Q&A - April 14, 2017

Have you ever observed a person standing in a public place who was gazing up into the sky intently? Strangers passing by can’t seem to help themselves. They are compelled to stop and look up into the sky as well. They don’t know what the first person is looking at but are curious and want to see for themselves. Before long, a small crowd of sky watchers begins to congregate. More bystanders join them, then more and more. It just shows you that one person can have a bigger impact on human behavior than we might think.

Q:How are we ever going to squash the undeserved bad reputation of our public schools in Okmulgee?

Bad reputations are insidious. They can become ingrained in our social consciousness to the point where they are nearly impossible to eradicate. Ever since moving to Okmulgee, I’ve heard many people complain about the public schools, but most of the complaints have been about the bad reputation of the public schools rather than the schools themselves. Numerous well-informed people have told me the reputation is no longer deserved, but it lingers on unabated. Despite all of the wonderful improvements being made in the quality of education by Superintendent Rene Dove and her teaching staff, the unflattering reputation persists.


Reputations, negative or otherwise, are of our own making. They are perpetuated by the words we choose and the attitudes we portray. Changing the pervasive negative narrative about our schools will require a positive countereffort on our part. It will take all of us gazing up into the sky together. Here’s how it’s done…

From this date forward, I pledge that whenever I refer to the public schools in Okmulgee, I will use the word “outstanding” as a modifier. For instance, I will say, “our outstanding public schools” rather than just “our public schools.” I will make a conscious effort to always refer to Okmulgee’s Public schools as Okmulgee’s “outstanding” public schools. When referring to separate levels, I will describe them as our “outstanding” high school,” our “outstanding” junior high school, our “outstanding” elementary school, or our “outstanding” primary school. Okmulgee’s schools need our help. They need our respect and confident support and our hardworking teachers deserve the same.

It’s one simple word, but it makes a big difference in how our schools are perceived. When we begin to say it, we will begin to believe it, and soon others will do the same. When we repeatedly refer to our schools as “outstanding,” they will be perceived as “outstanding schools.” Others will begin to reassess their negative perception of our schools, and the bad reputation will eventually fade. I challenge each of you to join me in this pledge.

It’s perfectly okay to believe in our public schools and acknowledge the dedication of our teachers. Before some of you scoff, consider this: If we can change the trajectory of public opinion with one simple word, shouldn’t we try to do so? If by referring to our schools as “outstanding” helps them overcome a false narrative, isn’t that worth our effort?

Your questions are greatly appreciated. Please continue to send them to osuit-president@okstate.edu.