace and justice community there, becoming active in the Community of Christ of the Desert. Gerry continued to provide medical technology services through urgent care for some years in Tucson, especially preferring the late shift that suited her “night owl” nature. They later moved to Mustang to live near son Jeff and family and became members of the Holy Spirit Catholic Community and joined the prayer network there. Ed passed in 2004, and Geraldine took residence at The Village at Incarnate Word in San Antonio in 2006, where she could be close to sons Philip and Andy and their families. Gerry made many good friends there.
Gerry is survived by brother Gerald of Macon, Ga.; sisters-in-law, Judy Beisner of Colorado Springs, Colo. and Anna Beisner of Lakewood, Colo.; son Mark and wife Mary Ann of Katy, Texas; son, Philip and wife Beate and son Andy and wife Jennifer, of San Antonio; son, Jeff and wife Bernice of Mustang; son, Michael and Paula Huber of Cleveland, Ohio; and Vici Marzec of San Antonio. Gerry is also survived by grandchildren, Mary Clare, Clark, Clint, Alex, Angela, James, Denise, Sean, Julie and Megan; great grandchildren, Van and Vivian and their mother Jessica Marzec; and step granddaughter, Jasmine Levasseur. Gerry is also survived by numerous nephews, nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces, and by cousins of the Beisner and Pruter families, including Twilla Wanker and husband Darrell of Holly Lake Ranch, Texas. Gerry and Ed were especially close to nephew, Mitchell Marzec and his wife Rachel of Albuquerque, N.M., and their children Patty, Mitch Jr., Joy and Daniel.
A memorial service for Geraldine will be held at 10 a.m. on July 9 in the St. Joseph’s chapel at The Village at Incarnate Word, 4707 Broadway, San Antonio, Texas. She will also be remembered during a Mass at the chapel commencing the same day at 11:30 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be mailed to The Village at Incarnate Word, 4707 Broadway, San Antonio, Texas, 78209.
Ed Vezey’s survival on Dec. 7, 1941 spurs his efforts to educate children about those lost long ago
By Traci Chapman
It was a day that would literally change the world and its future, but for Edward Vezey, it started out as a quiet Sunday in a tropical paradise.
Ed and his roommate, Frank, were lounging in their bunks. It was a little before 8 a.m. and the captain had given the men the day off, so they had a big decision to make, Ed said.
“We were deciding – should we eat breakfast before going swimming or vice versa,” Ed said. “Suddenly there was the call to man the anti-aircraft batteries, and we couldn’t believe it was on a Sunday morning.”
The date was Dec. 7, 1941. The place was the USS Oklahoma, berthed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Even with the unusual announcement, Ed and Frank didn’t at first have an inkling what was about to happen, Ed said. Stopping to get dressed first, there was a change of plans with a second, more urgent, announcement. It was suddenly very clear – “This was real,” he said.
“I grabbed my pistol, put on my moccasins and my brand new cap and each of us headed for our battle stations, Frank to his bug gun turret and me topside to the AA battery control station on the foremast,” Ed said.
By this time, the ship was already shuddering from torpedo hits, Ed said. Little did he know in less than 15 minutes, his friend would be among 2,403 Americans killed in a surprise attack that also meant the end of one of the Navy’s greatest battleships, the USS Arizona.
When they ran to their battle stations that morning, it was their battle stations that likely determined their fate. Frank was headed to the big gun turret, while Ed was stationed in the AA battery control station, located on the foremast. The Oklahoma had been at sea and had fired gunnery practice, but that Sunday morning, all of the ammunition was stored before deck in anticipation of a planned inspection, Ed said. As senior officer of his group and with the Oklahoma’s extreme list, there was no choice but to abandon ship, he said. Ed literally followed the Oklahoma over as it keeled over and sunk. He ended up standing on the bottom of the massive ship.
“In five minutes, she was sinking and the people who were going to make it had about 12 minutes to get topside,” Ed said. “There are no drills to prepare for a ship that’s rolling over.”
The men with Frank said he stayed in the gun turret holding a flashlight could see to escape. Ed never saw him again. Unlike Ed, who was able to swim away from the dying Oklahoma, Frank would not make it out.
“I survived and I never forgot who he was and what he gave so others could escape,” Ed said. “Just a few minutes later I was on the USS Maryland, bare naked except for a heavy coating of heavy fuel oil, having lost my pajama pants while swimming to the Maryland.”
As he stood there seeing the devastation the Japanese attack left behind, Ed said he was a different person, a transformation that had occurred in just a few minutes. He was lucky, though – 429 of his shipmates, including Frank, would not survive. The Oklahoma would remain where it sunk, as did the Arizona, both becoming the resting place and a memorial to the men who had died.
“I had gone from a carefree youngster to a hardened survivor, seething with anger and hatred, no clothes, no money, no wallet, no ID, most of my friends dead and total chaos in every direction,” Ed said.
Ed’s survival at Pearl Harbor was just part of a long four years of service during World War II. He served throughout the war at Guadalcanal and throughout the South Pacific. He was “shelled, strafed and shot at,” but he finally made it home. No matter where he went, though, he said part of him remained where it all began, at Pearl Harbor.
“I cannot say I have ever really recovered and every year when I go back to Pearl the old anger wells up in tears of fury,” Ed said.
That was 72 years ago. Ed is now 94 and lives in Moore; he is now the last USS Oklahoma survivor still living in Oklahoma.
Frank was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions that morning. Although he’s been gone more than seven decades, Ed thinks about Frank every day, he said. And he’s lived his life to the fullest, knowing that Frank never had that chance.
During those 72 years, Ed’s had a lot of luck and a happy life. He married, raised seven children and worked for General Electric for more than 57 years. He retired when he was 85, Vezey said.
“It was finally time,” he said.
But no matter where he went or what he did, Ed said he carried the events of Dec. 7, 1941 with him. Time didn’t dull that pain and anger, nor did it lessen his need to acknowledge the sacrifice of those who died that day, he said. Each December he travels to reunite with the dwindling number of survivors who make the pilgrimage to honor and remember their lost friends and a different world.
“It’s comforting to be there and spend time with our old friends,” Ed said.
As time has gone by those visits have meant a time to reminisce and have fun, but he’s also pushed to talk about the experience so children and youth know how important that day in December, so long ago, really is, Ed said. He helped raise money for Norman North High School’s band could travel to Pearl Harbor and perform in the memorial celebration.
“Would you believe all 140 members of the Norman North band plus 30 or so sponsors were there,” Ed wrote in a letter to friends after his December 2013 trip, made with his granddaughter, Rebekah. A nurse herself, Rebekah was her grandfather’s traveling companion and found Pearl Harbor and its history fascinating, Ed said.
“With her vigor and zest for life she turned a reunion of four old men into a great party,” he said. “I discouraged her coming because I thought she would be totally bored.”
That wasn’t the case at all. And Ed’s story has captivated many others.
That included students at Mustang Trails Elementary, which he traveled to late last year. Ed spoke to the children about his experience and shared the importance of Frank and men like him, he said. It was part of his ongoing mission, something he would continue to do as long as he could.
“My whole purpose is to keep kids aware that freedom isn’t free,” Ed said. “We have a job to do.
“Life is a great adventure – keep hold with both hands and keep pedaling,” he said.