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friED OKra Podcast

The words Fried Okra over a microphonefriED OKra is a weekly podcast dedicated to providing information and insight into all things public education in Oklahoma. It’s a collaboration of OEA employees and staff from across the state, along with special guests. 

Thoughts, questions, ideas? Email us at friedokrapodcast@gmail.com.

Episode 34 - Vote! Vote! Vote!

"Your strongest voice is at the local level."

As educators know, state questions in Oklahoma can be a contentious avenue to try and create change within our state. Carrie and Alicia speak with OK Policy’s Damion Shade about SQ805 and the empirical data you need to know before casting your vote.

A former Yukon elementary school teacher, middle school principal, and Canadian County current poll inspector, Tresa Smith, explains the election process, its rules and procedures, and why Oklahomans can feel confident in their vote being counted.

Episode 33 - Calm Waters

"Take care of yourself. Take care of each other..."

“Calm Waters” began as an idea 28 years ago from a nine-year-old boy who had just lost his father. It now fulfills its mission to help suffering from grief and loss. Jordan Park shares how any school or student can seek out Calm Waters’ services if they are dealing with death, divorce, incarceration, deportation, foster adoptive care, and/or deployment. Go to calmwaters.org for more information.

Fried Okra also had the pleasure of being joined by longtime Norman educator, and National Teacher Hall of Fame semifinalist, Claudia Swisher, who shares her incredible journey through the profession and why she’s not very good at resting during retirement by continuing to advocate for public education. Stay tuned for her Friday prayer at the end!

Episode 32 - EPIC Allegations

"Accountability and transparency are words I hear at the Capitol every single day."

OEA Legislative and Political Organizer and friend of the show, Ivy Riggs, returns to Fried Okra to break down everything we know so far regarding current allegations surrounding EPIC and what can be done to prevent this kind of abuse of millions of dollars intended to help students in the future.

Lee Ann Smith, director of single family programming at the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency, joins the podcast to share some valuable information for educators who are looking to buy a home. OHFA has designed a special down payment program specifically for teachers. Visit ohfadownpayment.org for more details.

Episode 31 - NEA President Becky Pringle

"It was my professional responsibility as an educator to speak up."

There is less than a month until the election. These are crazy times. Which makes us all the more pleased NEA President Becky Pringle was able to join Fried Okra to discuss her vision for the future of public education and the role educators play in shaping it. Enjoy another special video addition of the interview above!

Episode 30 - The Future is Bright

"Working with these young student (teachers) gives me so much hope."

Rowdy Washburn and Rena Grissom of New Educators of Oklahoma Network, or NEON, explain the value of NEON and other resources within OEA for professionals in their first few years in the classroom. They also explain that, while this may be unprecedented times for everyone, new teachers especially are looking for guidance and understanding.

Heather Sparks joined the OEA while still a student and has been a member and avid supporter ever since. The 2009 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year currently oversees a program at Oklahoma City University that educates new teachers embarking on their classroom career. While she sees the struggles the future of education faces every day, Sparks lets us know these new educators are up for the challenge in creating a brighter future for our students.

Episode 29 - Child Nutrition & PTA

"We all have the same goal to have every child reach their potential."

The State Department of Education has a Child Nutrition program that oversees federal food service programs, national school lunches, child and adult food care program, daycare centers, and many others that help feed Oklahoma children. Alicia and Carrie speak with their executive director, Jennifer Weber, about this important work.

Alison Taylor is the president of the Oklahoma PTA and she joins the pod to discuss the importance of parents and education professionals working together with a common goal of improving public education for our students/children.

Episode 28 - VOICE & Hunger Free Oklahoma

"Around 1 in 5 kids in our state were food insecure before COVID."

This Friday we are joined by Kris King, lead organizer for VOICE (Voices Organized In Civic Engagement), who discusses their upcoming roundtable for Congressional District 5, which will include candidates and lawmakers from every level in the state.

Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer, or P-EBT, provides benefits to people across Oklahoma. You may have received a letter with a card with their information. Do not throw it away! Jordan Park and Devin Schroeder from Hunger Free Oklahoma explains why it’s so important, as one in five kids in this state were food insecure even before this pandemic.

Go to hungreeok.org/pebt for more information. 

Episode 27 - Census and Advocacy

"Right now, we're behind."

The Census is a crucial aspect of how we count every person to ensure the proper amount of resources are allocated to your area, including representation. They happen every 10 years, which includes 2020, so Fried Okra spoke with Josh McGoldrick, chief of staff and general counsel for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce about how educators can help. If you have not filled out the census, please do so here or by phone at (844) 330-2020.

OEA’s Center for Advocacy is on the front lines ensuring that the rights of educators are met. Every advocate we send across the state has worked in a classroom before and understands the challenging situations that can arise. One of those advocates, Cal Ware, joins the show to shine a light on him and the hard work advocates do fighting for educators.

Episode 26 - Labor Day Weekend Special

"It's empowering and it's contagious."

In honor of this extended weekend holiday, Fried Okra presents a special Labor Day episode. We are joined by American Federation of Teachers OKC’s first ever Black president, Torie Shoecraft, about the importance of solidarity among workers and what the role of the labor movement going forward.

We are also joined by the Commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Labor, Leslie Osborn, who explains the unique and necessary functions of her department, like ensuring escalators and roller coasters are safe, to her evolution from a successful business owner, to lawmaker, to a state commissioner who advocates the importance of this state investing in itself.

Also, stick around for a terrific performance by OEA member, and friend of the pod, Aaron Baker, of a song dedicated to the labor movement. Solidarity!

Episode 25 - Primary Election Recap

"Let's go conquer this."

Our head of legislative and political organizing, Amanda Ewing, returns to the show to discuss recent primary elections in Oklahoma and what we need to be doing down this final stretch before the major election this November.

OEA’s teaching and learning center is a terrific resource that provides services such as traveling (or Zooming) to districts across the state offering free professional development. Laura Miller, one of our T&L specialists, joins the show to discuss their new “Tips and Tricks Tuesday” series for educators that will premiere as a Facebook Live on Tuesday, September 2, at 4pm on OEA’s page.

Episode 24 - Jena Nelson (Oklahoma Teacher of the Year)

"Our power is in our people."

Legislative guru, Ivy Riggs, returns to the pod with Choctaw-Nicoma Park Association of Classroom Teachers President, Amber Spradlin, to discuss how people can still get involved in campaigns during a pandemic.

Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, Jena Nelson, also shares her incredible journey from a life-changing high school teacher, to a career in the film industry, a switch to education, and ultimately using her voice to stand up for students and educators as Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

Episode 23 - Superintendent Joy Hofmeister

"We don’t want to be the state that doesn’t get it right and everyone else learns from our mistakes.”

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister returns to Fried Okra to discuss everything back-to-school; the process, her proposal to the state board, how districts have responded, and how we adapt in the future.

Local author and educator, Dennis Mathew, who was featured on our DEAR Oklahoma series last April, hops on the podcast to talk about his journey into being both a writer and speech pathologist. You can find his work at booksbydennis.com.

Episode 22 - Play-based Learning

"In play, children learn how to learn."

OEA legislative guru, Amanda Ewing, returns to Fried Okra to discuss the process of interim studies at the Capitol and which ones of the over 100 recently approved affect education.

Speaking of interim studies, Rep. Jacob Rosecrantz, and Norman educator, Hailey Couch, speak on their collaboration for “How Play-based Learning Leads to Better Mental Health and Better Academic Outcomes” interim study. Research shows that play-based learning is essential for children’s academic, social, emotional, and physical development. Additionally, play is the most accessible approach to learning for young children. Evidence suggests that children love playing because it allows them to practice, apply, and extend new learning.

Episode 21 - Important Conversations

"When we know better, we do better."

OU Medicine’s pediatric infectious disease expert, Dr. Donna Tyungyu, for a special video edition of Fried Okra to provide up-to-date accurate information that schools must understand in order to return safely.

Stick around to just after the 28-minute mark to hear a fascinating conversation between members of OEA’s Native American Caucus, NEA Alaska President Tom Klaameyer, and Anchorage, Alaska educator Lynda Leal Prince of the Athabascan tribe. It’s an open and honest look at how Native American images have an impact on our students and our indigenous brothers and sisters, and how we all can do better when we know better.

Episode 20 (July 24, 2020) - Reaction to the State Board of Education

"Our priority has to be saving lives first."

Friend of the show, and OEA Swiss Army Knife, Ivy Riggs, returns to Fried Okra and reacts to the State Board of Education voting 4-3 to not institute any minimum safety requirements for Oklahoma school districts returning to in-person learning.

We are also joined by Jarrod Scott, electrician for Putnam City Public Schools, about how education support professionals in his district organized to fight against outsourcing and how others in similar situations in Oklahoma can use their voices for power.

Episode 19 (July 17, 2020) - State Reps. Melissa Provenzano and John Waldron

"One death is too many."

We hope you didn’t miss us too much last week! But we’re back this Friday with a special Fried Okra including former OEA members and current Oklahoma state representatives, Melissa Provenzano and John Waldron, who discuss their COVID-19 plan for the state moving forward.

Also, we highlight yesterday’s press conference calling for schools to return safely that included Alicia Priest, President of the Oklahoma Education Association; Clark Frailey, Executive Director of Oklahoma Pastors for Kids; Jami Cole, Edvocates Facebook Group; Dr. Dwight Sublett, president of the Oklahoma chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; and Morgan McLellan, a student at Rattan Public Schools.

Links from the pod

okea.org/elections2021

Episode 18 (July 3, 2020) - Election Recap

You can't have healthy schools without healthy students.

Oklahoma Education Association legislative guru and friend of the pod, Amanda Ewing, is back on Fried Okra to break down Tuesday’s election results, what the passing of State Question 802 means for education, and how educators fared in their races across the state.

Bargaining equitable and fair contracts that allow educators to advocate for the best policies for their students is an integral part of OEA’s work. Rhonda Harlow has been on the front lines of bargaining, both as a member and an advocacy specialist for the Association, and she explains how you can become a part of that process in your district.

Episode 17 (June 26, 2020) - Aspiring & Retired Educators

"We prepared for a world that is no longer the same."

Fried Okra spans across the entire career journey of an educator, as we are first joined by Oklahoma Aspiring Educators Association (OAEA) President Nancy Melendez and Chair of the NEA Aspiring Educators, Rachel Immerman. They are two of over 50,000 future educators across the country, on over 1,000 college campuses, who have already begun advocating on behalf of their eventual students.

Then, Alicia and Carrie have a conversation with two of the Oklahoma Retired Educators Association’s most steadfast advocates for Sooner State retirees, in executive director Sabra Tucker and President Polly Christian. They discuss the dedication, effort, and time it took to fight for a cost-of-living adjustment for retirees and how rewarding it felt to finally see it come to fruition this session.

Episode 16 (June 19, 2020) - Health experts

"The families that we serve, many of them send their kids to school sick because they can't afford to take them to the doctor."

This week’s episode is all about health, as our first guests are Corey Lively, CEO of the Elk City Hospital, and also friend of the pod, LeeAnne Power Jimenez, science and STEAM academic director for Tulsa Public Schools. They break down State Question 802 and why it is important for Oklahomans to vote YES on June 30.

Fried Okra then has the pleasure of being joined by nurses Beverly Burk (Jenks Public Schools) and Tammy Kain (Mustang Public Schools), of the School Nurse Organization of Oklahoma, who examine the data OEA collected from its member survey on returning to schools safely.

Episode 15 (June 12, 2020) - Notaries and FCPE

"If the state is not going to do it, someone has to."

Fried Okra is first joined by a couple of members, Heather Davis (Bartlesville) and Betty Collins (Union), who became official notary publics to help Oklahomans who are unable to vote in person still be a part of the voting process. They discuss how they became notaries and how people can reach out to have them notarize their absentee ballot.

Then we have a conversation with OEA members, Sharon Reese (Shawnee) and Victor Gonzalez (Stillwater), who have been involved in the candidate interview process for the OEA Fund for Children and Public Education (FCPE) PAC. They explain how these conversations with potential elected officials go, the process to get involved, and where advocates for public education can make donations (no member dues dollars go towards the PAC or any political activity).

Episode 14 (June 5, 2020) - Andy Moore

"It's ok to be uncomfortable."

Andy Moore, executive director of “Let’s Fix This Oklahoma,” refreshes Fried Okra with a civics lesson on how and when Oklahomans can vote this year. 

Also, Sharica Cole and Dawn Brown from OEA’s Human and Civil Rights Committee share their personal stories of dealing with race as educators. It is a difficult conversation to have, but one that is much needed in this time, as we navigate how to move forward and make progress in our schools and with our students.

Episode 13 (May 29, 2020) - Rep. Mark Lawson

"We have a calling to do more."

Representative Mark Lawson of Sapulpa gives his unique perspective of what it’s like to campaign in the world of COVID. He also reveals the votes of which he’s the most proud during his first four years in the legislature and gives his pitch to educators for the June primary.

We also continue to shine our spotlight on the caucuses of OEA this week with LeeAnn Jimenez, Tulsa science teacher, and member of the OEA Republican Caucus. No matter your race, gender, political affiliation, sexual orientation, etc., there is an OEA caucus for you to channel your energy into positive change.

Links from the pod:

Join VOICE and ACTION on June 1 at 7pm to discuss the upcoming mass eviction issue facing our communities.

Episode 12 (May 22, 2020) - OEA Black Caucus

What a Long, Strange Session it's Been...

As session winds to a close, OEA legislative guru and former Mustang teacher, Ivy Riggs, joins Fried Okra to recap all the twists and turns of this unorthodox session. Including the nearly decade-long journey for a cost-of-living adjustment for public retirees that culminated in the Governor’s signature this year.

We also begin our look at the different OEA caucuses with a spotlight on Lawrence Lane and Melani Ford of the Black Caucus. They tell us why caucuses are an imperative function of the Association, how the different perspectives create better understanding of issues, and what people can do to get involved. 

Links from the pod:

OEA Black Caucus Facebook Page

okea.org/blackcaucus

okea.org/blackhistorymonth

Episode 11 (May 15, 2020) - Amber England, SQ802

"Itchy Veto Pen"

The Oklahoma Senate literally debated the COLA as Fried Okra was recording on Friday morning. We spoke with our legislative expert, Amanda Ewing, about what people can do to help ensure this COLA finally makes its way to our retirees after 12 years without.

Call Governor Stitt and tell him to sign the COLA bill at (405) 521-2342 or find the “Contact” tab on governor.ok.gov.

We also are joined by Amber England, spokesperson for State Question 802, about how its passage would improve the lives of every Oklahoman, including our students and schools, without any cost to public education.

Episode 10 (May 8, 2020) - Rep. Emily Virgin

"Those Who Can't..."

Oklahoma House Minority Leader Emily Virgin comes on Fried Okra to discuss SB210 (absentee voting with signed notary), the budget outlook, and how Governor Stitt should spend federal education dollars.

We are also joined by Putnam City North social studies teacher, Aaron Baker, who reads his original poem “Those Who Can’t” and answers questions on how he uses his talents to advocate for the classroom.

 

Episode 9 (May 1, 2020) - Paul Shinn

"I've never seen anything like this."

Paul Shinn, Budget and Tax Senior Policy Analyst with the Oklahoma Policy Institute, does a fantastic job summarizing how the legislature will even begin building a budget on Monday, what a potential financial crisis means, and the options our state has to cushion the damage for public services.

Also, OEA member and Tahlequah resident Chuck Pack and President Alicia Priest break down the Association’s Fund for Children and Public Education, how it helps promote education-friendly candidates outside of member’s dues dollars, and how you can create great change by giving just a little.

Links from the podcast

– Horace Mann e-learning library: https://www.horacemann.com/teaching-online

– NEA COVID-19 Grants: https://www.neafoundation.org/for-educators/covid-rapid-response-grants/

 

Episode 8 (April 24, 2020) - Clark Frailey

"The public schools in Oklahoma are the GLORY of the state of Oklahoma."

After Governor Stitt announced the possibility of using federal COVID-19 dollars for school vouchers, Oklahoma educators came out in waves to let him know what students and schools in the state actually need. So much so, that they temporarily crashed the Governor’s website. Amanda Ewing breaks down where those efforts currently stand.

Pastors For OK Kids’ Clark Frailey also joins Fried Okra to speak on the important connection between faith and the history of public schools in Oklahoma.

Episode 7 (April 17, 2020) - Melissa Lau

"These are the days of our legislature..."

Amanda Ewing helps explain the drama at the Capitol before looking at candidate filings and how it impacts educators, including which races you will be able to vote for an OEA member.

Piedmont 6th grade science teacher and 2019 Oklahoma Science Teaching Association Middle-Level Teacher of the Year, Melissa Lau, who has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and NowThis, joins the podcast to discuss how she and her students have handled the transition to distance learning. Lau also reminisces about her time as a PolarTREC educator traversing the north slope of Alaska with scientists and how that has shaped her paradigm as a teacher.

Episode 6 (April 10, 2020) - David Glenn

"What is going on at the Capitol?"

OEA’s executive director of legislative and political organizing, Amanda Ewing, returns to Fried Okra to break down the wild week at the Capitol.

David Glenn from NEA Member Benefits also drops by to explain all of the incredible benefits educators receive just by being a member of OEA.

Episode 5 (April 3, 2020) - Roger Thompson

"State Senator Thompson and OK Legislature's Return for a Special Session"

State Senator Roger Thompson of Oklahoma’s 5th District joins friED OKra to talk about the legislature returning for a special session on Monday and answers questions on what Oklahoma’s budget may look like this year and next.

Episode 4 (March 26, 2020) - Kendra Horn

"Congresswoman Kendra Horn on the Federal Stimulus Package"

The Congresswoman for Oklahoma’s 5th District, Kendra Horn, joins friED OKra ahead of the House of Representatives’ vote on the $2 trillion stimulus package that just passed the Senate and how it affects Oklahoma students, educators, and communities. 

We also catch up with NEA Director of Government Relations, Marc Egan, who curates the education aspects of the CARES Act in detail.

Episode 3 (March 19, 2020) - Joy Hofmeister

"Superintendent Hofmeister Returns to Talk School Closures"

Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister returns to friED OKra to discuss the statewide school closures and answers questions to help students, educators, parents, and community members through this unprecedented time.

Carrie and Alicia also speak with Terri Gray from the OEA Elections Committee, who shines a lot on OEA’s democratic process and how members can participate in elections happening right now.

Episode 2 (March 13, 2020) - Joy Hofmeister

"Coronavirus Update with State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister"

In the second ever episode of friED OKra, our hosts Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs and OEA President Alicia Priest sit down with Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who provides an update on the coronavirus and answers questions on what educators and parents should expect.

The Oklahoma Retired Educators Association (OREA) Executive Director Sabra Tucker also joins friED OKra to discuss the house’s unanimous vote to pass a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for retirees and the years of advocacy that led to this moment.

Episode 1 (March 6, 2020)

"Welcome to friED OKra!"

In our inaugural episode of friED OKra, our hosts Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs and OEA President Alicia Priest discuss the current legislative session with OEA’s associate executive director of legislative and political organizing, Amanda Ewing. Including a cost-of-living adjustment for retirees, the overall budget, and bills on virtual school boards. 

We also hear from Mustang ESP’s Margaret Brown and Candis Ryczkowski on their incredible story of the years-long process it took for them to organize a bargaining local from scratch.