Thursday, December 11, 2008

Open Door Policy - Dec. 10, 2008

This past week, I was able to attend the Oklahoma State Fire Marshall Commission meeting in Chickasha and see friends from the fire service. At this meeting, Preston Burchett received the Commission's Award of Valor for risking his life to save a person trapped in a vehicle that was on fire. The world needs more heroes like this young man.

I was also able to spend this past week with the Professional Improvement instructors from my three counties in District 65. The P.I. Instructors, most commonly called FFA teachers, gather each year to discuss the activities they have participated in with their kids and enjoy fellowship with the upcoming Christmas season. I informed them of one of the bills I'll be filing regarding the tax exemption of the premium checks the students receive at stock shows. These checks go to cover the costs relating to the animals they show and I consider this an educational component of their program. We will classify the checks as a scholarship rather than income and this should exempt both their state and federal portion of taxes due on their projects.

Another topic of discussion at each of the three meetings centered on new policies relating to absences by the students. There is an updated directive issued by the State Department of Education stating that students may only miss up to ten days for activities, but with special permission by the local school board, can miss an additional five days for recognized events. There is also a waiver for attendance beyond those 15 days for state and federal competitions where the students will be participating, as well as as paging for the legislature. There is also consideration given to managers for sports teams and cheerleaders as long as the school counts them towards the team component.

I visited with State Superintendent Garrett on Monday about this process and we both agree this will allow students to gain more of an educational experience through their activities as long as they are responsible with their school work. She, along with Dr. Phil Berkenbile, the State Director of Career Techs and Danny Rennels, the Executive Secretary for the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association worked very hard to update this policy to allow a more sensible balance between the classroom and educational opportunities through various school sponsored extracurricular activities. Students flourish when they can broaden their horizons and contribute to their school and community through activities outside the classroom. All three of these leaders are to be commended for their work to help Oklahoma students grow as citizens.

It is an honor to represent your views at the State Capitol. If you wish to contact me and discuss one of these or another issue, I can be reached at my office in Oklahoma City toll-free at 1-800-522-8502, or directly at 1-405-557-7305. My e-mail address is at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559, Rush Springs, OK 73082 and my website is on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Cut line: Reps. Joe Dorman and Leslie Osborn, Sen. Ron Justice and members of the Oklahoma State Fire Marshall Commission honor Preston Burchett

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