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The Cordell Beacon

May Public School’s Switch Allows Epic Charter to Operate Rural District
Jennifer Palmer education quality and say with regularly scheduled rolled in Epic Charter high school graduation laptops for students and
08 Oklahoma Watch their school’s rapid growth classes. School, which took over rates and high numbers a stipend for internet ser-
is proof that their online “This is Epic One-on- management of the Pano- of students leaving Epic vices, but they pitched
To save his financially and blended models meet One (the statewide virtual la district last year. and returning to tradition- combining the local
imperiled school district, families’ needs. Shelly school) at home under the The plan to convert to al schools with academic school board with Pano-
2019 Panola Superintendent Hickman, a spokeswoman pretense of a brick-and- a charter school seemed credit insufficient for the la’s, which would have giv-
Brad Corcoran in 2017 for Epic, said Panola and mortar conversion charter like the only option. time they were enrolled. en each community fewer
pitched a plan to convert Norwood are examples district,” he said. “Now we’re not going (Epic maintains that some seats at the table.
Page the traditional public dis-
trict into a charter school.
of how Epic tries to make
different learning models
Some parents like the
changes. Jessica Man-
to be a charter school,”
Corcoran, the superin-
students come to them
behind in credits and the
After Norwood’s school
board unanimously reject-
A009 In becoming a charter,
Panola Public Schools
work together to serve all
students.
ning, who lives in Wilbur-
ton, near Panola, sends
tendent, told community
members gathered in the
school helps them catch
up.)
ed the agreement Dec.
13, the district’s super-
would turn over its man- The rural Panola school her four children to the school’s cafeteria, accord- Epic’s presence in Pa- intendent Ken Bridges,
Clip agement to a company af- district is one of two con- school. “At first, people ing to a video posted to a nola has also raised con- who Shoemaker said sup-
resized filiated with Epic Charter version schools in the had a mindset that our school district Facebook cerns about aggressive at- ported the plan, resigned,
Schools, the largest online state. The district was kids were going to be page. “We’re going to tempts to attract students after serving six months
28% school in the state. The struggling financially and staring at a computer all be a conversion school, and teachers from sur- in the position. Bridges
school board agreed. facing a potential annex- day,” she said. “Elemen- which means a traditional rounding school districts could not be reached for
The Epic-related firm ation when the board in tary hasn’t changed. High public school with charter even in the middle of the comment.
contributed $100,000 to- 2017 agreed to be man- school has more comput- rules.” academic year.
ward Panola’s debt as part aged by an Epic company er work, but they still have Referring to the Epic Panola spent $650 for Hope and Uncertainty
of the agreement. That to save the school. book work.” deal, Mikel Blake, then postcards, and at least
company manages the But as a business, Epic a Panola school board some were sent to ad- Panola and Epic officials
small district for a more continues to explore For the Panola deal, member, said, “It benefit- dresses in nearby Wil- declined several requests
than 10 percent cut of its ways of accelerating its Epic used a limited liabil- ed them, it benefited us, burton school district, by Oklahoma Watch to
funding. Panola’s high growth. Combined, its ity company it formed in it kept the school open. promising a customized tour Panola school and
school students now have own two schools — Epic 2015 called Community It didn’t make everyone education for students speak to students and
the option to attend most virtual and Epic Blend- Strategies-CA. Commu- happy. There were people and touting the school’s staff.
classes online from home. ed in Oklahoma City and nity Strategies-CA is a who were unsettled.” “double-digit academic School board president
The deal was unprec- Tulsa — enrolled at least nonprofit LLC, while the Panola’s board unani- growth.” Randy Conley provided a
edented. Not only was 23,000 students this year. similarly named Commu- mously approved the plan Butler called this “pred- written statement saying
it one of the first conver- A fourth blended center is nity Strategies Inc. is the on May 23, 2017. atory marketing” and said parents and faculty are
sions-to-charter in the expected to open this fall tax-exempt nonprofit that “Epic basically saved the statements made on grateful for the school’s
state, it allowed Epic’s near Rose State College in is the legal name for Epic us,” said Shannon Reed the postcard are mislead- partnership with Epic,
company to operate a Midwest City. To attend, Charter Schools. Ferguson, a Panola school ing. which he said has been
school and gain many Epic students have to live Community Strate- board member whose Panola elementary stu- beneficial both financially
benefits denied other in the same county as a gies-CA now receives all daughter, Samantha, at- dents did post positive and academically.
charter schools: It could blended center, and the revenue for Panola, in- tends there. academic growth on the “Today, our school fi-
tap into and spend lo- Panola school is their first cluding local property tax- latest school report cards, nances are sound and we
cal property tax revenue foray into rural Oklahoma. es, state aid and federal Concerns About Epic with 80 percent of stu- have improved (from F)
to cover costs of student Epic’s school in Califor- funding. dents improving between to an overall grade of ‘C’
transportation, school nia is also expanding, now There is just one other Epic’s rapid rise and 2016-17 and 2017-18. But from the state,” he said.
buildings and sports facili- enrolling students from conversion school in the push into school district only 27 percent of those The letter grade is for Pa-
ties, like traditional school five of the state’s most state: Millwood Elementa- management has many students scored on grade nola Elementary, a preK-8
districts. populous counties. And ry in Oklahoma City, which traditional school leaders level, compared with 57 school.
And Epic didn’t stop at an Epic-related compa- converted in May 2017, wondering what’s next. percent in Wilburton and The financial uncer-
Panola. ny is in contract negotia- around the time Panola Pam Deering, executive 51 percent statewide. tainty in Panola, and the
Leaders at Norwood, tions with Pulaski County did. Millwood is still man- director of the Coopera- transition to Epic, have
another small district Schools in Arkansas. aged by the local school tive Council for Oklahoma Changes at School caused many students to
nearly 100 miles north In the midst of that board. School Administrators, leave. Panola’s enrollment
of Panola in the town of growth, Epic has drawn said the state’s lack of in- Panola is so small that is down 35 percent from
Hulbert, say Epic came more scrutiny from law- Financial Crisis vestment in public educa- teachers handle at least 2014, according to state
to them last year with a makers, the public and tion over the last decade two grades apiece. It has data. It slipped by 2.7 per-
nearly identical propos- state and federal inves- The Panola district had has contributed to many a Class B basketball team, cent, or three students,
al to convert the school tigators, the Tulsa World been struggling with its educators’ frustration with but there’s no art, phys- from 2017 to 2018.
to a charter managed reported. finances since at least Epic. ical education or music, Still, Conley says, “If it
by Epic. Epic planned to 2013-14. According to “There is a concern, parents say. Epic’s taking wasn’t for Epic, Panola
consolidate the Norwood Purpose of Law court documents, 25 yes, that someone could over management of the school would no longer
and Panola districts, said teachers and staff sued swoop in and offer a huge school didn’t change that. exist … We hope that
Norwood Board President One state legislator says the district in 2015, alleg- chunk of change to take But other aspects have more of the students that
Danny Shoemaker. the law permitting the ar- ing they were owed a total over a school,” Deering changed. Teachers can left Panola for Wilburton
But in December, the rangement in Panola was of more than $91,000 in said. “We just have to ed- work part-time at Panola and surrounding districts
Norwood board rebuffed never intended to be used back pay. A creditor took ucate our (local school) and part-time at Epic or during our uncertain time
the proposal. by a virtual school. the the district to court boards and superinten- another school. Super- return to us.”
“It (the Epic propos- A 2016 change to the over about $2,500 in un- dents and communities intendent Corcoran, for
al) would not benefit our Oklahoma Charter School paid credit card bills. that a teacher in the class- example, earned nearly Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit,
students, and we’re there Act allows a traditional Then the state cut school room is where education $87,000 in 2018, but only nonpartisan media organization
for the kids,” Shoemak- school district to convert funding after a revenue needs to be, and virtual $4,500 was for his role at that produces in-depth and in-
er said, adding he was to a charter. The measure failure. The state Depart- can be a part of that if it’s Panola; he is actually a vestigative stories on important
grateful their situation specifically states, “A con- ment of Education gave handled right.” full-time Epic employee. issues facing the state. For more
wasn’t as dire as Pano- version school shall retain the Panola school board Wilburton Public And Epic uses Panola as Oklahoma Watch content, go to
la’s. He questioned Epic’s the characteristics of a tra- an ultimatum: Balance the Schools Superintendent a hub for giving standard- oklahomawatch.org.
motives, suggesting they ditional public school.” books by July 1 or the stu- Trice Butler talks about ized tests to its statewide
were more about profiting Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shaw- dents will be reassigned the struggles some fami- virtual school students in Reporter Andrea Eger of the Tulsa
through its management nee, said when the bill was to neighboring districts. lies have faced since Epic the area. World contributed to this story.
affiliate. “This was more to considered in the Legisla- Emma Tiley, 15, and Charter School took over In the Norwood district,
line somebody’s pockets,” ture, lawmakers didn’t dis- her mom, Jennifer Tiley, management in the neigh- which rejected Epic’s man-
he said. cuss a conversion school look at photos on the wall boring district of Panola. agement proposal, Epic
Epic officials have de- being anything other than at Panola High School. Trice Butler, superinten- officials deny that they
nied they put profits over a brick-and-mortar school Emma is a freshman en- dent of Wilburton Public were the ones who ap-
Schools, which neighbors proached district leaders.
Panola, said she is con- “Norwood reached out
cerned that Epic is looking after hearing how we were
to replicate what it’s done able to financially and ac-
in Panola in other districts. ademically turn around
Butler said her primary Panola,” said Hickman,
concern is her belief that the Epic spokeswoman.
students at Epic are re- Shoemaker, the Nor-
ceiving a subpar educa- wood board president,
tion. She cited Epic’s low said the company offered

Property of OPS News Tracker and members of the Oklahoma Press Association.
The Blanchard News

May
EPIC Charter Schools
09

2019 Announces Blanchard NHS


Page
A012
Clip
resized
& NJHS Inductees
73% s EPIC Charter School has announced that 6 students from Blanchard
will be inducted into the National Honor Society (NHS) and National
e Junior Honor Society (NJHS).
e The awards will be presented in formal ceremonies at Rose State
e College in Midwest City and at Oral Roberts University on May 7 and
al May 14, respectively.
y “We are so proud of these EPIC students who have earned this
prestigious honor by committing themselves to the highest levels of
e academic, social, civic and ethical achievement,” said EPIC Assistant
e Superintendent of Instruction Bart Banfield.
o Each EPIC NHS inductee receives a certificate, a membership pin
d. and the right to wear the traditional white NHS hood as part of their
n graduation ceremony regalia. In addition, taking part in these prestigious
r organizations opens doors for member students for college and beyond.
h EPIC educator and National Honor Society Advisor Beth Powell said
e. the hard work EPIC students have put in to become inductees will
r almost certainly pay huge dividends when it comes to planning for the
future.
d “NHS and NJHS members get access to college admission and
s financial aid planning, access to service projects, scholarship potential
e and leadership development,” Powell said. “So earning membership
w into these organizations is about more than just being on an honor roll.
e It’s about preparing for future success.”
f Camden Bardsher
; Jerri-Lynne Hayes
f Taylor Hayes
; Samuel Hegeman
s Kylee Ott
f Ashton Sullivan
a
s

Property of OPS News Tracker and members of the Oklahoma Press Association.
Clip
May 2019 Page resized
15 A004 84%

Henryetta Free-Lance

County EPIC NHS


students named
EPIC Charter School achievement, EPIC Assistant National Honor Society
announced two Okmulgee Superintendent of Instruction Advisor Beth Powell said the
County EPIC students were Bart Banfield said. hard work students have put
among 438 across the state to NHS was founded in 1921 in to become inductees will
be inducted into the National and NJHS was founded in almost certainly pay huge
Honor Society (NHS) and 1929. dividends when it comes to
National Junior Honor Both organizations place planning for the future.
Society (NJHS). scholarship, service, leader- “NHS and NJHS members
Samantha Smith of ship, character and citizen- get access to college admis-
Henryetta and Treyton Hurt ship at the center of their core sion and financial aid plan-
of Okmulgee will be present- values. ning, access to service proj-
ed with honors during awards It is estimated that around ects, scholarship potential
ceremonies on May 7 and one million students take part and leadership develop-
May 14 at Rose State College in Honor Society activities. ment,” Powell said. “So earn-
and Oral Roberts University. Both Smith and Hurt will ing membership into these
“We are so proud of these receive a certificate, member- organizations is about more
EPIC students who have ship pin and the right to wear than just being on an honor
earned this prestigious honor the traditional white NHS roll. It’s about preparing for
by committing themselves to hood as part of their gradua- future success.”
the highest levels of academ- tion ceremony regalia. For more information,
ic, social, civic and ethical EPIC educator and visit: epiccharterschools.com.
Property of OPS News Tracker and members of the Oklahoma Press Association.