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Youth facilities head down home stretch

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By Traci Chapman,

A rain delay slightly slowed the forward momentum of the city’s baseball and soccer field concession and restroom project, but officials say it is in the home stretch.

The $1.52 million baseball complex had a hitch when concrete footings on the soccer buildings did not pass a July 16 inspection after being poured in rainy conditions, officials said Tuesday. The contractor began pulling up the footings and was expected to complete that portion of the project within the next several days, weather permitting, said Justin Battles, assistant city manager.

“Roughed in plumbing has been finished and we are working toward pouring the slab this week,” Battles said.

Pad work was planned for the week of Aug. 11, the assistant city manager said.

Emmons Construction was awarded a $135,960 contract on restrooms and concessions.

Project bids were opened Feb. 21, with Mustang City Council approving contracts March 4, according to information compiled by Battles. Dirt work on the project began June 2.

LED signs for the fields were possible – without a budget increase – because the $71,400 baseball park bleacher estimate actually came in at a price of $42,260. Council agreed to use $17,950 remaining from the bleachers to purchase the scoreboards last month.

“Two local businesses also provided funds for two more of the scoreboards,” Battles said.

Crews with Silver Star Construction, working with Canadian County employees, completed new parking lots, and fencing was finished in March, they said.

The baseball complex is the final component of a three-prong improvement package of Mustang Town Center. Voters in March 2012 approved a $3.6 million bond issue, which also added space to Mustang Public Library and the banquet hall, as well as provided funds for new paint and carpet of existing areas.

Work on the complex concession and restroom was delayed in June and July due to rain, as well as a heart attack suffered by the site manager June 22, Battles said.

“It’s just been one of those situations where the weather really delayed us on this, but we’re moving along and we really are about where we wanted to be on the project,” the assistant city manager said.

Juvenile center loses state contracts

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Budget cuts impact local center, officials say

By Traci Chapman

Canadian County’s children’s justice center for the first time in recent years faces a lower budget than the year before, brought about by cuts in state contracts.

Bill Alexander, co-director of the Gary E. Miller Canadian County Children’s Justice Center, said Tuesday the problem begins and ends on the state level, where budget cuts caused Oklahoma Department of Juvenile Affairs and Department of Human Services to slash contracts with centers across the state. What that meant for Canadian County was programs basically funded by those agencies would be phased out over the coming months, Alexander said.

“We’re not completely pulling the programs, but we will only be serving our Canadian County kids,” he said. “We’re lucky we have the sales tax revenue to support that.”

According to financial documents provided by County Clerk Shelley Dickerson, last year the center received almost $3 million in contract revenues – almost $600,000 more than originally projected. For fiscal year 2015, officials are expecting just under $1.28 million in contract revenues, a more than 50 percent cut.

The two programs impacted by the cuts were sanctions and the Fort Reno group home. In the past, contract funds paid not only for out-of-county youth, but also covered the price tag for local individuals participating in both programs. With the change, the 24 beds currently filled in the group home would be cut down to 12, all holding county youth, Alexander said.

“Our biggest concern was to make sure we didn’t disrupt the programs of the kids currently in the group home,” Alexander said. “We also know that we’re losing staff positions and we didn’t want layoffs.”

The group home is a five-month program, and if individuals were forced to stop because of the funding cut, they would have to start all over, likely being put on a master state DHS waiting list, the co-director said. That would not happen, thanks to some work by center staff in negotiating a phase-out of the program for out-of-county participants, he said.

As for center staff, 25 positions will be eliminated because of the program changes.

“We are slowly transitioning so we don’t lay off any personnel,” Alexander said. “Some of our people can transfer to other county departments, some will find other jobs – it was just really important to us that we didn’t just tell someone, ‘Sorry, you don’t have a job as of today.’”

Last year’s center budget topped $8.6 million, with sales tax revenues projected at $6.05 million. According to Dickerson’s financial statement, actual sales tax revenues came in at just over $5.584 million. This year’s budget, approved Monday by commissioners, totaled $8.265 million. The justice center’s budget is retroactive back to July 1.

Other programs would remain as is and would not be impacted by the cuts, Alexander said. It was not known if the lost contracts were permanent or if things would revert to past practices once state revenues bounced back.

“That’s something none of us really know at this point,” he said.

Commissioners praised center officials for how they handled the situation, while criticizing some state moves in cutting contract rates with other counties across the state.

“I see there are cuts this year, but I am pleased with how you are handling the situation,” District 3 Commissioner Jack Stewart said.

“I want to express my feelings concerning the decisions of the state approving lower rates for counties that do not have juvenile facilities,” District 2 Commissioner David Anderson said. “It feels like they are penalizing proactive communities who have been diligent and invested in these facilities.

“This is something I would like to see brought up to the Legislature,” he said.

“This will be a transition year,” Alexander said. “We’ll slowly go to Canadian County kids only and not servicing other counties,” Alexander said. “What this contract did was it allowed us to have programs for Canadian County kids way before we had the sales tax to support them.

“Thank goodness the sales tax has grown like it has,” he said.

County special ops team gets military ‘muscle’

MILITARY MUSCLE (West inside cockpit)

By Traci Chapman

As Canadian County’s population has grown and the threat to officers increased, officials say they needed to find a way to protect those officers.

Their solution came thanks to the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Support Office, which made it possible for the county to acquire an armored vehicle for “less than pennies on the dollar,” Canadian County Undersheriff Chris West said.

LESO works with the federal Defense Logistics Agency. Together, that partnership makes it possible for local law enforcement to procure at little or no cost military grade items that are no longer used by soldiers, West said. In Canadian County, the program has brought rifles and other similar items to local deputies, he said.

As the county has seen a surge in population – and with it, the potential for “high risk” situations facing officers and deputies, it was necessary to form a Special Operations Team that would not only handle sensitive or highly dangerous matters, but would also have the ability to offer aid to other counties when needed. Thus was created a Special Operations Team comprised of Canadian County sheriff’s deputies and officers from Mustang, Yukon and El Reno police departments, West said.

“No one in the county has a SWAT team, like other larger municipalities,” West said Monday. “This is our version of a SWAT team.”

With the team’s mission – handling dangerous and high-risk situations – in mind, West began looking for something to help transport members. An armored personnel carrier would be ideal, he said. Oklahoma Highway Patrol had the perfect vehicle, which could cost anywhere from $250,000 to $400,000.

That, the undersheriff said, was the problem.

“We didn’t have funds like that, so we knew we’d have to be creative with a solution,” West said.

(Photo/Glen Miller)

That’s where LESO came in. The agency came into possession of several mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles – MRAPs – and Canadian County’s special operations team could get in on the deal, West said.

“These were vehicles used in combat and built to withstand IEDs,” West said. “They were retrofitted with new engines and chassis, and the best part was we could get them for free – just a $2,500 administrative paperwork fee.”

West traveled down to Sealey, Texas, to pick up the vehicle, a Caimen built and retrofitted by BAE Systems. With all of the military hardware taken off, the vehicle would be the perfect protection for team members and the price tag was definitely right, the undersheriff said. It holds a driver and five passengers, he said. The “retail” price tag for the vehicle would be $733,000, he said.

“We’re into it for about $10,000 total, between the fee and painting it, things like that,” West said.

It’s a small price to pay to keep team members safe, the undersheriff said.

“This is a game changer, it’s a way for us to serve the public and keep our guys safe,” West said. “It’s a great deal for the county.”

 

Men in custody after alleged Walgreens burglaries

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By Ray Dyer and Traci Chapman

Four Fort Worth men are in custody after an alleged burglary of Mustang Walgreens and a high-speed chase. And El Reno police believe the case may be connected to last week’s break-in at the Walgreens here.

Mustang police received a call at 4:35 a.m. July 19, when a resident phoned to say he had seen four suspects leaving the Walgreens store.

“The citizen reported seeing suspects exit the store, enter a white vehicle and leave eastbound on East state Highway 152,” Mustang Capt. Dennis Craig said in a release. Mustang police tried to stop the vehicle, but it sped off. The high-speed chase began, running eastbound from state Highway 152 to Interstate 240, east to the Interstate 35 turn-off, Craig said. At that time, the car crashed into a concrete barrier as the driver attempted to take the southbound highway. Officers logged speeds over 100 miles per hour during the chase.

“During the pursuit, occupants were throwing items from the suspect vehicle,” Craig said. “Officers recovered items, clothing and prescription medications stolen from Walgreens,” the officer said.

One man was arrested at the scene, while three more were found and apprehended with the assistance of Oklahoma City Police Department’s Air-1 and K-9 officers. While one man was immediately taken to Mustang Jail, two of them were taken by Oklahoma City Police to a local hospital for dog bite treatments, officers reported.

Taken into custody were Kenneth Wayne Tolbert, 23; Hylon Alford Solomon, 23; James Richard Wooden, 24; and Christopher Allen Williams Jr. All four men listed Fort Worth, Texas, addresses, Craig said.

According to MPD’s incident report, the suspects allegedly broke in the front door of the business, as well as a second door into the pharmacy. Walgreens pharmacy manager was missing several bottles of narcotics, according to the report. Some of the missing drugs were among those recovered along the roadway, officers reported.

El Reno Chief Ken Brown said the Mustang Walgreens incident looked very similar to the “smash and grab” that occurred here earlier in the week. Brown said two of the suspects in the Mustang case were wearing similar “if not the same clothing” as those thieves who were recorded breaking into the El Reno store.

Brown said investigators have found there have been similar break-ins at Walgreens in the Oklahoma City area. He said lawmen are talking with investigators in the Fort Worth area. He said the Texas investigators reported they have experienced similar incidents all targeting Walgreens that are not 24-hour pharmacies within the last two weeks.

Brown said it has also been learned the vehicle used during the Mustang burglary was stolen and “we believe the vehicle used in El Reno was possibly stolen as well.

“We are confident at least two of the four arrested from the Mustang burglary were also involved in the El Reno burglary,” Brown said.

The thieves used a rock to break the glass front door and then raced to the pharmacy area, reportedly taking narcotics.

The case is under investigation and prosecutors have not yet filed charges, according to Oklahoma State Courts Network.

 

 

 

COWRA to move forward with Mustang well drill

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The Central Oklahoma Water Resources Board voted Friday to test a water well on SW 29th and Mustang Road to see if the quality of the water can be treated for human consumption.

Karl Stickley, an engineer with Guernsey, estimated it would take $80,000 to pull the water from the well and have it tested. Stickley said starting the project will depend on when the city of Yukon pays its COWRA dues.

“This is what I’d like to do if we have the money,” Stickley said.

COWRA is a consortium of municipal governments as well as the county that has been looking for ways to wean the area off water dependence on Oklahoma City. Members pay annual dues to help fund the effort.

Stickley said owners of the Mustang property, formerly used as a sod farm, drilled a water well several years ago with hopes of using the water to irrigate their farm. However, the water was unfit for that purpose, Stickley said. He said it is not known if the well casing deteriorated since it was first drilled.

Stickley said if the well has held together it might not cost more than $8,000 to pump water from it, “if we get lucky.”

Stickley said it is known that the water is too brackish now for consumption.

“The water is not usable, but what we need to know is if it can be treated easily,” he said.

Stickley said local drilling companies are extremely busy this time of year, but it may be possible to get a contractor at the site by August.

Three companies responded to a bid COWRA sent out. The lowest bid came in at $94,109.50, according to minutes of the June 27 COWRA meeting. The minutes said Frontier Logging has access to a well “approximately one-half mile east of Mustang Road, on the south side of SW 29th. The firm is said to have no knowledge of the condition of the casing, however, the owner of the property has agreed to sign access agreement. The well will require a power source and, possibly, rehab before water testing can be done. The total bid for this well site and two other test sites, $94,109.50.”

The other two bids, one firm from Kansas, the other from Texas, were both more than $375,000.

The COWRA board, according to the minutes, discussed three options: Go with bids; cut back depth; or not do test well in the Duncan and use available information.

Other discussion, the minutes said, included “make sure all contingencies are understood and lay out all options for comparison in order to make good decisions, also, reset date or project to September/October may attract more bidders.”

The “Duncan” is a water basin inside the area where the engineers said COWRA should look for a source of brackish water.

COWRA members are looking at the possibility of building a brackish water treatment plant, if the water source can be found. The project has been estimated at anywhere from $60 million to $100 million.

Water trust members taken by surprise

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By Traci Chapman and Ray Dyer

Word that the Oklahoma Water Resources Board is launching a “comprehensive” study of a water basin that stretches from Yukon to Watonga came as a surprise to members of the Canadian County authority that has been searching for a water source.

Central Oklahoma Water Resources Authority, COWRA, has been working for years to find a “secure” water source for the area. The driving force behind the effort is the desire of communities to wean themselves of water dependence from Oklahoma City.

But the news that OWRB is jumping into the search for new water sources was described by one COWRA member as a “significant development,” a development several officials said they knew nothing about.

Canadian County District 2 Commissioner David Anderson was one of several members of the county authority who said they were not aware of OWRB’s intentions. COWRA has been following the lead of Oklahoma City lobbyist Shawn Lepard, who has helped guide the water expedition for several years.

It was COWRA’s payment to Lepard that caused El Reno Mayor Matt White to lead the effort to pull the town away from the COWRA table a few years ago. Two years ago, that decision was reversed by a new council that agreed to pay “back dues” of more than $100,000 to reactivate El Reno’s COWRA voting rights.

At the time El Reno left COWRA, Lepard was being paid about $90,000 per year. COWRA’s entire budget was less than $100,000. The money now paid to Lepard by the authority has been trimmed to under $50,000.

Recently, COWRA has been seeking a contractor to drill test wells between El Reno, Union City and Mustang in an effort to find a source for brackish water. The firm hired to help lead that effort, Guernsey Engineering, has been unable to find a drilling firm that will do the test wells at the cost it estimated.

“Our engineers gave us an estimate of the cost to drill the wells and the bids that came back were over half more than what they expected,” Anderson said.

El Reno City Manager Tony Rivera said he too was caught off guard by the OWRB announcement. In an email, Rivera said he was forwarding the inquiry to Lepard to “see if he knows anything.” Mustang City Manager Tim Rooney said Thursday afternoon he also did not know about the OWRB study until fellow COWRA members forwarded a press release concerning it to him. The press release was issued that same day. COWRA authority members received the release from El Reno Tribune and Mustang News reporters.

Lepard said he had been working with the state water board since 2010 and he is “glad to have their support. It’s awesome,” Lepard said. Even so, he said COWRA would continue to work on its own to find a secure water source for the county. He said the county should not look to the state to do for it what “it should be doing for itself.”

“Of course, we don’t want to go back to the Arbuckle days, when we were actually working against the state,” Lepard said, referring to the failed plan to build a pipeline and pull water from the southern Oklahoma water basin that exists in the Tishomingo area.

Cole Perryman, OWRB director of communications, said Thursday 12 “Hot Spot” basins were identified in a 2012 update of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan. Those areas were identified as having the “most significant” issues pertaining to water supplies expected over the next 50 years.

Basin 51 is located between Yukon and Watonga and runs through El Reno. It will be used to study “marginal” water to prevent shortages in the future, Perryman said. Officials classify “marginal water” as treated or reclaimed wastewater, oil and gas flowback, brackish water, stormwater and sources tested with “elevated levels of key constituents,” Perryman said.

“Basin 51 was found to have a high potential, according to what we’ve seen so far,” he said.

The basin was pinpointed during several public meetings held during spring 2014. The OWRB representative said he was not certain if COWRA officials had attended any of the public meetings. Lepard said a meeting was held in Yukon and was “I believe lightly attended.” He said he did not attend, but “I believe Richard Raupe attended.” Raupe, mayor of Okarche, is the chairman of COWRA.

OWRB Executive Director J.D. Strong said the meetings generated a lot of interest. He said he did believe representatives from COWRA were there.

“We had strong attendance at each of our Hot Spot public meetings earlier this spring and that has assisted the advisory council in its mission,” he said. “The public meetings brought together agriculture producers, water providers and interested citizens residing in the state’s 12 Hot Spot planning basins.”

None of the COWRA board members contacted said they knew about the meetings or had been given a report about them by fellow board members or Lepard.

Lepard said he planned to update the COWRA board at a meeting set for Friday in Yukon.

“I was planning to discuss this with them at tomorrow’s meeting,” Lepard said. He said he was unaware OWRB was planning to issue the press release about its plans.

Both the studies and meetings evolved from the Water for 2060 initiative, an offshoot of the Water for 2060 Act approved by the Legislature in 2012. The initiative set a statewide goal to limit water consumption in 2060 to 2012 usage levels. The Water for 2060 Advisory Council will issue a final report to state officials sometime in late 2015, Perryman said.

“The OWRB is doing this in conjunction with the federal government, which is providing some funding,” he said. “OWRB is providing in-kind payment through the services of its employees.”

OWRB and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were partnering to support the advisory council, Perryman said.

In addition to the Yukon to Watonga study, two other areas will also be studied, one near Duncan, the other near Altus.

Rivera later said it was most likely Lepard who helped get the Yukon to Watonga area included in the OWRB study. He added, however, that he was “peeved” that he or other members of the COWRA board were not told of the OWRB developments.

District 3 Commissioner Jack Stewart said he too was unaware of the OWRB plan or the public meetings, one of which, in Yukon, was in his district.

Strong, who lives in Yukon, phoned from a meeting in Minnesota to say COWRA should continue its independent search for a water source. He said OWRB could help finance the estimated $60 to $100 million project if it materializes.

“We did a $70 million-dollar project for Broken Arrow last year, so we certainly have the ability to help finance large projects.”

Four arrested after alleged Walgreens burglary, high-speed chase

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By Traci Chapman

Four Fort Worth men are in custody after an alleged burglary of Mustang Walgreens and high speed chase.

The call came in at 4:35 a.m. July 19, when a resident called Mustang Police Department, advising he or she had seen four suspects leaving the Walgreens store.

“The citizen reported seeing suspects exit the store, enter a white vehicle and leave eastbound on East state Highway 152,” Capt. Dennis Craig said in a release. “Officers located the suspect vehicle in the 900 block of East state Highway 152 and attempted to make an investigative stop.”

The driver would not stop for officers, and a high-speed chase began, running eastbound from state Highway 152 to Interstate 240, east to the Interstate 35 turn-off, Craig said. At that time, the car crashed into a concrete barrier as the driver attempted to take the southbound highway, the captain said. Officers logged speeds over 100 miles per hour during the chase, Craig said.

“During the pursuit, occupants were throwing items from the suspect vehicle,” Craig said. “Officers recovered items, clothing and prescription medications stolen from Walgreens,” Craig said.

One man was arrested at the scene, while three more were found and apprehended with the assistance of Oklahoma City Police Department’s Air-1 and K-9 officers, Craig said.

In custody Monday were Kenneth Wayne Tolbert, 23; Hylon Alford Solomon, 23; 24-year-old James Richard Wooden; and Christopher Allen Williams Jr. All four men listed Fort Worth, Texas, addresses, Craig said.

The case is still under investigation and prosecutors have not yet filed charges, according to Oklahoma State Court Network.

 

Hickman achieves professional milestone

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By Traci Chapman

Mustang Fire Chief Carl Hickman in July accomplished something only 961 of his peers have achieved worldwide – designation as Chief Fire Officer by the Commission on Professional Credentialing.

CPC is part of the Center for Public Safety Excellence. The organization announced the chief’s achievement after a July 8 meeting. Hickman is one of only four individuals in Oklahoma named CPC Chief Fire Officer. Mustang’s chief joins Terry Ford with Tinker Air Force Base, Midwest City Fire Department’s Jarett Metheny and Jeremy Moore of Tulsa Fire Department on the “distinguished” list, according to CPC records.

To be designated a Chief Fire Officer, individuals must meet extensive criteria, CPC officials said. CFOs are assessed on their professional development, experience, contributions to their profession, education, community involvement and technical competencies. Hickman and his fellow CFOs were also required to develop a future professional development plan as part of the designation process.

Hickman was surprised during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, when Mustang City Manager Tim Rooney presented him with a framed copy of his CFO designation. Joined by the chief’s wife, Jana Hickman, and several Mustang firefighters, Rooney said the chief was a significant asset not only to the department and city, but also to the community at large.

“Chief Hickman has a rich knowledge of the emergency services profession and has far surpassed critical core competencies for personnel serving in senior fire officer positions,” Rooney said.

Hickman has been a member of Mustang Fire Department for nine years, Rooney said. The city manager also praised Jana Hickman, who Rooney said has been an integral part of her husband’s commitment to Mustang, as well as his success.

“When you work in public service, it’s not just the employee who serves but also their spouse and their children that serve too,” Rooney said. “Many dinners alone, late nights followed by early mornings, and community events that you get sucked into too.”

Rooney took the reins as Mustang city manager in August 2013. He said Hickman was part of a team that made that transition a smooth one.

“I want to congratulate you, Chief Hickman, on your dedication to your profession, your education, and those you serve as an example for following in your footsteps,” Rooney said to the visibly moved chief. “I’ve been with the city only 11 months, but there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not impressed by something that you do or the positive attitude that you bring to the table. Your can-do attitude is unmatched, as is your character.”

“I’ve never experienced this – I’ve got to say that,” Hickman said. “Thank you, thanks a lot for this.”

 

 

 

 

 

Mustang takes No. 2 safest community ranking

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By Traci Chapman

Mustang took second place in a national firm’s ranking of safest Oklahoma communities.

The study was conducted by Movoto Real Estate, based in San Mateo, Calif. and was a ranking of communities with populations of 10,000 or more.

“We then used the FBI’s 2012 Uniform Crime Report to find crime data for these places, omitting any that didn’t have data reported to the bureau,” said Chad Stiffney, Movoto public relations associate. “That left us with a total of 40 places across Oklahoma.”

Researchers then took the FBI data and analyzed reported crimes in those 40 communities, concentrating on violent crimes like murder, rape, robbery and assault, as well as burglary, theft and vehicle theft. Crimes were then further classified by murders, violent and property felonies and totals reported, Stiffney said.

“We calculated all of these crime rates based on crimes per 100,000 residents, in order to compare larger and smaller cities fairly,” Stiffney said. “Each place was then ranked with a score from one to 40, with one being the best and safest location.”

Movoto’s rankings were weighted so murders, violent and property crimes were given precedence, Stiffney said. Those classifications made up 30 percent of each city’s score, and total crimes represented 10 percent of the calculation, he said.

Mustang’s second-place listing was the result of its low number of crimes, according to FBI statistics.

“Just 2,639 crimes per 100,000 people,” Stiffney said. “Of those, there were only 160 violent crimes per 100,000 people.”

Of those 160 listed instances, there were no murders, 22 robberies, 17 rapes and 121 assaults, as well as 2,479 property crimes – comprised of 1,807 thefts, 94 vehicle thefts and 508 burglaries, according to the Movoto report and FBI data.

The report’s findings and Mustang’s police chief and department were applauded by City Manager Tim Rooney during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Rooney said the ranking was a result of the department’s hard work and Chief Chuck Foley’s leadership, the city manager said. For his part, the chief credited his employees, who he said always put the community first.

“The citizens are invested in the community, and my staff is invested in the citizens,” Foley said.

Proposed Bible history class postponed

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By Traci Chapman

Mustang Board of Education members on Monday agreed to postpone an elective Bible history class that has drawn national attention.

Although no formal vote was necessary, board members did not raise any objections to Mustang Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel’s suggestion the kickoff of a planned Bible history class be suspended until the spring 2015 semester.

“I remain excited about the course but I have a very difficult time, with the information that we have it puts us in an awkward position,” McDaniel told board members.

The issue was twofold, McDaniel said. After months of communications with Green Scholars Initiative, the entity providing the Bible history class curriculum, a full year’s study content would not be available at least until October, the superintendent said. That would mean students would be starting what had become a controversial class for some individuals and organizations with only a portion of those materials studied by district officials before school began.

Another issue raised throughout the Bible history class discussion was legal protection for the district, should someone file a legal challenge. That was also up in the air as of Monday’s meeting, McDaniel said.

“The Alliance for Defending Freedom agreed to review the curriculum by July 24,” he said.

The review was necessary because of possible gaps in insurance coverage from the district’s pool insurance carrier, Oklahoma School Insurance Group. While it appeared the district would have some coverage in the case of legal action, it appeared it would not in others – and nothing was set in stone, in any case, the superintendent said. If a claim for injunctive relief – asking the class be suspended – was filed, it appeared that would not be covered, while OSIG representatives tentatively believed a claim for damages would be covered, he said.

“They cannot make a determination on coverage until a claim is filed,” McDaniel said. “It’s a roll of the dice and I just don’t think that’s wise.”

For the 178 Mustang High School students who selected the elective as part of their fall semester schedule, those individuals would be given choices to replace it, at least for the fall semester, McDaniel said.

“If we do this now, we can give students time to make another choice,” McDaniel said. “They could elect to take first semester humanities, second semester Bible history – if we do this now we’ll have time to do that.”

While the district’s selection of the Green Scholars Initiative class seemed to be a large part of the stated controversy surrounding the class, it was the very way the initiative structured the elective that appealed to officials, they said. GSI’s course includes virtual tours and access to more than 40,000 historical Biblical resources, McDaniel said.

That technology was the program’s biggest draw, board vice president Jim Davis said.

“The electronics piece – that’s what the whole course really hinges around,” Davis said. “To me that was the selling point with the Green content.”

Officials would continue to review both the ever-changing curriculum and any potential legal issues in coming weeks and months, with an eye toward offering the Bible history class during the spring semester, McDaniel said.

“As high profile as this is, I think it’s smart we hold off and do it right,” Davis said.