There is a lot of change happening inside Oklahoma schools today, with the recent changes in testing, the adaptation of technology and the battle to recruit and keep qualified teachers to name a few. With so much change effecting students, state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister wants to hear from the students themselves. She contacted high school administrators across the state with the challenge to find and nominate students to apply and be a part of a student advisory council, which will meet Thursday inside the state capitol building.
Out of all the applicants in the state, only 68 were chosen, one of whom was Hannah Oliver, a junior at Ardmore High School and the only student from Carter County.
Daughter of Steven and Aggin Oliver, Hannah’s journey to the capitol began when she was approached by her principal, Jake Falvey, to fill out an application.
“I was sure I wasn’t going to get it,” Oliver recalls thinking. However, she decided to “fill it out and try my best on it. I gave it to him at the end of November and when it got to the middle of December I was thinking I should’ve known if I got the position by now. I knew I didn’t get it, but then Mr. Falvey called me on break he said ‘you got it!’
“I was so excited. I kept thinking, what part of my application really made me stand out? I don’t know, but there was something in there that just let them know that this kid has some potential and we want you to be in the council, which really pleased me. I hope through this I can represent Ardmore as best as I can in my abilities.”
When Oliver was chosen, Falvey knew he had made the right call. He’s excited that Oliver will get to experience being a part of Superintendent Hofmeister’s council.
“The superintendent is trying a lot of new initiatives,” Falvey said. “They wanted input from the kids. I really believe Superintendent Hofmeister, that’s what she wants to do.
“There were three kids that filled out applications based upon leadership and based upon my knowledge they’ll go up there and give a perspective of what these kids see with all the changes in Oklahoma. They hear that their teachers are the lowest paid in the country. They hear that we’re spending too much time on testing. Bringing someone with intelligence and a opinion and personal strength is perfect. She filled out a wonderful application. She’s one of 68 in the state who’s going to represent high school kids and the interests that are impacting them.”
Oliver already has her perspective and ideas in order for Thursday’s meeting.
“I’ve thought about semester testing during end of year instruction tests, the lack of good teachers and the budget cuts that Oklahoma’s had in education this past semester,” Oliver said to name a few. “I’ve talked to a lot of students about this and I find this really harsh: they scheduled EOI testing during semester testing, which caused a lot of problems for a lot of students. It messed up the bell system, people’s schedules… it was a real hassle.
“A lot of students have complaints about teachers such as lack of good ones, or ones that just give 100s, so people won’t have zeroes in the class and I find that a real issue. Even though it’s the No Student Left Behind policy that everyone should be able to make good grades, people aren’t pushed enough at Ardmore High School. You get 100s in some classes just for participation or just for showing up and that’s not really pushing the kids here to do much. That’s why there are problems with attendance and grades and the No Child Left Behind policy. I just don’t feel like we’re pushing people hard enough here at Ardmore. “
With the recent repeal of the No Child Left Behind Act in December, Oliver is looking forward to seeing how the Every Child Succeeds Act impacts area schools.
Oliver is hoping to take the problems she sees and work towards change and being part of the solution.
“There’s a lack of leadership in a lot of places. Here in Ardmore there’s a struggle this year. We have a new student council sponsor this year and its been really hard having different presidents and different teachers every year.
When I go to this conference I’ll get to figure out more about other leadership problems in other districts and hopefully I can incorporate their answers and their solutions to Ardmore.”
As part of her application, Oliver was accountable for her own leadership roles such as serving as publicity chair of the sophomore class last year, running for president of the junior class this year and her hopes to hold a student council office during her senior year.
Oliver was also required to mention her community service efforts such as her student council events involving a canned food drive, clothing drive and toy drive as well as bridging the gap between leadership and community service through Leaflets.
“Leaflets an organization for the top 10 percent of Ardmore girls,” she said. “We get together once a month and do community service projects. We sang at the nursing home, have sent packages to the military and carved pumpkins for the children center for small fun projects that can benefit others.”
Through her actions, “Mr. Falvey noticed me in the background,” “I guess he kept his eye on me. I’ve always been involved during homecoming, freshmen orientation and every single fundraiser that we’ve done. I’ve been a counselor or advisor or some person just getting something done. I guess through all these actions he noticed me.”
Oliver is eager to live up to expectations, learn all she can and bring it back to Ardmore.
“I get to see everyone’s opinions,” she said. “There might be people out there who agree with me on leadership problems and if they can come with solutions, I’ll bring them here.
“Other than ideas and solutions for the Ardmore community I think this will really change myself because I’ve always been shy about leadership. I always try to do my best in the background, but I think this advisory council will really bring out my full potential inside me and I can actually speak up in front of people I don’t know. I think I’ll benefit a lot from this, meeting kids like me, others who see leadership opportunities and problems that need to be solved.”
Falvey has high hopes for Oliver and no doubts that she will represent Ardmore well.
“I could not have got a better young lady,” he said. “She’s going to go up there and represent. She’s going to bring the concerns of not only this area, but her peers. Superintendent Hofmeister is reaching out. She deserves the best kids. With Hannah Oliver, she’s getting one of the best kids in the whole state.
“I think Hannah’s going to see that some of our problems are shared by a lot of other communities, rural and urban. I want Hannah to be right in the middle of the state house to see the beauty of that building and that’s where so much is done. Our state superintendent has already shown a willingness to listen and act. She’s going to hear from the right kid. I want Hannah to experience that, to be a part of change.”