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HomeCommunityOsage running for Pawhuska School Board seat in runoff election April 3

Osage running for Pawhuska School Board seat in runoff election April 3

Danny Ferguson, an Osage tribal member, is running for re-election to the Pawhuska Public Schools Board of Education Seat #3 in a runoff election on April 3.

Ferguson obtained 46 percent of the vote and his opponent, City of Pawhuska Chief of Police Scott Laird, obtained 41 percent of the vote, according to the Pawhuska Journal-Capital. Ferguson is the vice president of the local American Heritage Bank. A candidate must obtain 51 percent of the vote to win the election.

Ferguson provided the following statement to the Osage News: 

“I was born and raised in Pawhuska and I am a proud graduate of PHS, Class of 2001. I then attended college at Southwestern Oklahoma State University where I earned a Finance degree.  Finally, I attended Oklahoma Wesleyan University and obtained my MBA with an emphasis in Finance.  I have been employed with American Heritage Bank for what will be 12 years at the end of May.  I manage the Pawhuska office and am a Vice President of the bank. I am a member of the Lion’s Club, Kiwanis Honors Banquet Committee, Pawhuska Community Foundation board member, Pawhuska Public Schools Foundation board member, Oklahoma Creative Communities Education Committee, Pawhuska Youth Sports volunteer softball and basketball coach and member of First Baptist Church.  My wife Shananae, two children, Faylee (4th grader) and JD (Head Start) and nephew, Noah Graves (7th grader) are proud supporters of Pawhuska Schools. 

“I was appointed to the open board position left vacant in August of 2016.  Prior to that, I had been approached many times to consider running for the school board.  At first, I really wanted to be on the board.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to serve my community and give back to my school.  However, several of the prior board members I had spoken to at that time, discouraged me from running.  I was told that it was a thankless job and that I would regret it if I were to be elected.  I continued to see our school district fall further and further from what I remember it being when I was a student/athlete in Pawhuska.  Like some others who have taken their kids to another district, my wife and I had the same thoughts.  However, the common theme that kept running through my mind was, you either become a part of the solution and dive in head first, or you continue to be a part of the problem by doing nothing.  I love my hometown and I want my kids to graduate from Pawhuska.  During the time I have been involved with the Board of Education, I have a new respect for the amount of responsibility, dedication and time this position demands.  It is a position in which you will learn a ton of information about the school district you serve, good and bad, and work with numerous people who all have one goal in mind….the betterment of the children served.  Being on the school board, there is a fine line that is walked between relaying important information to your constituents and following the laws that govern the position, most of which, do not allow information to be shared that pertains to the students and staff of the school district.  This is a tough position to be in and it takes a person with integrity, leadership skills and discernment to make the tough decisions that come with the position.  By no means do I feel that I have the district or public education as a whole figured completely out.  However, I do feel that my current experience on the Board of Education, the training I have received from the numerous board member training courses I have had the opportunity to take and the many leadership roles I have held (both with my employer and with the many civic organizations I am involved with) and most importantly, my desire to see our school district succeed best prepares me to continue to serve on the Board of Education.            

Contrary to some popular belief, it is not the school board’s place to run the school district.  We hire a competent and capable Superintendent who then brings together an effective administrative team to manage the day-to-day operations of the school district.  The Board of Education’s main function is to develop policies, procedures and resources are put in place to improve the school system and ensure that our children have an opportunity to obtain a good education in a safe environment and to be ready to face life after High School.   Making sure that every student in the district is college and/or career ready is a goal that the Board and our administrators want for the district.  Our focus on introducing more technology in the classroom we think will assist us in achieving this goal.  As the world becomes more technology based, our students need to be ready for what they will face during their next steps in life, whether it be in college or on the job.  Academia, in general, is moving towards a digital classroom environment.  More and more classes are offered and taken online and in your more traditional on-campus classes, textbooks are almost a thing of the past.  Just after I came on to the board, we approved a move towards a 1:1 initiative to purchase Chromebook devices for our students.  We first began with a pilot program involving only one or two classes at the High School level.  Today, each student in 7th-12th grades has access to a Chromebook.  Children in PreK-6th grades have class sets available to them.  Our goal with this 1:1 initiative is to procure funds to equip each student in grades Pre-K-12 with Chromebooks as well.  Today, a total of 450 Chromebooks are now used in the district.

“Another area of focus for me is the improvement of the district’s communication with our parents and our community stakeholders.  So often, lines of communication have barriers that have to be pushed aside in order for success to be achieved.  Dr. Neufeld, our Superintendent of Schools, has done a great job working to involve our community stakeholders during the time she has been here.  We have had several meetings to discuss the challenges/strengths and opportunities the district faces.  Through several great discussions and board work sessions, we have developed/are developing goals that our administrators are working towards to address these items.  One of the items that developed out of these meetings was to build and improve the district’s relationship with the Osage Nation.  Our superintendent and administrators have had meetings with several people and programs within the Osage Nation in the past year in an attempt to collaborate with the Nation as much as we possibly can.  The district is also focusing on test scores.  We realize the test scores for our district are not where we want them to be, so the administration has made some changes with the focus of our curriculum to more align with the recent changes in standards by the Oklahoma State Department of Education regarding testing, (focusing more on preparing for the ACT than in the past at the High School Level).  The faculty has ensured that students have more opportunities now to prepare and take the ACT and the prep exams.  At the lower grade levels, the Chromebooks are being used for intervention activities involving reading and math skills.  They are also gathering baseline data at all grade levels so that we can measure our success and areas where we need to focus more attention and resources.           

We rely heavily on the administrators and, mostly, teachers to drive the success and improvement of our district.  Teachers in the classroom are the administration’s “boots on the ground” in the fight to educate and mold the minds of the kids within our district.  Pawhuska Schools has great administrators, educators, coaches, maintenance and support staff.  Some of them have been in our district long enough to have taught today’s parents when they were in school and the fact that they are still willing to get up every morning and come to a job where many times, they do not feel appreciated shows that they honestly care about the children they serve.  There is no possible way that we could adequately show our appreciation for their service to the district.  So, I would ask of you, the next time you see one of these teachers or administrators we have on staff, please join me in thanking them for the job that they do.  None of us are perfect, but the faculty we have are truly dedicated to their jobs and we need to show support for them at ALL times.  Often times, only the negative things get talked about within our school district.  My goal is that we can highlight the GOOD that happens within the walls of the schools, rather than just focusing on the mistakes that are made.  Again, NO ONE IS PERFECT.  We must continue to improve the work environment of Pawhuska Public Schools to ensure that we keep our good faculty and can attract more and additional qualified personnel in the future.  Being in management myself, I understand the importance of surrounding yourself with great people.  Therefore, I will continue to push to ensure that we are attracting and retaining excellent faculty and staff for our district.

“Truancy has been found to be a major problem, not only within our school district but throughout our state as a whole.  What is the solution to this problem?  Well, like anything else in life, you must have something to “hook” the kids and be able to get them to buy into the idea of the importance of being in school.  Academics is one way to accomplish that through different classes offered, extracurricular activities such as band, choir, debate, FFA…the list goes on and on.  A key role in getting kids to commit to excellence in the classroom, in my opinion, is through athletics.  I know that when I was in school, that was a major draw for me.  My coaches motivated me to give everything I could both on the field and in the classroom.  The efforts to rekindle that passion for sports is happening NOW!  The administration has done a great job in recruiting new coaches and retaining quality coaches who are dedicated to mentoring and fostering a culture of pride in our school system.  These coaches are pivotal in keeping some of our more “at risk” kids interested in attending school on a regular basis.  I know that our athletic department has something special going on right now and we feel like, in the next few years, Pawhuska will be more competitive than we have ever been in all sports.  As a proud Pawhuska Huskie supporter, my goal is to keep the momentum on our side as we begin to compete at a high level and give our community a quality product that makes it easy to get behind and support. 

“Having great teachers, coaches, support staff, administrators and superintendent will not achieve our goals by themselves.  They are handcuffed by the lack of funding in Oklahoma for Public Education.  Our legislators and state officials have to be held accountable for the mistakes they have made in funding our education in this state.  Our board and administrators are constantly in contact with our local legislators basically begging them to support the necessary changes needed so that we can attract and retain more qualified teachers to employ in our school district to ensure that we can provide the education our children deserve.  An article on January 19 in the Tulsa World noted that Tulsa Chamber of Commerce Chair-Elect Steven Bradshaw, who is the President and CEO of BOK Financial, challenged the Chamber to recruit and fund pro-education candidates to replace legislators who have failed to build or support legislation that is needed to further education in the State of Oklahoma.  He stated, and I agree with this, that we should have a ZERO tolerance stance when it comes to those unwilling to have the courage to seek sustainable solutions for public education.  The recent Step-Up Oklahoma effort that was voted down is a shameful depiction of what Public Education in this state faces every day.  Teachers do not feel appreciated, they are underpaid and the job is tough.  Lawmakers should be ashamed of their efforts towards public education.  If elected, I vow to continue these conversations with our legislators and state officials in order to advocate for our district’s well-being and for Oklahoma Education as a whole.

Why you should Vote Ferguson on April 3rd!

“Although I have listed a few of my goals for the district above, I do not have an “Agenda”, nor do I feel that the Board of Education runs the school district.  I only want to see our district be the best it can be for the students of Pawhuska Public Schools.  The Board of Education is responsible to hire and oversee/evaluate the Superintendent.  The Superintendent then puts into place an Administrative Team to handle the day-to-day operations of the schools.  The board’s other primary responsibilities are to ensure adequate and up-to-date policies are put in place and to oversee the stewardship of the district’s resources.  I will NOT deviate from these responsibilities and overstep my bounds while on the Board of Education.

“I am a proven leader.  Both in the many positions, I have held with my employer and through the many civic clubs that I am involved in the community.  I will never ask someone to do something that I would not be willing to do myself.

“I vow to work tirelessly to ensure that our children/teens have the best education that we can possibly provide to them.  At whatever cost! 

“My voice/vote will not be swayed.  I have stood alone on tough decisions in the past and I will not back down from them in the future.  I do not believe that there needs to be someone voting “no” just to have someone vote “no”.  I let my yes be yes and my no be no.  However, no matter how I vote, I will support the vote of the majority.  If we as the board do not support the decisions made as a whole, you do nothing but divide the group and the district.  That is not productive in my opinion. 

“I WILL listen to teachers, parents, community members, and administration.  If you have an idea to improve or strengthen our school district, I am all ears. 

“I support staff, teachers, administrators and the superintendent. The influence that teachers have had on my life and other student’s lives are invaluable.  I get that!  At the end of the day, we are a team and in order for a team to be successful and strive towards any goal, the Board of Education MUST support the district staff, hold them accountable when needed and provide an adequate policy to ensure success.

“Most importantly, Consistency and Continuity.  How can the district improve if we are constantly chasing different rabbits?  I would venture to say that the most successful school districts in our state have Board of Education members and superintendents who have served for double-digit years consecutively.  The average tenure of a superintendent these days is 2 years.  We do not want to be average!  If we continue to have a revolving door at the superintendent’s office every 2-3 years, or sooner, and keep changing Board Members, we will never be able to work together to achieve our goals.           

“In conclusion, I want to make sure you all know that my passion for this district is to see it thrive so that my kids, your kids, and grandchildren can obtain the best education possible and/or to ensure that kids are college and life ready when they leave our buildings.  Also, I want you to know that the Board of Education and the administration are well aware that our district is not where we want it to be.  We are dedicated to making the necessary changes to see improvement.  However, we did not get to this point overnight and this change will not happen overnight and it will not happen without some bumps and bruises along the way!  It has been an honor to serve you, the public, and the students of Pawhuska Public Schools over the past year or so.  If elected, I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that this district becomes one that is successful and thriving.  The election is on Tuesday, April 3rd.  Please get out, vote and let your voice be heard regarding Pawhuska Public Schools!  Let’s continue to build and improve our school district for the kids.”


By

Osage News


Original Publish Date: 2018-04-01 00:00:00

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Osage News Staffhttps://osagenews.org
As an independent news organization, we strive to report news and information with fairness and balance. While being the official news organization of the Osage Nation, we base our news judgements on our loyalties to our readers and Osage citizens, and we are not directly beholden to the Executive, Legislative, or Judicial branches of the Osage Nation.
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