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Eva Martens reflects on 35 years of service on Fairview Board of Education

Thirty-five years, three and a half decades, three superintendents and changes too numerous to begin to imagine or list, but in that time there has been one constant…Eva Martens giving back to the community and children at Fairview Public Schools during her faithful dedication to the Fairview Board of Education.

Following the meeting of the Fairview Board of Education April 4, Martens officially retired from her seat on the Board of Education and entrusted her seat on the board to Austin Hurst.

During an interview, Martens stated, “It’s truly been a great place to volunteer. What I learned from Bob VanMeter when I got on the board is if you have a strong superintendent, you don’t have a lot of chaos and divisiveness.”

Some of the changes that have occurred over those 35 years that stand out to Martens, is how the Legislature constantly picks at education. “They’ll say we’re going to give you X amount of dollars more this year and that may stop the bleeding for a while, but there is still always more funding needed.”

She added, “If you want to have good/high quality education, then you have to pay high quality educators to do the jobs. I feel like in rural Oklahoma, that is what we have. We have good quality educators that come in and stay and they become dedicated to serving the school family and aren’t moving around year-to-year.”

She added, “It’s the school board member’s job to have and build a personal relationship with their local legislators…and even the legislators that aren’t yours.”  She added, “Your role as a school member is to also be an active voice to lobby for the betterment of the education of your students.” That is another area where the role of school board members has changed since Martens first became a member of the Fairview BOE.

“Martens also emphasized it’s imperative to have strong administrators in each location and not have to share a principal between each building. Having a dedicated leader in each location helps the overall flow of the chain of command.”

Thinking back to when she first got on the board Martens said she was reminded of one thing, “The ‘City’ schools were jealous of the rural schools getting all the Gross Production Tax proceeds, so then all the GPT money was taken away from the local districts and went to one big pot in Oklahoma City to be divided up amongst the districts.”

It was the end of “Hold Harmless” and many of the districts were forced to take cuts. Then in the next two years, districts were forced to begin holding “Reduction in Force” meetings, with Fairview being faced with the task of trimming 10-12 positions per year.

Martens stated in the first year, the district was able avoid letting any staff go, due to some personnel leaving for jobs in other industries or retiring from the profession all together.

The next year it was kind of the same situation. However, at the end of the year it came down to one position having two teachers, with one teacher needing to be let go and the district was down to looking at mere minutes to determine seniority. Martens said that was grueling and one of the more agonizing she encountered during her 35 years on the board.

Two years later the Ag teachers had left and the district was looking for replacements. Martens stated one Ag teacher was hired but left after only a week due to personal reasons. Another replacement was hired and that became another issue in and of itself, and a replacement was then again needed. Those were also some of the challenging times Martens recalled.

Through the years Martens stated she has learned a lot about different programs being offered to students that she never thought she would have to know. She stated, “I love seeing Fairview kids compete in anything they can and I loved being around school board members from other communities and having them know I was from Fairview. Being from Fairview brought a great sense of pride.”

In many areas other than football she stated, “We have become the school to beat whether it’s Academic competitions, Speech tournaments, Debate…and any of the activities that give teachers and students the ability to excel in areas they really like and enjoy.”

She added, “I have learned that I can have input in different areas and my input goes directly to the Superintendent and not to the teachers. I hope continuing to move forward, the district will continue to hold the same standards it’s known for by the community. I think that is a positive step in passing bond issues and having community support when it comes to supporting students with various fundraisers throughout the year.”

Martens was asked what concerns her about the future of education moving forward and what challenges she sees future board members facing. One area of concern touched on by Martens are changes being proposed to the Ad Valorem tax process, which would see districts receive a reduction in Ad Valorem payments each year.

She stated that would greatly impact in a negative way, Fairview Public Schools and other school districts. Another topic of concern for Martens are school vouchers. She said she feels that as a school board member she took an oath to support the Oklahoma/US Constitution and the US Constitution guarantees a free education to every child in the district. It does not guarantee that a parent can have $5,000 to enroll their child in a private school.

She stated, “Those are ultimately tax payer funds that go to the district and do not follow the individual child”. Martens also touched on different programs schools are forced to have that started out with good intentions, but have ultimately set the system back and created some of the funding issues.

Martens was then asked about new Board Members joining in the future and what they should focus on to see the district continues grow and thrive. She stated, “The things I see they will have the biggest problem with is Social Media, Online Learning alternatives, and the different programs that are available remotely.”

She added she can see online learning continuing to expand in the future, but noted as a whole the system would have to improve greatly from where it is currently for that to be a truly viable option.

Martens noted better training will likely be needed in the future to help educators be able to better bridge the gap from in person and online courses. She also added districts need to be more cognizant of students leaving brick and mortar institutions for online programs such as EPIC.

She stated, “I feel like at Fairview Public Schools we have always tried to hire the best teacher for the position and hold on to them as long as we can”.

Currently Fairview Pubic Schools has a lot of experienced teachers as a whole and Martens was asked how hard she thought employe retention would be in the future. She stated, “The prospect of that does concern me.” She added for a lot of the rural schools anymore, it’s becoming tougher to hire new teachers due to limited job availability for their spouses.

Another immediate concern she has stems back to the current increase in gas prices and what that might mean going forward and the possibility of activities and other functions having to be cut.

Martens was also asked about her thoughts on why a lot of students graduating now aren’t considering entering the education field and what that might mean going forward. She said, “It to some extent comes back to the behavior of students.” She added that the school has students that help teachers during open hours and many of the student helpers have shared the expression they wouldn’t want to become a teacher based on things they have witnessed.

“It really comes back to a lack of respect for the teachers, behavior of students and “Helicopter Parents,” Martens added.

Martens also touched on current seniors Sawyer Hutchison and Sydney Martens being named to Academic All-State and what an honor it is for the district and the students.

One particular item she has been proud to see Fairview Public Schools obtain since she joined the board is the construction of the Arts and Education Center, and to make sure the district always had the bet educators possible.

Another highlight from her time on the board was the addition of the Penner Center around 1993. She stated the Penner Center was also a big blessing and accomplishment for the district.

Although she is retiring from the Board, Martens said she will continue to volunteer her time working with students in the Pre-K/Early Childhood programs, just as she has done since the Pre-K program first started in Fairview. On that note, it was also disclosed at the April 4 meeting that the Early Childhood Center will officially be renamed as the Eva Martens Early Childhood Center.

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