As decreed by the state Legislature, Oklahoma City has a new seven-member board of education.
It is a school board responsible for only three schools, about 1,000 students, 50 full-time teachers and a budget of less than $5 million.
The district it now governs is three years old and has boundary lines coterminous with the Oklahoma City public school system.
The new school panel, which has its first official meeting later this month, oversees the operation of Oklahoma City Vocational-Technical District 22.
The seven board members Lloyd Leveridge, Mel McNickle, Henry Chavez, Elaine Schuster, Warren Gardner, Del Hamm and Floyd Donwerth were appointed to their posts in May by Gov. George Nigh.
They have terms ranging from one to four years, and they must stand for election when their appointed terms expire.
Like representatives from the city public school system, the vo-tech board members represent seven districts from designated geographical areas of Oklahoma City.
Hamm and Donwerth are former members of the city public school board of education.
The bill designed to create the new board was written by Sen. Marvin York, D-Oklahoma City, one of the Legislature's most ardent supporters of vo-tech eduction.
Until this month, the vo-tech board and the city school board had the same members.
According to state Vo-Tech Superintendent Francis Tuttle, the city vo-tech system, created in 1979, needed more autonomy and that could best be attained by a separate school board.
In all instances in the state except Oklahoma City, vo-tech districts cut across public school system boundaries.
For example, the Western Heights, Edmond, Putnam City and Deer Creek school systems comprise one vo-tech district.
In Tulsa County, all schools are under the auspices of a single vo-tech district.
That is done, primarily, to consolidate costly vo-tech programs in specific centers rather than spreading such instruction and training among numerous high schools.
In Oklahoma City, the southside Foster Estes Vo-Tech Center has many of the heavy industry training courses, while the northside Marvin York Center concentrates on office- and business-related occupational training.
Vo-tech districts, by law, also have the responsibility of training adult students beyond the 12th grade.
The city vo-tech board also runs the Adult Training Center at 201 NE 48.
"Our main responsibility is to increase the talent and the productivity of the work force in Oklahoma," Tuttle said.
In separate interviews, the seven city vo-tech board members talked about their roles and responsibilities: Lloyd Leveridge, District 1.
Leveridge, 2425 NW 119, is a local automobile dealer.
"There's a definite need to develop and grow in the area of vocational-technical education," he said. "Not everyone has to be a college graduate."
There are "so many jobs begging for qualified people," Leveridge said.
"I want to do what I can to see our system become the best it can be for young people and adults, I hope we can produce a student for which there is a demand in the job market."
Mel McNickle, District 2.
McNickle, 1608 Norwood, is a retired Air Force major general who served at Tinker Air Force Base for 4 1/4 years of his career.
When stationed in Oklahoma City, McNickle was responsible for recruiting local workers to help in special programs at Tinker when it took over supply responsibilities from three Air Force depots that were closed in California, Pennsylvania and New York.
"Skilled tradespeople are always in demand," he said, adding that "it seems that wherever you go" there is an undersupply of individuals trained for jobs such as diesel engine repair, welding and electronics.
Henry Chavez, District 3.
Chavez, 123 SW 15, is a retired electronics worker at Tinker and a graduate of Central High School.
"Getting this post has really opened my eyes," he said. "I think a lot of people only see vo-tech schools as being for problem students.
"But there is so much interest in vo-tech programs and they are quite good."
Elaine Schuster, District 4.
Schuster, 1224 NW 23, is an Oklahoma City attorney in private practice.
From 1972 to 1978, she was an assistant district attorney in Oklahoma County. She is a graduate of Classen High School and has her law degree from the University of Oklahoma.
Schuster said she envisions her post "as an opportunity to further the economic development of Oklahoma."
"Our board can help provide people with the skills they and this city need. Such a role adds to the quality of life in a city," she said.
Warren Gardner, District 5.
Gardner, 2901 NE 19, has been a materials engineer at Tinker for the past 31 years.
He is a graduate of Douglass High School and Langston University, and currently is on the board of directors of the Opportunities Industrialization Center in Oklahoma City.
"I think we can help people obtain the kind of education that can allow them to be employable, independent and good citizens," he said.
Del Hamm, District 6.
Hamm, of 1501 NW 59, has been pastor of the Hillcrest Christian Church for 18 years.
He said he left the city school board in part because he no longer has children in the school district.
Hamm admitted that being on the vo-tech board will provide fewer headaches.
"Vo-tech instructors are teaching something they want to teach to students who want to be in their classrooms," he said.
Floyd Donwerth, District 7.
Donwerth, of 6405 S Lee, is a business agent and funds' administrator for the 1,400-member Plumbers and Pipefitters' Union Local 344.
He is a former president of the city school board and his post on that board is being filled by his wife, La Rue.
"I believe we can help provide the basic training for students to pursue a worthwhile career," he said. BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 70400