Posted Date: 09/18/2020
Committee Provides Report on Mascot Review
The Committee to Reconsider Union’s Mascot updated the Board of Education on their first meeting, which was held Monday, Aug. 31, via Zoom. This meeting was a “get-acquainted” session that lasted over two hours, according to Committee Chair Chris Payne, who serves as Chief Communications Officer for the district.
Thirty members of the committee were in attendance, including tribal representatives Del Beaver, Second Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and Corey Bunch, Executive Director of Education for the Cherokee Tribe, who serve as non-voting members, along with Board members Ken Kinnear and Stacey Roemerman. View all members of the committee.
At the meeting, Payne said they first set some ground rules. “The purpose of the committee is to make a decision whether or not Union will move forward with the Redskins mascot name. That is the only thing this group will be deciding. Committee members have been asked to be frank and speak their mind, and to keep the conversation respectful and civil. We will be weighing all the evidence before making a final decision.”
The group will meet every two weeks, with meetings limited to two hours. They will report to the board monthly and have been asked to deliver a final recommendation no later than Dec. 14, 2020.
The committee explored the history of Union’s Redskins mascot, which debuted in 1945. (Previously, the district has been the Cornhuskers and the Hornets.) It was 17 years ago, in 2003, when Union’s School Board last examined the mascot issue. On Nov. 10, 2003, Union’s Board of Education voted unanimously to retain the name. Scott McDaniel, who was Board president at the time, said that Native Americans in the district were not offended by the name; many, in fact felt like Union taught respect for Native Americans and that the mascot was an honor. McDaniel said it was “outside forces” that had issues with the mascot. In voting to retain the Redskins name at that time, McDaniel said, “If you are one of thousands who identifies him or herself as a Union Redskin, you are truly saying, ‘I am proud of who I am, because I am proud of myself, my school and my community.’”
Since that time, there has been a significant cultural shift. In the intervening years since the Board’s decision in 2003, opposition to the mascot name has grown among Union insiders. One such group, calling themselves Union United for Change, has amassed 1,200 followers. In addition, the district has received a constant stream of letters from parents, alumni and current students demanding change. That’s why the Board at the July 13 meeting approved Superintendent Kirt Hartzler’s recommendation to take up this issue once again.
Payne said the two tribal members, Del Beaver and Corey Bunch, shared their perspectives. “Both have great respect for Union Public Schools and are highly supportive of the district in many ways, with one exception,” said Payne. “They do not support the use of having Native Americans as mascots.”
The other members of the committee then shared their thoughts on the topic, with people on both sides of the issue. “I was extremely pleased with the depth of the conversation, and the fact that we were able to have civil discourse on such a provocative topic,” said Payne.
To share your thoughts and comments on the mascot, please email them to [email protected]. Comments will be shared with the committee.
CareATC to provide Clinic Services to Union PPO Employees
The Board of Education approved an agreement with CareATC to provide clinic services to Union PPO employees for the 2021 year. CareATC already provides health services to Union employees after OU Physicians ended its service with Union Public Schools late last spring.
“The insurance/clinic committee went through an extensive RFP process this year after we were informed by OU physicians that they no longer wished to run our employee clinic,” said Jay Loegering, executive director of Human Resources. “After review of the costs associated with maintaining our own clinic and other options presented by the finalists, it was determined that Union employees would be best served by utilizing Tulsa-based CareATC and their seven clinics in the Tulsa area, and by closing the Union employee clinic,” explained Jay Loegering, executive director of Human Resources.
“CareATC offers incredible service, up-to-date technology including its own app that allows employees to make real-time appointments at any of the CareATC clinics, and even have telehealth visits through the app, without having to leave their building,” he said. “Additionally, Dr. Connie Lane is in negotiations with CareATC and plans on joining their staff, so employees who want to continue to be seen by Dr. Lane will have that opportunity.”
Employees and their dependents who are on the PPO plan will also have the ability to visit any of the CareATC clinics nationwide. The copay to visit the CareATC clinics will be changed to a $0 copay, and will be able to continue to receive no-cost generic prescriptions, as well as the savings experienced when they utilize the ancillary services or direct contract facilities that the Clinic recommends (such as Envision, and Oklahoma Cancer Specialists and Research Institute). The Clinic informs employee patients that these direct contract facilities are available at reduced savings to the employee, which helps to save employee out-of-pocket costs, but also results in savings to Union's self-insured plan.
In a related matter, the Board also approved monthly premium rates applicable to those persons enrolled in the District’s self-insured PPO medical Indemnity Plan for the 2021 year; rates will remain unchanged for the 11th straight year. (PPO stands for Preferred Provider Organization.)
Loegering said, “At this time, it is recommended that the 2021 premium rates for the District's PPO plan remain at its current levels for employees. The committee feels we can support our current rates for 2021. However, rates will need to be watched closely as we approach 2022.”
Union's self-insured plans continue to be competitive with the state's Health Choice High medical plan, while benefits for Union's self-insured PPO plan remain richer, and co-pays and deductibles remain lower in many areas. For comparison, Union employees covering their family on our medical plan pay $6,574.44 less annually in premiums than other districts in Oklahoma, and have a lower deductible and lower out-of-pocket costs.
Board Approves Revisions to District’s Gifted Educational Plan
The Board of Education unanimously approved revisions to the district’s Gifted Educational Plan and Program Monitoring document.
Dr. Todd Nelson, senior executive director of Research, Design and Assessment, said “Since state tests were not administered during the 2019-20 school year, one of the criteria normally used to identify students as gifted is not available. The proposed changes in the District Gifted Educational Plan would allow additional assessment criteria to be included in the gifted identification process. The additional criteria apply scores from STAR Reading and Math, PSAT9, PSAT10/NMSQT, SAT, ACT, and other similar assessments. The benefits of adding the criteria include maintaining the number of gifted students identified along with the associated funding.”
The proposed changes are redlined on page two of the proposed District Gifted Educational Plan. The revised plan will also have to be approved by the Gifted Local Advisory Committee and submitted to the OK SDE prior to the application of the new criteria in identifying gifted students.
Board Awards Bid for New Chiller at the UMAC
Board members accepted a bid of $213,810 from Forrest Shoemaker AC., Inc., for a new 700-ton carrier chiller for air-conditioning at the UMAC.
The base bid scope called for the existing chiller to be upgraded using many of the existing components and adding modern features such as, variable speed operation. “The alternate bid was to provide a complete new chiller for comparison purposes and based on that alternative price we recommend contracting to purchase a complete new chiller,” said Fred Isaacs, director of Construction Services.