By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Donors were not shy about getting out their checkbooks Wednesday as the Norman Public Schools Foundation celebrated 30 years at its annual donor luncheon.
Norman Public School Foundation helps Norman teachers have a greater impact on students’ educational experience. NPSF provides a direct benefit to Norman educators and students with academic programs, classroom grants, scholarships and teacher recognition.
The organization began in 1984 when 78 people donated $1,000 each. Three of these founding members attended the donor luncheon, including Gerry Mayes, Joe Sparks and Buddy Pendarvis.
Through its 30 years, NPSF has put $1.5 million back into Norman schools. Logan Johnson, NPSF president, said this year, the foundation intends to give more than $100,000 in grants to teachers.
Guest speakers at the luncheon included Norman Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joe Siano, who gave a NPS district update, and Amy Brooks Young, a fifth-grade teacher who spoke of her experience receiving grants from the foundation.
The luncheon’s keynote speaker was David W. Prater, Oklahoma County district attorney. Prater is a Norman alumnus and a former Norman police officer.
Siano described a sense of loss and concern for public education that he recently felt at a public school administration conference. He said administrators feel as if public education is on the cusp of change and not necessarily for the benefit of students, but despite these concerns, the Norman community has made public education a priority.
“The day after (the school administration conference), this community stepped up and passed a bond by 84 percent. We have the same concerns and problems as those across the state and nation, but we continue to move forward,” he said. “The key difference is what’s happening in this room today. Your efforts say to teachers, administrators and students you are valuable and important, and education is a priority.”
Siano also said the district would continue to have a vision for students beyond graduation and prepare them for future career choices.
“We’re preparing kids for more than graduation. We’re preparing them for their lives,” he said. “We thank you (NPSF donors) for that opportunity to commit to all of our students.”
Next, Young spoke to luncheon attendees. Young said she had received more than $5,000 in eight grants that provided rocket kits, nonfiction writing materials, forensic science kits and 700 novels for her students.
Young said when students get to the end of a novel, she stops them from finishing so her whole class can read the ending together.
“The days we finish a novel are the best days of the year. That’s magic. This shared experience brings kids together and creates relationships. … I have my grant certificates hanging in my classroom so students know where the books come from,” she said. “Those magic moments and books are because of all of you (NPSF). Every single donor and community partnership is important.”
Teachers should not have to fundraise, Prater said with conviction as he spoke to luncheon attendees in his keynote address. Prater described his experience with crime and how he believes education touches everything.
“People come to me and say, ‘What do we do about the high crime rate in our state?’ or ‘What do we do about the high women incarceration rate?’, and I tell them it’s easy. Move all the money we spend on the back end of people’s lives to the front end of their lives. Put it into education and mental health and substance abuse programs for children.”
Prater said in the state, $7,500 is spent per student, while $18,000 is spent per inmate on incarceration, and something is wrong with that delineation of resources.
“Keeping kids in school and teaching them to read improves lifestyles and the community and literally saves lives,” Prater said after describing his experience with gang members who told him they turned to violence because it was how they were raised.
The majority of gang members Prater has spoken to dropped out of high school and do not know how to read.
“The money you give are dollars for change. I could never put a price on what you all do. You improve kids’ lives and save them,” he said. “By supporting the education system and teachers, you keep kids in school and saves lives.’”
For more information, visit npsfok.com or call 366-5947.
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