by Patrick B. McGuigan, editor
OKLAHOMA CITY – At least 200 people gathered in downtown Oklahoma City on a cool, pleasant February evening to raise thousands of dollars to support the John Rex Charter Elementary School.
The now-annual “Fuel Up!” event provides supplemental revenues for the public charter school, which now serves some 450 students in grades PreK-4. This year’s intended goal is to help meet technology needs for incoming students next school year.
In remarks to the crowd at Park House (in the Myriad Gardens complex), Bob Ross, a member of the Oklahoma state Board of Education and a strong supporter of the John Rex school, fondly recalled the late Mr. Rex, who died in 2006, and his wife Berta Faye Rex, who died in 2015. He first knew the couple when he was a member of the Boy Scouts.
Years ago, as Ross began his work at the Inasmuch Foundation (established by the legendary journalist and philanthropist, Edith Kenney Gaylord), he consulted Mr. Rex, his long-time mentor. The elder statesman of Oklahoma City, he recalled, encouraged him to, “Give it all to education.”
Ross called John Rex, intended as a school for children of downtown residents and those who work in the busy area, “a unique place.” Noting that charter schools “only get about 80 percent of the funding that goes to traditional public schools,” Ross said voluntary donations from patrons and sponsors are a vital source in their success.
Berta Faye Rex, after her husband’s passing, was among those who helped fashioned the organizational plans for the school, and was involved in early stages of its development before she died two years ago.
The University of Oklahoma serves as the education sponsor for the charter site, which serves students at a location on Sheridan Avenue at the west edge of downtown.
Jamie Winteroth, whose son is a first-grader at John Rex, chaired the “Fuel Up!” gala. She said she cherishes the diversity among students at the school, the STEM program fundamentals taught, and what she called “an excellent learning process.”
Another parent who spoke with The City Sentinel at the event was Myles Davidson. He applauds the “quality education in proximity to downtown” provided for his child. He said the education is “very interactive” for young scholars. And, “If some one is lagging behind, they go the extra mile for that person.”
Melodie Fulmer, dean of students, is now in her second year at John Rex. She excitedly described the school’s plans to add fifth graders to the PreK-4 cadre of 450 now at the site.
“Our parents are from all over the city for this downtown school We are a community, and very blessed with our parents. The child’s interest are how we develop our curriculum.” Ms. Fulmer is a 35 year veteran of public education, having worked previously in the Mid-Del and Shawnee systems and at the state Department of Education.
Fuel Up! Event sponsors this year included Dave and Erin Biggers, 110 Events, Aunt Pittypat’s Catering, CHAE Modern Korean, Inasmuch Foundation, SNB, Globe Live, the Prestyterian Health Foundation, Ross Group, Jones PR, Toucan Productions, the Myriad Botanical Gardens, Tricia L. Everest and the Harding/Beedon Family.
Other sponsors included The City Sentinel, Anthem Brewery, Reagan and Keri Bradford, Downtown Oklahoma City, Princess & Jonathan Easter, First State Bank, Foliart, Huff, Ottaway & Bottom, Stanley Hupfeld, Mason Realty Investors, MidTown Renaissance, Orthodontic Arts, Keith & Heather Paul, and Picasso Cafe.
Also backing the “Fuel Up!” event were Mary Kay Agnew, Allegiance Credit Union, Aspen Roofing, Andrea & Ryan Blair, Bevo., Inc. Candor PR, Copyworks USA, Dr. Madeline Cunningham, Scott & Casey delaney, Lindel & Shannon Evers, Scott Fischer, Tim & Amy Fischer, Stephen & Janet Fischer, Dan & Louise Govin, Edith & Michael Laird, Mainer Ford of Oklahoma, Peter & Kris Markes, Jeff & Lesley Martin, Brian & Charlotte Mitchell, Preston & Kelly Newton, Zac & Mary Ann Osko, John & Anita Poarch, S&S Promotions, Matthew & Emily Smith, Tim Strange (Newmark Grubb), Levy Strange Beffort, Reggie Whitten, and Jordan & Jamie Winteroth.
Disclosure: Over a period of several years in the 1990s and early 2000s, Pat McGuigan worked with John W. Rex and many other community leaders and activists on the Keep Improving District Schools (KIDS) Project. The KIDS Project, chaired by the late civic leader Jean Gumerson and with the sponsorship of the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools, laid the basis for what Mayor Kirk Humphreys ultimately called “MAPS for KIDS.” A mixture of sales tax and bond proposals approved by voters in September 2001, MAPS for Kids was the largest local level tax increase for public education enacted in the history of Oklahoma. Taxes raised as a result of the propositions financed infrastructure improvements at every traditional public school site in Oklahoma City.