Local & Regional

Catoosa Public Schools will lay off seven staff members to deal with a budget shortfall.

Three administrator positions, including an elementary assistant principal, and four clerical jobs will be cut July 1 under a restructuring plan approved by the Catoosa Public Schools Board last night.

Superintendent Alicia O’Donnell said Catoosa is dealing with declining enrollment and not enough state funding.

The Tulsa Public Schools Board is expected to vote tonight on a restructuring plan that would result in layoffs July 1.

The board took up the plan in a special meeting Thursday but held off on voting.

In all, 174 positions are up for elimination as TPS tries to close a $20 million budget gap. Under Superintendent Deborah Gist’s recommendations, 110 would be cut July first.

Of those, 77 are currently filled. Some of those employees have contract rights as certified teachers.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Mike Bloomberg leads Oklahoma’s Democratic primary field in a new poll two weeks before the election, but President Trump is essentially a lock to win in November.

In a Sooner Survey poll, 20% of past Oklahoma Democratic primary voters said they’d vote for Bloomberg on March 3, followed by 14% for Bernie Sanders, 12% for Joe Biden and 11% for Pete Buttigieg.

Tuesday's top stories:

  • A state Senate panel passes a bill to ban abortion if a heartbeat or brain waves can be detected.
  • The Tulsa Public Schools Board should vote tonight on a job restructuring plan that would save up to $6.1 million.
  • Backers of a state question to curb the use of sentence enhancements say they're about halfway to getting the number of signatures they need.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

An Oklahoma Senate committee advanced a bill Monday to effectively ban abortion at six weeks.

Senate Bill 1859 would require doctors to check for a heartbeat and brain waves if a woman is at least six weeks pregnant. If either is detected, the procedure could not be done.

Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman pressed SB1859 author Sen. Paul Scott about his admission the test to check for brain activity, an electroencephalogram, can’t be done on an embryo or fetus without killing it.

Whitney Bryen-Oklahoma Watch

A mediator has been appointed in the gaming compact dispute between Gov. Kevin Stitt and what's now 11 Oklahoma tribes.

Former U.S. District Judge Layn R. Phillips will try to broker an agreement in the months-long disagreement between Stitt and the tribes over whether gaming compacts expired at the end of 2019 or renewed automatically. The Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations sued Stitt Dec. 31, asking a judge to rule the compacts renewed automatically.

Stitt believes the compacts expired and asked the judge to find Class III gaming illegal.

Oklahoma lawmakers are working to ensure organizations offering health insurance cover mental health treatment the same way they do medical treatment.

Federal law already mandates mental health parity from group health plans and insurance companies, but Senate Bill 1718 would require it of any entity offering health coverage and regulated by the state insurance department.

Sen. John Michael Montgomery said he does not expect their costs to go up as a result.

Whitney Bryen-Oklahoma Watch

If you think Oklahoma has a lot of marijuana dispensaries, you’re right.

Verilife, a dispensary with locations in six states, looked at brick-and-mortar dispensaries across the U.S. and found Oklahoma has more than 600 by their count.

"They are home to the second[-highest] amount of dispensaries total in the country only behind Oregon. So, that was a little bit surprising for us to see such a boom in a short time for Oklahoma," said Matt Zajechowski, who handles public relations for Verilife.

Serge Melki

The state Senate will again this year not take up a bill to completely ban abortion in Oklahoma.

Sen. Joseph Silk introduced Senate Bill 13 last year. It would classify abortion as a crime and not offer any exceptions, even to save a mother’s life. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat did not allow the measure even a committee hearing last year, and said it still has the same "fatal flaw."

City of Tulsa

Artists have a chance to make a big statement in downtown Tulsa.

The Tulsa Parking Authority is taking proposals for a work of public art on the Main Park Plaza Garage at Fourth and Main. The garage has had blank, white walls for decades.

"It can be anything from a painted mural or something that’s more in-depth and maybe more kinetic and interactive than a mural can be," said Downtown Coordinating Council Executive Director Brian Kurtz, who serves on the parking authority.

University of Oklahoma

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — A University of Oklahoma journalism professor who used a racial slur during a class lecture will step down from teaching the course for the rest of the semester and undergo racial sensitivity training, the college’s dean said told students and faculty on Friday.

In a letter to faculty and students, Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication Dean Ed Kelley said professor Peter Gade “has agreed that this episode is a chance to learn and grow.”

Monday's top stories:

  • A bill to institute a blanket ban on abortion will not be heard in the Oklahoma Senate this session, but others to effectively ban the procedure will be.
  • An OU professor who used a racial slur during class will step down from teaching the course the rest of the semester.
  • Oklahoma has the second-most marijuana dispensaries in the U.S., according to a new survey.

Moore War Run

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A third member of a suburban Oklahoma City high school cross-country team who was struck by a speeding pickup truck earlier this month has died.

Kolby Crum, 18, died Saturday at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center, said hospital spokeswoman April Sandefer.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — More Oklahoma inmates have been released under a law that directs a state board to review sentences of those in prison for crimes that would not be considered felonies if charged today.

The law, which took effect in November, gives the state Pardon and Parole Board authority to establish an accelerated, single stage docket to review sentences, The Oklahoman reported. Under Oklahoma’s expedited commutation docket, 124 inmates, 83 men and 41 women, were released Thursday.

Department of Tourism

Now’s your chance to weigh in on what’s working or not working in downtown Tulsa.

The Downtown Coordinating Council is taking input through a survey to help plan priorities for improvement.

DCC Executive Director Brian Kurtz said everyone’s feedback is welcome because between living, working and spending a night out, just about everyone interacts with downtown.

"And even for those who don’t, we want to understand how downtown can be relevant to people that aren’t experiencing it on a regular basis. We really want this to be everyone’s neighborhood," Kurtz said.

House Passes Bill to Allow Public Safety Districts

Feb 14, 2020
KWGS Photo

The Oklahoma House has passed a bill to let voters decide whether they want to help fund public safety services. 
 

The bill proposes to let voters decide on a city-by-city basis if they’d like to set up public safety districts, raising their property taxes to go toward public safety services, like fire and police. 

filephoto

The third Oklahoman checked for possible coronavirus or ‘CO-VID 19’ tests negative. Those results are just in from the Centers for Disease Control. State Epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed says all Oklahomans tested so far are negative for the disease. He says since the cases are negative, there’s no need to release locations where the individuals live or work. If that situation becomes necessary for public safety, it will be made public.

Meanwhile, health officials say because of safeguards put in place, chances of an outbreak in Oklahoma are low at this time.

The Tulsa Public Schools Board decided to wait until Tuesday to vote on a recommendation to eliminate 174 district office jobs.

The board did not give a specific reason for delaying their vote after a roughly four-hour special meeting Thursday night.

District office restructuring was a major piece of Superintendent Deborah Gist's recommendations to close a $20 million budget gap. Gist said in January the district office was a common target for cuts in community budget meetings.

File photo

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A former Oklahoma police officer has pleaded guilty to possessing unregistered firearm silencers.

Federal court documents show former Chandler police officer Steven Bradley Simon pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of possessing silencers without serial numbers that were not registered with the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.

“I am guilty,” Simon wrote in a signed plea agreement dated Tuesday and faces up to 20 years in prison and $500,000 in fines at sentencing in about 90 days.

Google

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City has hired a company to install guardrails along the sides of a bridge where at least four motorists have lost their lives in the last four years.

The Turner Turnpike bridge became an infamous landmark after Aubrey McClendon, an oil-and-gas pioneer, crashed his sport utility vehicle into it on March 2, 2016, going at 78 mph.

The city first made efforts to have guardrails installed around the concrete structure two years ago but the paperwork got lost, officials said.

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — A University of Oklahoma journalism professor has sent his students an email apology for using the N-word during a class lecture in which he argued the racist slur was no more offensive than the term “boomer.”

Peter Gade, director of graduate studies at OU’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, said in an email to students that he “made an inexcusable mistake” when used the slur during a class Tuesday.

A man is in critical condition after leading authorities on a chase from Tulsa to Muskogee that ended in a rollover crash.

The Tulsa Police Department said the man was in a stolen 2007 Ford Focus last night around 8 at the Red Roof Inn near Admiral Boulevard and Sheridan Road, and he drove off when an officer tried to stop him.

The chase went from surface streets to the Broken Arrow Expressway to the Muskogee Turnpike, with TPD's helicopter taking over the chase near the turnpike entrance.

Friday's top stories:

  • Oklahoma officials say they have a reliable supply of lethal injections drugs and are ready to resume executions.
  • The Tulsa Public Schools Board delays a vote on cutting dozens of district office jobs.
  • Tulsa County has one of seven more flu deaths in Oklahoma over the past week.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa nonprofit Reading Partners received on Thursday what they say is their biggest-ever corporate donation.

PSO presented the literacy tutoring group a five-year, $250,000 grant from its parent company’s AEP Foundation.

Reading Partners helps provide one-on-one reading tutoring from volunteers to kindergarteners through fourth graders in Tulsa Public Schools. Executive Director Justin Harlan said the grant will help Reading Partners expand into more schools and reach more than the roughly 1,700 students they did last year.

Oklahoma-DOC

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announced Thursday the state has secured a supply of the drugs in its execution protocol.

Hunter could not say where the drugs — midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride — came from under state law that keeps the source of execution drugs confidential.

Wikimedia

With international focus on the deadly coronavirus outbreak, flu cases continue to rise in Oklahoma. The latest statistics show seven more deaths, one in Tulsa County, and 245 more hospitalizations statewide in the past week. Leanne Stephens with the Tulsa Health Department says flu is widespread and serious. She urges precautions like frequent hand washing and getting vaccinated. It can lessen symptoms even if you get the flu.

Thursday's top stories:

  • Oklahoma has a new brand: "Imagine that."
  • A judge rules a transgender inmate's lawsuit against Oklahoma prison officials can move forward.
  • State lawmakers may specify how medical marijuana sales tax revenue earmarked for education can be spent.

Oro Valley Police

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner has released a heavily-redacted autopsy report on an Oklahoma man whose remains were found in the Catalina Mountains in December.

It doesn’t list the cause of death of 66-year-old Steven Mark Brashear, but the forensic toxicology report says the man had opioid analgesics and oxycodone in his system.

Brashear’s remains were discovered along a hiking trail in the Coronado National Forest outside Tucson.

pxhere

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The discredited practice of conversion therapy for LGBTQ children would be prohibited in Oklahoma under a bill approved on Wednesday by a Republican-controlled legislative committee.

In a bipartisan vote, the House Committee on Children, Youth and Family Services voted 10-4 to send the bill to the full House. The measure would add conversion therapy to a list of unprofessional conduct by various medical and behavioral health providers.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma State Department of Education hit an online charter school with a half-million-dollar fine for exceeding the legal limit on administrative costs.

Epic One-on-One spent 5.58% of its total budget on administrative services, exceeding the 5% cap set by the state, according to an email the state education department sent to the school’s superintendent.

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