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Stillwater's First News with Bill Van Ness

Conversation opened. 1 read message. FROM THE CITY OF STILLWATER:FROM THE-------------------------FROM THE CITY OF STILLWATER:


Throughout the next few weeks, students of all ages are returning to class for the fall semester – Stillwater Public Schools and Meridian Technology Center on Aug. 11, Oklahoma State University on Aug. 22. In addition to stressors typically associated with back-to-school, nationwide school shootings and other acts of violence have heightened concerns within all communities.

Stillwater Police Chief Jeff Watts teamed up with other public safety entities and Stillwater Public Schools Administration to address concerns that students and families may be experiencing as they prepare for the new school year.

“We continuously prepare and train for all potential crisis situations and enact efforts of prevention – from School Resource Officers (SRO) located within facilities, eyes on our campuses through various tools, and more,” Chief Watts included. “I want to reassure our students, school staff, families and community members that our officers are dedicated to protect them. Rest assured, if a crisis occurs within our schools, there will be no hesitation; our response will be swift, aggressive and unrelenting to prevent further violence and neutralize the situation.”

Multiple mass shootings have occurred in schools throughout the country and with information readily available via social media, online and other avenues, the aftermath is traumatic to students both directly and indirectly involved.

“We fervently work with Stillwater Public Schools to improve communications, reduce response times, and proactively collaborate to identify threats. I am confident that every one of us are united in our goal of providing a safe environment for our children to learn, for educators and staff to lead and for people to gather,” Chief Watts added.

Stillwater Public Schools Superintendent Uwe Gordon spoke to the collaborative safety efforts and initiatives.

“We have a great relationship with the Stillwater Police Department. Our ongoing partnership that provides school resource officers in our schools is a vital layer of student safety. They assist us in daily operations and contribute to safety drills and crisis response training. These officers and SPD have partnered with us to intercede in incidents and investigate threats,” said Supt. Gordon. “They've also conducted trainings within our buildings, increasing effectiveness and the ability to respond. I have no doubt that, if needed, SPD would be quick and effective in their response to a threat in our schools.”

While the majority of school shootings throughout the country have occurred in PreK-12 learning environments, college campuses have also experienced hideous acts of violence. Prevention and response efforts are ongoing for Oklahoma State University (OSU), as well.

“We are fortunate in Stillwater and at Oklahoma State University to work closely with multiple agencies that have the same philosophy – to aggressively stop an attack in the event we are faced with an active shooter.  I could not be more pleased with our working relationship and the processes and policies in place that allow us to help each other and effectively get more boots on the ground quickly should a situation arise,” included OSU Police Chief Leon Jones.

Stillwater Police Chief Watts shared that if an event was to occur, in addition to the full force of the SPD, Payne County Sheriff’s Office, OSU Police Department, Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation would also swiftly respond with personnel and resources. He shared the multi-jurisdictional agencies work as one team with one mission to stop violence and assist all affected.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) expressed their unwavering commitment to this multi-jurisdictional effort to safeguard schools. OHP Troop K Captain Jeff James said, “The safety of the children and teachers in our schools is a priority for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. As part of Governor Kevin Stitt’s ‘Mission: Secure Oklahoma Schools,’ all Troopers are updating training on active shooter emergency response and plan to train other agencies across the state so all responding law enforcement can work quickly and easily together in an emergency. Our division would immediately respond and provide valuable OHP resources for any school in Stillwater.”

Student safety is everyone’s responsibility, including school staff, law enforcement, government officials and community members. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC), key findings include, “there is no profile of a student attacker, nor is there a profile for the type of school that has been targeted.”

This resounds the importance of noticing behaviors, situational factors and circumstances. When investigating previous school shootings and other acts of violence, it has been discovered that the criminals either made threats online, verbalized their intentions to someone, or displayed other acts of mental instability. It is imperative that students, staff and community members report behavioral concerns, whether they see them online or in-person.  

“I am thankful to have not only grown up in Payne County, but to have raised my kids in this county, as well,” included Payne County Sheriff Joe Harper. “I take pride in making sure it is as safe as possible to those still raising children here and I take it personal when their safety is threatened. If an active shooter situation arises, all of the agencies in Payne County are trained the same to address this type of threat. There will be no question as to how it is handled – aggressively and unwavering in pursuit of eliminating the threat.”

Prevention, training, resources and a multi-jurisdictional unified front include local, county and state entities.

Captain Stan Florence with the North Central Region of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) shared, “law enforcement in the Stillwater area has a longstanding history of great working relationships. The OSBI in Stillwater stands ready to respond and assist our partner agencies with any and every need. The OSBI is proud to continue our work with the other agencies in keeping Stillwater, OSU and Payne County safe and secure.”

All public safety entities and the school district understand with today’s climate that students and families experience apprehensions regarding safety within schools and at events. Officers remain vigilant, enacting every possible effort to safeguard the health and safety of students and staff – so they can focus on learning and building a strong educational foundation.



The Cowboy family is invited to celebrate the inauguration of Oklahoma State University’s 19th president – Dr. Kayse Shrum. The ceremony will be at 2 p.m., Aug. 26, at Gallagher-Iba Arena and serve as a ceremonial milestone for Shrum’s presidency, which began July 1, 2021.

The historic event, which was delayed due to pandemic considerations, is free and open to the public. It will feature messages from special guests, the presentation of the presidential medallion, live music provided by the Greenwood School of Music and a State of Orange address from Shrum highlighting OSU’s deep-rooted tradition as a premier land-grant institution, resiliency, progress and her vision for the future.

Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to attend. The celebration will also be livestreamed for alumni around the globe at Following Shrum’s inauguration, a student celebration is planned for Aug. 30. For updates about these and other campus events, visit

On April 2, 2021, the OSU/A&M Board of Regents voted to appoint Shrum OSU president, making her the first woman to lead the institution and the first woman to lead a Tier 1, four-year public research university in Oklahoma.

Dr. Trudy Milner, OSU/A&M Board of Regents chair, said Shrum has proven to be an excellent leader, forging a new strategic vision for the university while adeptly navigating through difficult challenges.

Navigating the realignment of the Big 12 Conference in her first few months as president highlights notable achievements, including: the launch of a systemwide strategy process to guide the future of the university, securing a transformative gift to establish the world-class Hamm Institute for American Energy at Oklahoma State University and establishing the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education (OAIRE).

Shrum expressed excitement and gratitude following her selection announcement, noting the special place OSU holds in heart and calling the opportunity the “greatest challenge and honor of her professional career.”

After her first year in office, Shrum is focused on coming together as a community behind a set of long-term goals to take OSU to new heights of academic and research excellence.

Shrum formerly served as president of OSU’s Center for Health Sciences (OSU-CHS), which more than doubled its enrollment under her leadership. Her selection in 2013 made her the youngest and first female president and dean of a medical school in Oklahoma. Before beginning her academic work at OSU-CHS, she served rural Oklahoma as a pediatrician.

As OSU-CHS president, Dr. Shrum secured a landmark investment in 2019 from Purdue Pharma for $197.5 million to create the National Center for Wellness and Recovery for addiction treatment and research to address the national opioid addiction epidemic. A strong supporter of collaborative partnerships, Shrum also worked with former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and his administration to establish the nation’s first tribally affiliated medical school – the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation – which opened in the fall 2020 semester.

Shrum led the construction of the A.R. and Marylouise Tandy Medical Academic Building – a state-of-the-art learning facility which houses the state’s largest and most technologically advanced hospital simulation center, and, in March 2019, was appointed Oklahoma’s first secretary of science and innovation. In that role, she played a critical part in the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and her innovative leadership approach and medical expertise helped the state secure much-needed PPE supplies and led to the formation of a COVID diagnostics lab – Oklahoma’s largest – on OSU’s Stillwater campus.

A fervent champion of rural health and primary care medicine, Shrum has made the creation of a sustainable, rural primary care physician pipeline a top priority. While leading OSU-CHS, she launched innovative high school recruiting programs like Operation Orange and Blue Coat to White Coat; created the Rural Medical Track curriculum; and expanded the number of residency training programs in rural Oklahoma by securing support from the Oklahoma Legislature, Oklahoma Health Care Authority and Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.

Her long list of awards and accolades includes induction into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame (2022), being named The Journal Record’s Woman of the Year (2019), and, most recently, DO of the Decade by the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association.

Dr. Shrum and her husband, First Cowboy Darren Shrum, have a farm near Coweta. They have six adult children – three of whom have already graduated from OSU.


Longtime Stillwater teacher Tommie Grant will join the Stillwater High School administration as assistant principal following approval of her hire by the Board of Education at a July 28 meeting. Grant will fill the role vacated by recently promoted Walter Howell, who now serves as Principal.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to positively contribute to the climate and culture of Stillwater High School,” says Grant. “I look forward to supporting teachers and students in their growth. I hope to continue to build on the traditions and foundation of excellence that make SHS so great.”

Grant has worked in education for more than twenty years, having taught math at Yale High School, Cushing Middle School, and Stillwater High School. She also served as a physical education teacher at Stillwater Middle School for three years. At SHS, Grant has served as Student Council and Stillwater Makes a Change sponsors. SMAC, which was started by Grant, has raised more than $1 million for local nonprofits through student-led philanthropy.

A graduate of Springdale High School in Springdale, Arkansas, Grant completed her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and later received her master’s degree in Teaching, Learning, and Leadership from Oklahoma State University.

Grant’s husband, Paul, teaches at Stillwater High School. Together they have a son, Corbin, who is a senior at SHS. She enjoys reading, running, and baking in her spare time.

“I am so excited that Mrs. Grant will be working with our administrative team as the new assistant principal at SHS,” says Principal Walter Howell. “She has been an excellent teacher and leader in multiple school districts and levels. I look forward to her stepping into this new role and doing great things. She is smart, cares about our students, loves SHS, and brings a tenacity that will complete our principal team.”

Grant assumes the role effective immediately.


Beginning in August 2022, the United States Department of Agriculture is no longer providing schools with funding to maintain free meals for all students during the school year. When school resumes this fall, families across the country will once again be required to pay full price school meals or apply through their school district for free and reduced meals.

“We know that during the height of the pandemic, and even as it tapers off, free meals have been of great help to our community,” says Stillwater Public Schools Director of Nutrition Krista Neel. “They’ve helped family budgets, eliminated the daily worry of getting bagged lunches made and filled with healthy foods, and meant students that preferred home lunches were able to supplement their lunch with free fruits, vegetables, and milk.”

Funding for those free meals came from the USDA, Neal says. “We’d love to continue to provide free lunches, but funding just doesn’t allow that to happen. The district will be able to continue to support free breakfasts for all students in the coming school year, and we are excited about that.”

Full lunch prices for the fall will be $2.60 for elementary and $2.85 for secondary students, though not all students will need to pay that full price.

“We know budgets are tight with gas and home prices being what they are and with inflation on the rise,” she says. “I’m glad the government will continue to offer some support for school lunch funding.”

“There are a variety of factors that can affect whether a child qualifies for support,” Neal says. Children in foster care, runaways or homeless youth, children of migrant workers, and, of course, children in families under certain income limits which vary depending on the size of the family can all qualify. “So we encourage all families, regardless of income level, to complete a free and reduced meal application. If everyone in the district completes the paperwork, we can make sure we don’t miss anyone receiving that extra financial support.”

Those who qualify for reduced rates, will see lunch prices of $0.40 for both elementary secondary students. Some families will qualify for fully free lunches.

“One of the reasons we recommend everyone completes the form is to eliminate any stigma around completing the form,” says Neal. “We know income level can be a sensitive subject. If everyone is being asked to complete the form, there’s no reason to feel any sort of discomfort about being asked about it or completing it. You can complete it online, which is preferred, or via paper form at your school.”

Additionally, Neal says schools and districts may receive additional governmental support based on the number of students that qualify for free and reduced lunches. “Even if you think your family doesn’t qualify or your student doesn’t eat with us, please complete the application anyway. It just takes a moment, and you might be the one family that pushes us over the number needed to qualify for more grants and funding for Stillwater.”

SPS families can pay for meals or apply for free and reduced meals at:




Note: The collection is based off of May transactions that were reported to the Oklahoma Tax Commission in June and apportioned to the City in July.


·         INCREASE FROM PREVIOUS YEAR: $335,612 (11.99%)

·         INCREASE FROM PREVIOUS YEAR: $287,750 (11.34%)

·         INCREASE FROM PREVIOUS YEAR: $47,862 (18.28%)

·         INCREASE FROM PREVIOUS YEAR: $4,101 (5.63%)

For more information about the budget and taxes, visit the City’s Financial Center at

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