The Woodward News

Local News

September 10, 2013

Education, United Fund highlight chamber event

Woodward, Okla. — Progress in education was the focus of the monthly Woodward Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Monday, Sept. 9.

To begin the meeting Tim Merchant, superintendent of Woodward Public Schools, discussed the need to continue opportunities for progress in common education through the upcoming bond election.  Then as the guest speaker Dr. Janet Cunningham, president of Northwestern Oklahoma State University, discussed the current signs of progress being seen throughout her institution.

MERCHANT ON BOND ELECTION

Woodward voters will go to the polls on Oct. 8 to decide on a proposed $29 million school bond issue.

Merchant said the biggest thing people should know about the school bond proposal is that it involves "no new taxes."

Instead, the superintendent said the district wants to keep the current property tax millage structure, which has been in place since the passage of a previous bond issue in 2008.

This means that property owners won't see an increase in their yearly taxes, and yet Merchant said the school district will still "get a lot of bang for our buck."

The proposed $29 million bond "will meet all priority needs as identified by our long-range planning committee," he said.

He said those priority needs fall within 5 areas: safety, security, overcrowding, transportation, and technology.

The safety and overcrowding needs are related because in order to address issues from lack of space, Merchant said the district is proposing the construction of 5 additional classrooms at each elementary school, with 2 of those rooms also serving as safe rooms in case of storms.

There are also proposals to build on at the middle school and high school to include large safe rooms for the students at those facilities.  (The Early Childhood Center, which was built using funds from the 2008 bond, was constructed with safe rooms built in.)

As far as security, Merchant said the bond proposal includes measures to reconfigure entry ways into the schools using a double-door buzzer system and adding more security cameras.

To meet transportation needs, he said the bond includes "a 5-year plan to refresh the fleet" by purchasing a certain number of new Boomer buses, route buses and passenger vehicles each year until the whole fleet is updated.

And for technology, he said the goal is "putting an iPad in the hands of each of our students and using them for educational purposes."  Along with this he said the district's computer networks and systems will need upgrading as well.

Merchant said these priority areas need to be addressed soon because of Woodward's current growth and to look toward the future.

"As a city we have adopted the saying 'Woodward moving forward,'" Merchant said.  "In order for us to keep Woodward moving forward, we have to keep our schools moving forward."

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