Posted Date: 11/10/2021
Board of Education Ratifies Student Vote To Make Redhawk Official Mascot
Following an overwhelming vote of students in grades 6-12, the Union Board of Education voted unanimously to approve Redhawks as the district’s new mascot.
More than 80 percent of students in grades 6-12 voted decisively for Redhawks versus 19.3 percent for the Bison. When fourth and fifth grade student votes were included, the Redhawks received 72.5 percent of the vote, and the Bison 27.5 percent.
“We are thrilled that the votes came in so resoundingly in favor of the Redhawks,” Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler said. “Part of the fun has been figuring out where we were going to land on a mascot, as we had more than 320 people make suggestions. Early on, there was a group of students who had put Redhawks forth as a possibility, and we began to see consensus building early for this name when we started looking at attributes. I believe Redhawks strongly positions Union for the future and is a mascot we can live with for many years to come. Thanks to the thousands of students and patrons who provided input as we went through what I believe was a thoughtful process.”
Two frontrunners had emerged during the nomination process, with both Redhawks and Bison being suggested by a number of people. The Mascot Advisory Committee narrowed the choices down to these two finalists after an extensive public search for mascots that had attributes that most closely aligned with Union’s values. Voting took place among students in grades 4-12 from Oct. 7 – 22, 2021, in schools throughout the district. Elementary students were also granted opportunities to express their choices through activities such as art or essays.
“Next comes the really fun part as we begin the design process for the new mascot,” said Chris Payne, chief communications officer for the district. “We have an artist who is taking all of the feedback that has been collected about the desirable mascot attributes and he will create several different iterations. Once we are satisfied with the choices, we will go back out to the students and they will cast the deciding vote on their favorite design, which will become Union’s new symbol. We want to make sure this new mascot is one that everyone will embrace as we take things in a new direction.”
Board Approves Changes To Student Transfer Policy
In keeping with Oklahoma’s new Open Transfer Act of 2021, which was signed into law in March, Union made significant changes to the district’s Student Transfer Policy (Board Policy 5500). The revised policy was unanimously approved by the Board. The revised policy can be viewed here.
The new law, effective January 1, 2022, allows students to transfer to a different district in which they do not live anytime during the year as long as the receiving district has capacity. Each school district will be required to monitor its capacity and report that figure to the State Department of Education. A student’s transfer would be granted for one year, and the student may continue to attend the school district each school year after with approval from the school district receiving the student.
“We would like to approve the changes to board policy tonight so we can start working on our capacity limits for every site in the district, in time to meet the Jan. 1, 2022, deadline,” said Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. It is a situation where we [may] come back to you, either next month or the following month, to make further revisions to ensure we’re meeting the letter of the law. This has not been an easy law to navigate through. The State Board of Education only recently promulgated the new rules, and we’ve been hesitant to make changes to our existing policy until those were put forth. We need to get started, as we are already getting calls from parents who are thinking about bringing their children to Union Public Schools under the new law.”
The district expects to recommend school capacity levels to the Board in December, according to Dr. Todd Nelson, senior executive director of Research, Design and Assessment.
“If we have low capacity levels in a classroom, we may be obligated to take a student who applies and fits that grade level,” said Nelson. Outside of limits to capacity, he said an application can be denied based on poor behavior or student attendance. “Otherwise, it would appear we are obligated to take that student.”
Concerns were also shared about the timing of transfer requests, particularly due to funding constraints.
“I was not pleased with the new school funding law that shortened the runway for budget planning purposes from a three-year to a two-year high,” said Dr. Hartzler. “These two laws don’t work very well together, and they certainly present some significant challenges for us to navigate through.”
Chief Financial Officer Trish Williams concurred. “The potential this has for being disruptive from a financial standpoint is very strong.”
Changes Made To District’s Purchasing And Procurement Policy
The Board unanimously approved changes to the district’s purchasing and procurement policy, including how the strict deals with blanket purchases and emergency declarations and purchases. They can be viewed here.
Among the changes made:
Board Considers Revisions To Other Board Policies
The Board of Education on first reading Monday, November 8, considered various board policy revisions, which may be viewed here. The Board will consider final approval at its next meeting, Monday, December 13. (Revisions will be marked in red.)
Board Approves $500,000 Contract Increase For Crossland Construction
Board members approved a request to increase the contract amount for work at the High School stadium project by an additional $500,000 to Crossland Construction.
Approval of this amendment will allow for an increase of the GMP (guaranteed maximum price) for the High School Fine Arts, Athletics, Classroom, and Stadium project.
“Throughout construction, there have been several times when contingency funds from the West Stadium phase and also from the Band Building phase has been used to cover increased costs, additional safety requirements from the Assistant City of Tulsa Fire Marshal, and other associated construction needs that could not have been anticipated when the project was planned four years ago or when the contingency amount was established,” explained Fred Isaacs, director of Construction Service.
“Some of these items include safety modifications and some are cosmetic changes,” he said, such as painting the UMAC ornamental steel red highlights on the entrances; select area pavement replacement, seal, restriping, and patching to nearby parking lot; and additional security lighting at the parking lot and along the south part of the entrance road, to name a few.
These items had significant impacts on our funding level to the project contingency balance and this amendment will prevent any additional delays in the construction of the band building, he said.
In a separate matter dealing with bond funds, the Board accepted a bid of $663,118 from Key Construction Oklahoma, LLC., to begin repairs caused to the High School and UHS Freshman Academy caused by the storm last winter.
Isaacs said major items to be replaced include new wood gym flooring at both schools; new flooring in hallways, corridors, and locker rooms adjacent to the gym and wrestling rooms in the High School; and flooring and ceiling repairs to the Freshman Academy concession area.
In other action, the Board: