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Statewide News

OKLAHOMA CITY – A Tulsa man who filed a bogus insurance claim and assaulted an insurance adjuster has been sentenced to life in prison. Prentice E. Ponds II, 43, was on parole at the time of the crime. He has a long criminal history with multiple felony convictions.

“Oklahoma is a safer place with this man behind bars,” said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “While it’s common for insurance fraud to be committed in conjunction with other crimes, we don’t typically see violence like this. But it does happen. I am extremely proud of the work done by our Anti-Fraud Unit to get this violent criminal off the streets. I also want to thank the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office for its excellent work on this case.”

Ponds was arrested in August 2015 after an investigation by the Oklahoma Insurance Department’s Anti-Fraud Unit. Investigators found that Ponds filed a fraudulent insurance claim on a 2014 Chevy Camaro with preexisting damage he’d purchased off eBay. When an insurance adjuster went to Ponds’ home to question him about the claim, Ponds became angry. He attacked the adjuster and took his file and audio recorder. The insurance adjuster was later treated for a head laceration and broken ribs.

Last week a Tulsa County jury convicted Ponds of robbery and insurance fraud. He was sentenced to life for the robbery conviction and 25 years for the insurance fraud conviction. Ponds’ prior felony convictions include assault and battery, robbery and burglary.

“I could not be more pleased with the jury’s verdict,” said Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Reagan Reininger. “The jury was able to evaluate the evidence and send a message that making a fraudulent insurance claim and robbery by force or fear are crimes that will not be tolerated in our community. A violent criminal was taken off our streets with the help of the Tulsa Police Department and the thorough investigation of the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Because of our collective efforts, the hope is that this criminal will never be able to victimize again,” said Reininger.

“Repwest takes insurance fraud very seriously and works closely with authorities to fervently pursue justice,” said Robert Pirmann, vice president at Repwest Insurance Company. “On behalf of our team, I want to commend the Oklahoma Department of Insurance, the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office and local law enforcement for their diligent efforts in this case. The violence exhibited against our insurance investigator should never be tolerated.”

About the Oklahoma Insurance Department

The Oklahoma Insurance Department, an agency of the State of Oklahoma, is responsible for the education and protection of the insurance-buying public and for oversight of the insurance industry in the state.

Governor Mary Fallin Congratulates Oklahoma Natives for "La La Land" Success

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today congratulated Oklahoma natives Trent and Thad Luckinbill for their work on the film, “La La Land,” which received six Oscars during Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony.

“I applaud Trent and Thad Luckinbill for their blockbuster hit,” said Fallin. “All of us Oklahomans are standing a little taller today with a sense of pride because of their impressive achievement.”

Trent and Thad Luckinbill, Enid natives and brothers, helped finance and produce “La La Land” through their company, Black Label Media, which they formed with producer Molly Smith in 2013. In only a few short years, the company has financed and produced a number of hit films including “Demolition,” “71,” “The Good Lie,” “Begin Again” and “Sicario”, which was nominated for three Academy Awards in 2015. The Oklahoma Film + Music Office is working with the duo in hopes of attracting one of their future productions to Oklahoma.

The Luckinbills have come a long way since graduating from the University of Oklahoma. Trent, who earned a law degree, has an extensive legal and financial background with the Department of Treasury’s Office of Financial Stability and the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. Shortly after earning a business degree, Thad moved to California where he began working as both an actor and producer, widely known for his role as J.T. Hellstrom on the CBS soap opera “The Young and the Restless.” Their recent success with “La La Land” has transformed into box office gold as the film has dominated the box office, raking in more than $343 million since its release.

“We are very proud to be a part of ‘La La land’ and the incredible reception it has received,” said the Luckinbills. “When Black Label decided to come on board, we knew that we were working on a special film with tremendous heart. We are amazed and thrilled by the outpour of praise and the way in which the film so thoroughly resonates with a universal audience. As two proud Oklahomans, it is exciting to see the film industry in our home state now rapidly building, with strong incentives and rebates. We’ve received overwhelming support from the state and look forward to finding opportunities to bring future productions to Oklahoma.”

“La La Land” won six Oscars; for lead actress, best director, cinematography, production design, original score and original song. With a total of 14 Oscar nominations, the film tied “Titanic” and “All About Eve” for the most nominations for a single film in motion picture history.

Written and Directed by Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”), “La La Land” is a modern-day musical with a classic flair that tells the story of a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling - “Drive,” “The Notebook”) who falls for an aspiring actress (Emma Stone - “The Help,” “Birdman”) in Los Angeles.

(Tahlequah, Oklahoma) -- Northeastern State University is set to host the regional Special Olympics on March 9 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Doc Wadley Stadium and track on the Tahlequah campus.

Grandview Schools Special Education teacher and Special Olympics Head Coach Shayla Stewart is the organizer of this event.

“Participants are usually from the area schools here in Cherokee County, but this year we are also reaching out to expand the event to more schools in the region,” Stewart said.

This regional event provides an opportunity to area students who are unable to travel to the state level Special Olympics.

“Parents may not have the time or the means to make it to the other Special Olympic events or their child may be special needs, but not severe enough to participate in the other events. This event is a great opportunity for those students.”

NSU Director of Athletics Tony Duckworth said NSU is excited to be involved in the third annual Special Olympics Fun and Field Day.

“All of our teams and spirit squads will be involved throughout the day assisting with events and supporting the participants,” Duckworth said. “Our student-athletes and coaches do a marvelous job each year, and we are excited to be part of the 2017 event."

Stewart said NSU student athletes and College of Education students volunteer to work the event. She said their participation is integral to a smooth-running fun and field day.

Participants in this year’s event will have the chance to be involved in a variety of track and field events, as well as, bocce, softball throw, face painting and more games.

“The Special Olympians really love being on the college field. It’s a great experience,” Stewart said.

The deadline for anyone wanting to show interest in their student participating is Feb 24 with March 7 being the last date to sign up with the student’s name and age. Contact Stewart through email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 918-456-5131 x 141.

The community is welcome to come and support the Special Olympians. The event is free and open to the public. There will be concession stands set up by Sodexo and worked by 8th grade Grandview students. A percentage of the money raised at these stands will go towards the Special Olympics.

by Sgt. Jason Lay, 145th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

OKLAHOMA CITY – More than 200 Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen, along with Soldiers from the Missouri Army National Guard, active-duty and Reservists came together this month by taking part in a multi-unit and multi-component transportation mission across the nation as part of Operation Patriot Bandoleer, a mission in support of Operation Golden Patriot led by the California Army National Guard involving more than 650 Soldiers.

With approximately 100 tactical and support vehicles, Oklahoma and Missouri Guardsmen departed from the Armed Forces Reserve Centers in Mustang, Oklahoma and Norman, Oklahoma and headed west to the Military Ocean Terminal in Concord, California. Upon their arrival and securing their equipment load in California, the Soldiers headed back to Oklahoma, covering more than 3,400 miles along the South Central and South Western region of the United States.

National Guard units taking part in the haul mission consisted of the Alpha Company, 700th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB), 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team; 1345th Transportation Company, 345th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 90th Troop Command; and Missouri Army National Guard’s 1221st Transportation Company and 835th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.

“Our convoy consisted of command staff, semi-trucks, scout teams, support vehicles, supply trucks, mechanics and fuel tankers all in support of the mission who were capable of providing immediate attention to any concerns that may arise along the way,” said Capt. Douglas Paulson, operations officer with 700th BSB.

The morning the convoy was set to depart Oklahoma was a true test of each Soldier’s readiness, patience and ability. With temperatures in the low 30s and freezing rain, the Soldiers experienced some mechanical setbacks, such as frozen brake lines, frozen-over windows and vehicles struggling to start due to the freezing temperatures. Despite the complications, the Soldiers were able to move out without any major difficulty.

Some of the Soldiers were no strangers to conducting long-haul operations, having completed a mission safely that covered multiple states just last year.

“The Army often utilizes National Guard units to transport materials to and from various destinations,” Paulson said. “This is a great way to allow our Soldiers to gain experience in the profession while providing a cost-effective mode of transportation verses using a civilian transport company.”

For some Soldiers, however, this was their first large-scale mission, where they utilized their military occupation specialties and gained a wealth of experience.

“This is my first annual training, having joined the Guard less than a year ago,” said Pfc. Shelton Williams, a truck driver with Alpha Company, 700th BSB. “My father is a truck driver and I wanted to learn about logistics as well.”

Some of that experience came from the initial planning. For a large-scale operation such as this, months of planning, coordination with multiple units and training is required to ensure mission success.

“Operations command had to plan the mission dates, plan the route and alternate routes, establish how many trucks and the manpower it will take to complete the mission, and coordinate between the units that are participating in the mission, all while maintaining constant communication with the supplier to ensure the mission success,” Paulson said.

According to Paulson, primary and alternate routes were established both in the planning stages and during the mission to mitigate any potential route delays during their travel.

“We sent recon teams out to travel the routes to assess the road conditions, bridges and overpasses, weigh stations and rest areas along the way where we can stop as needed without having to deviate from the route and still be able to accommodate a convoy of this size,” Paulson said.

The haul mission overall was a success, even with the inclement weather conditions from the start.

“Despite all the obstacles we encountered, we met all our expected goals and were able to complete our mission without any major concerns,” said Capt. Collin McKinley, convoy commander for the mission. “Overall, this was a real-world stuff; our Soldiers had to move equipment from one point to the next, all while depending on our mission and support team being able to address vehicle concerns and providing fuel along the way.”

(SAPULPA, OK – January 26, 2017) According to the State of the State’s Health Report Card, Creek County received a “D” in Poor Physical Health Days. Good Samaritan Health Services is working to help improve this rating by providing a free, mobile, primary care medical clinic to uninsured persons in the Creek County area.
Ben Dodwell, Administrator with Good Samaritan Health Services, will be at Creek County Literacy Program, 15 North Poplar Street in Sapulpa on Wednesday, February 15 at 5:30pm to present information on services provided and answer any questions. This free workshop is open to the public.

“The Sapulpa clinic is held on the first and third Wednesday evenings of each month at First Baptist Church, 200 South Elm Street in Sapulpa. Patients will need to arrive by 5:00pm to be seen by a doctor, or make an appointment for a future clinic,” shared Dodwell. Services include: primary care health services, free lab services and free medications. Complete information can be found at www.goodsamaritanhealth.org .
Learning About the Services of Good Samaritan Health Services is a health literacy outreach project of Creek County Literacy Program, the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, with funding provided by the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. For more information or to register, call 918-224-9647.

About Creek County Literacy Program

For 28 years CCLP has worked to improve the quality of life in our community by promoting and achieving literacy. One in six adults 18-24 years old in our county do not have a high school diploma. One in nine adults 25 years of age and older in our county do not have a high school diploma. Thirty-six percent of students K-3 in our county receive reading remediation. Through extensive outreach and collaboration with a network of community partners, CCLP strives to ensure that individuals who need to improve their literacy skills receive the help they need. CCLP’s Mission is to help every child and adult in Creek County to read through tutoring, technology and health literacy outreaches. CCLP’s Vision is for every child and adult in Creek County to read proficiently.

(Broken Arrow, Oklahoma) -- Northeastern State University will host an art exhibit titled “Shapes and Shades,” from Feb. 3 to March 3 in the Visitors Center Gallery of the Administrative Services Building on the Broken Arrow campus, celebrating the work of NSU alumnus Duane (dd) Duvall. The exhibit will be available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Duvall received his Master of Business Administration from NSU in May 2013. While Duvall has spent many years in corporate analyst roles, he said he is fortunate he can switch the analytical side of his brain to the off position for his creative skills to be turned loose.

As an artist, Duvall favors heavy body acrylic paintings, inks and anything else needed to achieve the desired result. He is especially fond of iridescent colors and incorporates them often.

When creating, Duvall said he is inspired by a color or two and a theme, but tries to avoid spending hours pondering the process.

“I try to disconnect the analytical side of my brain and allow that time that I’m staring at the canvas to be all creative,” Duvall said.

Duvall has sold over 80 pieces of his work, selling in exhibitions and online with paintings now in homes and businesses in multiple states.

“You never know where your work might wind up,” Duvall said. “It might wind up in an attic, above a full sink of dishes, at a flea market or at a fine art gallery. You just paint, let it leave your hands and let history take care of the rest.”

For more information, please contact Duvall at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

New Report Shows Oklahoma Making Major Progress in Bringing High-Speed Internet to More Schools and Students.

EducationSuperHighway’s Second Annual “State of the States” Report Finds 91 Percent of Oklahoma School Districts Meet Minimum Connectivity Goal; Up from 85 Percent in 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today expressed appreciation for ongoing efforts to bring high-speed Internet to more schools and students statewide as part of her Oklahoma Connect and Learning Initiative. The Oklahoma Connect and Learn Initiative is part of the Oklahoma Works strategic plan.

The Initiative leadership team consists of members from the Governor’s Office, Oklahoma State Department of Education, Oklahoma Corporation Commission, and Office of Management and Enterprise Services. The initiative is coordinated through a national policy academy hosted by the National Governors Association and EducationSuperHighway, a national non-profit focused on upgrading the Internet access in America’s public schools.

“I am proud of the progress made by our school districts through the Oklahoma Connect and Learn Initiative,” Fallin said. “This initiative is a voluntary program that works with school districts to maximize existing funding to connect schools with broadband, as well as provide students and educators with Wi-Fi access in classrooms. The increased broadband provides access to digital resources and learning opportunities, which will provide students with additional content and academic courses.”

The EducationSuperHighway’s annual “State of the States” report on K-12 broadband connectivity finds that:

91 percent of Oklahoma school districts meet the minimum connectivity goal of 100 kbps per student, up from 85 percent at this time as reported last year.
204,216 Oklahoma students gained access to more bandwidth in their classrooms.
124 Oklahoma school districts upgraded their broadband connections.
98% of schools in Oklahoma have fiber connections needed to keep up with growing bandwidth demand from students and teachers.
Speaking about Oklahoma’s success, Evan Marwell, Founder and CEO of EducationSuperHighway noted, “Few state leaders are as committed to expanding and improving broadband in schools as Governor Fallin. I saw that firsthand when I joined her in September to announce the launch of the Oklahoma Connect and Learn Initiative. She is joined in this commitment by so many leaders all across the state. The fact is, Oklahoma is making tremendous progress in bringing high-speed Internet to every student, and Oklahoma is more prepared than ever to keep that progress going. We look forward to continuing to work with the governor and the Oklahoma team to continue connecting more students to the digital learning world of today and tomorrow.”

To see the full “State of the States” report, please visit the EducationSuperHighway website here: http://stateofthestates.educationsuperhighway.org/

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 18, 2017) – The number of students enrolled in Oklahoma public schools continued to rise in 2016, increasing by more than 1,000 from the previous year.

A total of 693,710 students were enrolled in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade at the start of the school year, an increase of 1,040 over the 2015 total of 692,670 and 27,560 more than in 2011.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said the increase in enrollment does not come as a surprise.

“Oklahoma schools are educating more students than ever before. Over the past decade, student enrollment has risen steadily, as have funding challenges. We must do everything we can to maximize our resources in order to serve a growing and increasingly diverse group of Oklahoma schoolchildren,” Hofmeister said.

Districts record enrollment every year on Oct. 1 and report the figures to the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Currently, Oklahoma has 513 public school districts and 1,787 school sites, including 13 charter schools not sponsored by a district.

The list of the 10 largest districts is identical to last year’s, although some changed position within the ranking. This year’s 10 largest districts are:

Oklahoma City Public Schools: 45,757 students
Tulsa Public Schools: 40,459
Edmond Public Schools: 24,403
Moore Public Schools: 24,355
Putnam City Schools: 19,475
Broken Arrow Public Schools: 19,059
Union Public Schools: 15,983
Norman Public Schools: 15,942
Lawton Public Schools: 14,747
Mid-Del Schools: 14,302
Among those districts, Moore had the greatest year-to-year growth, increasing 1.95 percent over 2015, followed by Edmond with an increase of 1.7 percent and Broken Arrow, which jumped 1.01 percent. Putnam City and Oklahoma City grew less than 1 percent. Enrollment decreased up to 2 percent in Union, Norman, Tulsa, Lawton and Mid-Del.

Statewide, student population percentages shifted slightly this year. Most significantly, the percentage of white students dipped below 50 percent in the first time in state history. The number of Native American students also decreased, while the percentage of Hispanic students and students of two or more ethnicities increased. This school year, Oklahoma’s student population is*:

49.36 percent white
16.81 percent Hispanic
13.94 percent Native American or Alaskan Native
8.77 percent black
8.78 percent two or more races
2.34 percent Asian, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
*Numbers are rounded and may not add up to 100.

To view the spreadsheets with state, district and site totals, visit http://sde.ok.gov/sde/documents/state-student-public-enrollment

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak is offering innovative ideas on health insurance to national leaders. Doak responded today to a request from U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy asking for recommendations as lawmakers move forward with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

“If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, we should take this as an opportunity to do something different, something that works,” Doak said. “Unlike other lines of insurance, the hands of the health insurance industry have been tied by the law, unable to grow and innovate. Now is the time to open the market to see what can be done to provide greater access to affordable health insurance for everyone.”

One of Doak’s suggestions to House Leader McCarthy includes examining the use of microinsurance. This type of insurance focuses on the low-income population and has been successful in countries like India. Doak included research from David M. Dror, Chairman of the Micro Insurance Academy, on how microinsurance could work in the United States.

Other ideas from Doak include:

Permitting sale of insurance across state lines under state regulatory enforcement.
Adopting policies that expand the use of health savings accounts coupled with more affordable, high-deductible health plans.

Allowing states to enact new health reforms at the grade-school level that incorporate physical fitness and nutrition programs to deter preventable illnesses.

Letting states determine the age at which a child can remain on his or her parent’s group health plan.

Enacting legislation that protects consumers from unfair balance billing and surprise billing from individual providers like anesthesiologists, radiologists or medical service companies such as air ambulance and imaging providers.

Allowing states to pursue innovative health care delivery mechanisms including, but not limited to, telemedicine and the expansion of the technologically-based Project ECHO® for rural America.

The Oklahoma Insurance Department and Commissioner Doak will be holding town hall meetings throughout the state to talk with Oklahomans about healthcare reform. The dates and locations of those meetings will be announced at a later date.

You can see the letter Commissioner Doak sent to House Majority Leader McCarthy by clicking here.

About the Oklahoma Insurance Department

The Oklahoma Insurance Department, an agency of the State of Oklahoma, is responsible for the education and protection of the insurance-buying public and for oversight of the insurance industry in the state.

(StatePoint) Do you share a playlist with your poodle? Take a bath with your turtle? It might seem far-fetched, but since many people treat pets like family, they often let them do surprising things.

A recent survey, commissioned by Moen, conducted online by Harris Poll, finds that, among other things, 43 percent of Americans who have ever owned a pet have let their pet lick their plate before washing them. From bathing with pets to letting them sit at the dinner table, pet owners do peculiar things.

“Almost all of us have had at least one furry friend in our lifetime,” says Andrea Maher, senior marketing communications specialist, Moen. “What’s different about today’s pets, however, is that we truly treat them like family. Sometimes, even better.”

To make pets feel like someone is with them at all times, some people leave the TV on for them. And some do a bit more. Indeed, the average amount Americans who have ever owned a pet spend on their pet per month is $55, outside of medical expenses.

“We’ve heard from customers who have installed Pot Filler faucets to fill dog water bowls, those who’ve created pet bathing stations with our powerful handshowers, and even some who have bathtubs dedicated solely to washing pets,” adds Maher. “It’s no longer a ‘man’s world’ these days. It’s a ‘pet’s world,’ and we’re just living in it.”

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