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Price to play golf soaring through the roof

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Final Point

In the past several months, I have heard numerous people talk about golf as a dying sport in this nation.

It is a true statement. The number of people going out to play golf on a Saturday or Sunday is increasingly getting smaller every spring, summer and fall.

Golf courses all over the country are being closed because they cannot sustain themselves without anybody coming out to play golf.Green One

That is probably why the golf courses that are staying open are not in the best shape because they have to cut their budgets somewhere.

So, the problem has been identified, now we have to figure out why golf is a sinking ship in the United States. And is there a solution to the problem?

Many people believe it is because of the slow nature of the game. We do live in a fast-paced society that has to have everything right now instead of being patient and actually waiting for a better outcome.

Hence why basketball and football are the two most popular sports in this nation and soccer is the fastest-growing sport. Baseball is definitely not known for its brevity when it comes to game time or action on the field. Therefore, it is slowly dying as well. However, not at the speed that golf seems to be.Carts One

Some people out there believe that it is because golf is a sport primarily played by middle-aged men with families to take care of, so now instead of spending four or five hours on a golf course on a Saturday, they are staying home and being with their families.

All of these reasons are valid and have strong points behind them, and even may be a part of the reason golf is slipping away, but the main reason I believe the sport is fading fast is what it does to our wallets. It empties them faster than the cable companies do. OK, maybe not that fast, but you get the point.

Golf is the most expensive sport-related hobby in the world. If you want to go play a round of golf, regardless of the niceness of the course, it is going to cost you an arm and a leg.

To get a round of golf in and spend less than $30 is a minor miracle these days. If you want to ride a cart, which is what most people do, you are most likely going to be spending around $35.

Here are the green fee costs of five different golf courses close to the Mustang area:

Early Wine Golf Club in southwest Oklahoma City has a green fee and cart price of $39. Lake Hefner Golf Club in northwest Oklahoma City has a green fee and cart price of $39. Crimson Creek Golf Course in El Reno has a green fee and cart price of $33.

The Links at Mustang Creek off Mustang Road and 15th Street is a private course but you can play with a member and that cost is $15 to walk nine holes, $30 to walk 18 holes and $40 to ride a cart on 18 holes.

In the 12 square miles of Mustang, the only golf course is a 9-hole par-3 course called Pebble Creek. If you want to walk 18 holes at Pebble Creek Golf Course, the cost is $14, if you want to ride a cart, the cost is $28.

Of course, all of these green fees and cart prices are the main prices to play. There are different rates for different times of the day, but the cheaper rates are not the best times to play a round of golf.

What is sad is that the owners of these golf courses don’t seem to care that they are losing business in a rapid fashion. All they would have to do is cut the cost play in half and I believe you would see the number of golfers begin to climb again.

Instead, these owners cut costs in the maintenance department or cut back on their water usage, making their golf courses look like burnt-up pastures in late July.

My hope, as a golfer, is that one day these owners will see the light and realize by cutting their green fee and cart prices down, the number of golfers on their courses will begin to rise.

Kyle Salomon is the sports editor at the Mustang News and can be reached at ksalomon@mustangnews.info.

Top-30 current Mustang High School athletes: Nos. 11-15

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Sports editor Kyle Salomon is counting down his current top-30 Mustang High School athletes in a six-week series of columns. This week is Nos. 11-15.

Here are Nos. 11-15 in my current top 30 Mustang High School athletes list beginning with No. 11.

11. David Parker, senior, football

David Parker can be summed in one quote from head Mustang football coach Jeremy Dombek.

“He’s the best athlete I’ve coached since Justin Blackmon.”   David Parker

Well, if that is true, then Bronco fans, you are in for a real treat this fall when Parker will dazzle you with supreme athleticism. The 6-foot-2 MHS wide receiver has the ability to beat his defender down the field for a long-range touchdown toss, and he also has the ability to go inside and go up and grab balls out of the air with defenders hanging on him.

If Parker can live up to his head coach’s bold statement about him, then we will have highlight reels every Friday night to look forward to this coming season.

12. Lance Frost, senior, cross country and track

Lance Frost will be one of the few harriers in the state this year who has a realistic chance to bring home the gold in cross country. Lance Frost One

Frost is one of the best male runners the Broncos cross country team has had, and they have had some good ones in their rich history of excellence.

If Frost can stay on the healthy side of things this fall for the Broncos, look out for the senior to be near the top or top of every race the Mustang boys compete in this year.

13. Geoffrey Hightower, senior, basketball

Geoffrey Hightower is the unsung hero of the Mustang boys basketball team, with highly-recruited division one prospects Jakolby Long, Austin Meyer and Curtis Heywood getting most of the notoriety on the roster.

The 6-foot-6 power forward averaged 10 points and nine rebounds in his junior season, but Hightower’s presence on the Bronco squad goes much more beyond the numbers. Geoffrey Hightower One

I compare Hightower to University of Oklahoma power forward Ryan Spangler. Spangler is not the tallest, quickest, most talented or most athletic player on the Sooners roster, but he is the heart and soul of the team.

Hightower fills that position nicely for Mustang. With Hightower leading the way and the rest of the roster the Broncos bring back this year, anything but a gold ball will be a disappointment.

14. Cutter Smith, senior, football and soccer

Cutter Smith is one of the top overall dual-sport athletes at Mustang High School. Smith will be the leader of the Bronco boys soccer team next spring when high school soccer kicks off in Oklahoma. Cutter Smith Two

Smith is a midfielder for the Mustang boys and he’s also a linebacker and running back for the MHS football team. The swift-footed senior plays both football and soccer with supreme intelligence, which is why he’s successful at both sports.

Look for Smith to have a big impact on the Broncos’ success on the football and soccer fields this coming year.

15. Marin Godwin, sophomore, cheerleading

Marin Godwin is what people like to call an up-and-coming star at Mustang High School. Even at her young age, Godwin is considered by many in Mustang as the face of the cheerleading program.

Godwin played a big role in helping the cheer squad earn national attention last winter as two Mustang cheer teams took top-five finishes at nationals in Dallas. Marin Godwin One

With Godwin as the face of Mustang cheerleading for the next three years, the Lady Broncos cheer squad will be in good hands.

Kyle Salomon is the sports editor for the Mustang News. He can be reached at ksalomon@mustangnews.info.

Mustang comes together to show its heart

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Wow. Just…wow.

Mustang Kiwanis last week put out the call their food pantry shelves were bare and area families were struggling to make it through the summer. The result was an outpouring of support that surprised even longtime volunteers.

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Let’s face it – we all know Mustang takes care of its own. Someone has a problem and people rush to help. Whether it’s offering prayers or a helping hand, this is a great community that cares for its members. Sometimes, though, people get busy – school is getting ready to start, the summer is winding down, and that can be expensive for all of us.

But that didn’t stop the more than two dozen people who have brought food to our office. Young and old, they have filled up the Kiwanis barrel – to overflowing – five times in as many days. On behalf of the Kiwanis and the people they help, we are beyond grateful to the people who have taken the time and the trouble to reach out to others in their time of need.

It was what we witnessed yesterday, however, that really got our attention, acts of selflessness and giving that topped even what I would expect of our residents. It was yesterday afternoon that first the Country Charm Day Care bus pulled up to our office. Out filed several children and their teachers, all holding at least one food item. They had collected things, they said, to “help the people who need it.” After smiling, letting us take their photo and filling the bin, off they went.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Shortly afterward another car pulled up. Out piled Christopher Maxeiner, Cyrus Maxeiner and Brock Carriger. The boys made several trips, carrying boxes and bags of food for the bin. The trio had read about the Kiwanis’ need and made a sweep throughout their neighborhood, asking those at home for their help. They were met with many who were willing to lend a hand.

These children are a great example to all of us. It would be easy for them to spend their last weeks of summer break playing and having fun. Instead, they chose to think of others, to give from hearts that inspire all of us to do more for those who need it.

Our task is not finished, of course. The Kiwanis food bank won’t stay full without us working to make sure it stays that way. Please, join in the effort – bring your non-perishable food items, paper goods, toiletries, whatever you can spare. Come in, have a cup of coffee, visit and let’s celebrate the goodness that is the people of Mustang, Oklahoma.

We salute you.

Mustang News office is located at 290 N. Trade Center Terrace. Regular office hours are 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Call Traci at 376-4571 or 664-4641 to make arrangements for item deliveries at other times.

Mixon fumbles; Knight and Darlington shine

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Final Point

By Kyle Salomon,

As I was sitting in my office earlier this week, I learned something about myself that I did not particularly like.

I found myself checking up at least once every hour on the recent story of OU running back Joe Mixon and his alleged assault of University of Oklahoma female student Amelia Rae Monitor last Friday morning at Pickleman’s restaurant, a sandwich shop on Campus Corner just outside of the OU campus.

The story is still under investigation by the Norman Police Department, but witnesses and videos say and show Mixon and his friends got into a verbal altercation with Monitor and her friends. There are conflicting reports that say Monitor struck Mixon across the face and then Mixon retaliated by striking Monitor and breaking numerous bones in her face.

The other report says Mixon and Monitor engaged in a heated verbal confrontation and Mixon struck her in the face with Monitor not assaulting Mixon first at all.

The fact of the matter is it doesn’t matter which report is accurate. It is never OK for a man to strike a woman in any way regardless if the woman strikes the man first.

The incident happened at 2:40 a.m. on Friday morning, which begs the question, why were they out at that time, especially with Mixon being merely 18 years of age?

What I found out about myself that I was not impressed with, was me sitting there getting angry about the possibility of OU losing one of its best recruits in the program’s rich history.

Mixon was rated as the No. 1 running back in the nation coming out of high school last year and when the Sooners coaching staff pulled off the minor miracle and convinced the California native to sign with Oklahoma, OU fans all over the world started having thoughts of the next Adrian Peterson entering Memorial Stadium.

I was angered because it seems like every year, OU football has to deal with situations where a key player or players either suffer season-ending injuries or has trouble with the law and is removed from the team or suspended for a long period of time.

The bottom line is I thought I was better than that. I would talk constantly about how ridiculous certain Oklahoma fans can be in these types of situations and how they think about nothing other than the football aspect and how it will affect their beloved Sooners on the field that coming year.

I proved to myself I was not better than that, and that is something I desperately need to improve about myself in the very near future.

All you saw on Twitter and Facebook over the weekend were comments from people saying horrible things about Monitor, Mixon, OU football or women in general. News publications from newspapers, websites, radio talk shows and television news and sportscasts dedicated most of their space and time to the Mixon story.

It was truly an example of how negative this world and especially the media universe can be.

However, I came across a story earlier this week that is both tragic and uplifting at the same time.

OU cheerleader Taylor Witcher was killed in an automobile accident on Monday and five others are still in serious condition. That is the part of the story that is incredibly tragic and sad. The part of the story that will bring happiness to your heart is what OU football players Trevor Knight and Ty Darlington did in response to the horrific news.

Knight is the starting quarterback for the Sooners and is very much a public figure in the entire state of Oklahoma, and Darlington is a starting offensive lineman for the crimson and cream.

Both OU football players led a prayer vigil on the South Oval on the University of Oklahoma campus, which had hundreds of people show up and participate in the gathering. Knight and Darlington didn’t know Witcher or anybody else involved in the fatal accident, but that didn’t matter to them. They used their pedestal for something good, and not something negative like so many others in their shoes.

Knight and Darlington are two famous major college athletes who went against the grain and didn’t fall in love with themselves because they can throw the football a long way or can run faster than most human beings on this earth. They chose to be a good example to others. They chose to be role models because they know they are.

After doing more digging into the two Sooner football stars, I found out they lead a weekly prayer group on the South Oval. They started it in June and it has been growing ever since. It took a tragic accident like the one that happened on Monday for this to be a story.

How sad is that for the media?

I know negativity sells, but maybe, just maybe if the media would take a stand and tell positive stories like the Knight and Darlington prayer group story, positivity would begin to sell as well.

I know for me, it has changed the way I look at my profession and my job. Yes, the Mixon story has to be told, but the Knight and Darlington story should be showcased.

Kyle Salomon is the sports editor for the Mustang News. He can be reached at ksalomon@mustangnews.info.

Mustang High School current top-30 athletes: Nos. 16-20

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Mustang News sports editor Kyle Salomon is listing his current top-30 Mustang High School athletes in a six-week series of columns counting down. This is week are Nos. 16-20.

Here is a look at my top 30 Mustang High School athletes list Nos. 16-20, starting with No. 16.

16. Zach Davis, senior, football

Zach Davis is the definition of a journeyman on the Mustang football team. The senior defensive back saw time as a running back for the Bronco offense as a sophomore, was a starting cornerback on the defense his junior season and this year will be a starting safety for the Broncos. Zach Davis Two

Davis will be the defensive leader for the Broncos on the gridiron this fall when Mustang takes the field in early September against rival Yukon. Having him at the back end and in the middle of the defense will free Davis up to make plays in a bigger area of the field compared to just one side of the field as a cornerback.

Davis has added size to his frame, which will allow him to come up and make plays at the line of scrimmage in the run game for the Bronco D. His one-on-one matchup days against receivers are finished, but Davis will play a big role in the MHS pass defense as well.

Look for Davis to make another huge step in his progression as a football player and become an even bigger force for opponents to deal with this fall.

17. Kyra Fuller, senior, cross country and track

Kyra Fuller enters her senior year as an athlete with something to prove. She had the nearly impossible task of taking over for 2013 Mustang graduate Emily Helms as being the face of girls cross country. Kyra Fuller One

Helms won eight individual state championships between cross country and track, so for Fuller to step into those shoes would be a more than daunting task. The senior has not disappointed in her time as the face of girls cross country as a part of the girls track team.

Fuller has dealt with several injuries in her career that have slowed her down in key races, but if the Lady Bronco can stay healthy for her senior year in cross country and track, she will be a force to be reckoned with come state championship time.

18. Cade Fulton, junior, baseball

Cade Fulton is one of the best up and coming pitchers in the state. His size, arm strength and potential will have college recruiters and professional scouts all over the Mustang baseball facility for the next two years. Cade Fulton One

Fulton was counted on down the stretch last season for the Broncos. It seemed like every time Mustang needed a big win down the stretch of the year, Fulton was on the bump for MHS.

Fulton will be counted on next season to be a leader for the Broncos as a junior. His performance on the mound will dictate how successful Mustang will be on the diamond next year.

If Fulton continues to progress the way he has the past two seasons, the 6-foot-5 right-handed slinger will be one of the top pitchers in the entire state.

19. Keegan Radichel, senior, soccer

Keegan Radichel and the Bronco boys soccer team had a tough season in 2014 after having high hopes of making the playoffs before the season started. Keegan Radichel One

Mustang returns a lot from that squad and Radichel will be one of those pieces counted on to carry Mustang soccer back to the top of the state.

Radichel has the ability to be a game-changer every time his foot touches the ball. If the Bronco boys are going to be successful next spring on the soccer field, Radichel will be a big reason why.

20. Logan Haller, sophomore, basketball

Logan Haller was counted on late in the season last year for Kevin Korstjens and his staff to provide a spark off the bench for the Lady Broncos basketball team.

Haller didn’t disappoint as the year went on, she improved every time she took the court. The sophomore forward will have a bigger role for the Bronco girls this year on the hardwood and will compete for a starting job. Logan Haller One

Haller already looked like a much more confident player this summer in the team camp the Lady Broncos hosted at Mustang High School. If Haller can continue to develop her game and her confidence, the young Lady Bronco will have a solid sophomore year.

Kyle Salomon is the sports editor at the Mustang News and can be reached at ksalomon@mustangnews.info

Obsessed with Facebook?

Not too long ago, someone told me I was “obsessed” with Facebook.

Initially, well, I was kind of insulted. After all, I’m not one of those people who document every move I make, every meal I eat, with a post. I was fairly active on the site, but no more so than most of my friends.

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Then, something happened. It wasn’t anything really serious, just a bad situation that left me feeling rather isolated and alone. It wasn’t really a big deal, in the scheme of things, but in my little world, it was a doozy.  It was one of those times you just feel down for a while, one of those situations where family really helps.

The problem for me was we don’t have nearby family — or so I thought. Like so many other people these days, we moved away from our families and long-time friends, establishing a life in Mustang. Of course, we have friends here, and good ones, but we don’t have the luxury some people have in living in the community we were raised in.

And that’s where Facebook comes into it. That’s why maybe I am obsessed with social media after all.

Facebook can certainly show the best and worst of people. Some interactions are — for lack of a better word — horrendous. It’s terrible to see how people can treat each other, from the anonymity of a computer screen. But it can also be a very positive thing. It helps people reconnect, allows friends who are separated by distance overcome that and interact more often and with more substance. When’s the last time you wrote a letter? Facebook helps people share who they are and what’s important to them.

And it was through that online connection that I learned just how lucky I was, how much support and what kind of friends I was blessed to have.

You see, I wasn’t alone — not in the fact we don’t have family nearby and not in dealing with a difficult situation on my own. Without even knowing what was going on — or even, really, that something was going on at all, friends from long ago were joined by people I have never met in person in showing the true meaning of caring and friendship.

People were there for me in a way it’s difficult to describe. We’ve all seen it — individuals gather to offer encouragement and support, prayers and words of advice. The interesting thing about this wasn’t the response of my long-time friends, people I grew up with and who know me. It was those people I’ve never met or barely know, those whose knowledge of me comes completely from what I’ve written (and the silly photos I’ve posted) on a social media site.

It was those people who made me realize just how alone I was not. Were they sitting right there with me? No. But, there were plenty who offered to, who said they were there in spirit and would be in person, if that’s what I needed. They helped me work through a bad situation, but they also did something more — they went beyond their own lives in a way some people never do.

That’s the beauty of something like Facebook. It gives us the ability to touch someone’s life in a positive way, offer them support, encouragement, a light where they might not have seen one. It doesn’t matter if someone is facing a health issue or a family matter. Maybe they’ve lost someone, maybe they just need prayers, need to know there is someone who cares and is thinking of them.

Most of us feel empathy. We see a story that touches us and we might “like” it or make a comment. But, we can move beyond that and remember that the best of who we are can be expressed through our interactions with others. Even if those interactions come through a computer screen.

Our society has changed since I was a child and even a young adult. Many of us are more spread out, we have moved far beyond where we started or even where we thought we might go. Look at the impact the internet as a whole has had on our lives and our jobs. It can be negative, surely, but oh how positive it can be.

For me, I want to work to help others more – through volunteering, community service, giving back for a life that’s truly been a gift. But, what I can do – and what we all can do, every day – is let someone know we care. If that’s all Facebook and other social media ever is, then it’s a pretty darn good thing. And, yes, I’m obsessed with that.

Letter to the Editor

Baseball without tobacco?

Like all baseball fans, I was saddened to learn of the death of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn in June, and I followed closely the outcry from fans and the sporting world for Major League Baseball to ban smokeless tobacco use among players. I thought it would be a great idea, but would never happen … smokeless tobacco is just a part of the game, right?

So imagine my surprise when my ESPN text alert the week of the MLB All Star Game said the commissioner of baseball and the players association were aiming to eliminate smokeless tobacco use in baseball.

MLB has made some efforts to curb smokeless tobacco use among players, like banning its use in the minor leagues, not providing dip to players, and not allowing tobacco use during interviews. But can professional baseball survive without tobacco, something that seems to have been married to the game as long as anyone can remember? I think yes, and it would be for the best.

Players like Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals and Addison Reed of the Diamondbacks have publicly come out to say they are kicking their tobacco habits because of Gwynn’s death. But if baseball can ban the use of smokeless tobacco, future generations of baseball players, from high school through the pros, may not have to quit – because they never started.

Kids want to do everything their favorite players do – from wearing the same cleats and copying their batting stance, to using (or simulating the use of) smokeless tobacco. The tobacco industry already spends millions of dollars marketing smokeless tobacco as grown up and manly; kids don’t need to have that message reinforced by their favorite baseball players. Already here in Oklahoma, 21.2 percent of male high school students – more than one in five – use smokeless tobacco.

A ban on smokeless tobacco in professional baseball would not only benefit the health and well-being of current players, but also that of future generations of baseball players at all levels. I commend the commissioner and the players association for even approaching the subject and look forward to seeing what the outcomes are during their next collective bargaining.

Jenny Kellbach

Tobacco Prevention Coordinator, Canadian County

Communication missing from water hunt

By Ray Dyer

One word is obviously missing when learning how members of the Central Oklahoma Water Resources Authority, also known as COWRA, were taken by surprise by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board’s plan to study the same issues undertaken by the local authority.

That word is communication.

COWRA lobbyist Shawn Lepard said he was planning to discuss the OWRB plan with COWRA members at a meeting in Yukon last Friday. Lepard did not attend the public meeting held last spring in April that was hosted by OWRB. That meeting, also in Yukon, was to gather input from “stakeholders” interested in water issues. Lepard said he thought a COWRA representative was at the meeting, but wasn’t for sure.

J.D. Strong, the executive director of the OWRB, said he too believed a COWRA authority member was present, but again he wasn’t sure. Lepard said the Yukon meeting was lightly attended, while Strong said it had strong attendance, until told of what Lepard said, then backed away from his earlier statement.

Strong said he and Lepard have worked closely on water issues over the years.

But is Lepard working closely with COWRA, the entity that is paying him a handsome sum of money to help develop a “secure water source” for Canadian County?

When city managers and county commissioners who serve on the COWRA board don’t know what’s going on until contacted by reporters, the answer may not be yes.

The people who serve on the COWRA board, in my opinion, deserve credit. They are taking on a task, whether right or wrong, apparently without seeking compensation. It appears they are people who are trying to make a difference.

Hats off to that.

Can the same be said for the paid lobbyist?

Don’t know. Hope so. But don’t know.

Strong and Lepard both said COWRA needs to continue its independent work at finding a source of brackish water. Lepard said the local folks, meaning COWRA, shouldn’t expect the state to do for it what it should be doing for itself.

At the same time, Strong said the federal government is no longer interested in building a lake or reservoir so that option is off the table. He agrees, a body of water would produce a far greater economic impact than simply drilling holes in the ground.

“The low hanging fruit is gone,” Strong said, referring to a lack of federal support for such an undertaking.

So, COWRA is supposed to be independent, but OWRB isn’t? Is that what I’m hearing?

One point that did stick out, at least in my mind, that causes me concern, is that no one from the Oklahoma Water Resource Board or COWRA, from what I can gather, has ever picked up the phone and called the Cheyenne and Arapaho leaders to discuss water.

Oklahoma City is involved in a lawsuit with two powerful Native American tribes over an effort to pull water from lakes in southeastern Oklahoma. How long will it take to get that resolved?

From what I understand, Concho, home of the C&A tribal headquarters, sits on about 6,000 acres. Under this land that runs along the North Canadian River are natural springs. The springs supplied water for cattle drives that moved through here in the 1800s. It gave water to Native Americans and early settlers. From what I’m told, the springs are still running. And yet, no one has picked up the phone and invited the C&A to the water talk table.

Of course, Oklahoma City hasn’t been invited to the COWRA table either, even though it’s the largest city in Canadian County.

Communication is a big deal.

Veterans News

American Legion Post 353 of Mustang and Auxiliary Unit 353 meet on the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Mustang Community Center in the senior center room. We invite all veterans and their families to join us at our next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, July 10. For information about meetings and events, contact Paul Ray at 921-5819.

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Post 353 scholarships. Congratulations to the Mustang High School graduates who received the Mustang American Legion Scholarships: Jimmy Nguyen, Erica Diebold, Austin Leith, Cole Biermann and Micah Hinton.

Golf tournament. Post 353 will host its annual fundraiser golf tournament on Sept. 27 at Willow Creek Golf Course, 6105 S. Country Club Drive, Oklahoma City. It will be a four-person shotgun start at 8:30 a.m. Two persons and singles are welcome. A catered barbecue lunch will be provided. Please mark your calendar and join us for a day of golfing fun. Watch for ads in the upcoming newspapers. For information, call Doug Gingerich at 641-1075.

2014-2015 officer installation. Officer installation will be held at the July 10 meeting. The incoming officers are Paul Ray – Commander; Don Kuntze – Adjutant; First Vice Commander – John Traffanstedt; Second Vice Commander – Dave Schacher; Finance Officer – John Bishop; Judge Advocate – Gary Shidell; Sergeant-at-Arms – Clarence Marcaurele; Service Officer – Doug Gingerich; Chaplain – Karen Douthit; and Historian – Duane Douothit.

Navajo Code Talker dies. Chester Nez of Albuquerque, N.M., was among 29 tribal members who developed an unbreakable code that helped win World War II. He was 93 when he died and the last of the original U.S. Marine Code Talkers.

Before hundreds of men from the Navajo Nation became Code Talkers, 29 Navajos were recruited to develop the code based on the then-unwritten Navajo language. Nez was in the 10th grade when he enlisted, keeping his decision a secret from his family and lying about his age, as did many others. It’s one of the greatest parts of history that they used their own native language during World War II.

Of the 250 Navajos who showed up at Fort Defiance, Ariz., then a U.S. Army base, 29 were selected to join the first all-Native American unit of the Marines. They were inducted in May 1942. Nez became part of the 382nd Platoon.

Using Navajo words for red soil, war chief, braided hair, beads, ant and hummingbird, for example, they came up with a glossary of more than 200 terms that later were expanded into an alphabet. Nez has said he was concerned the code wouldn’t work. At the time, few non-Navajos spoke the language. Even Navajos who did couldn’t understand the code. It proved impenetrable.

The Navajos trained in radio communications were walking copies of the code. Each message read aloud by a Code Talker was immediately destroyed. The Japanese did everything in their power to break the code, but they never did.

After World War II, Nez volunteered to serve two more years during the Korean War. He retired in 1974 after a 25-year career as a painter at the Veterans Hospital in Albuquerque.

Nez was eager to tell his family about his role as a Code Talker, but he couldn’t. Their mission wasn’t declassified until 1968. The accolades came much later – the Code Talkers are now widely celebrated. The original group received Congressional Gold Medals in 2001, and a movie based on the Code Talkers was released the following year. They have appeared on television and in parades and routinely spoke to veterans groups and students.

Nez threw the opening pitch at a 2004 Major League baseball game and offered a blessing for the presidential campaign of John Kerry. In 2012, he received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas, where he abandoned his studies in fine arts after money from his GI Bill ran out.

Despite having both legs partially amputated, confining him to a wheelchair, Nez loved to travel, meet people and tell his story.

SUPPORT OUR TROOPS — REMEMBER OUR VETERANS

One Size Fits All?

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.