By Joshua Allen
ONL Staff Reporter
The Okemah school district has a new sign, recently installed somewhat near the administration building, that administrators and school board members are proud of.
The recently-installed sign is a multiple-screen digital message board, that will soon allow the district to send out messages to citizens, students, families and visitors via the computer system within the school.
Located very near the corner of West Date and Woody Guthrie Streets, the new message board sign sits adjacent to the Okemah Car Wash and caddy-cornered across the thoroughfare from Sonic Drive-In.
“I think it’s a great addition to both the school and the community,” Interim Superintendent Dr. Bob Gragg said. “We hope that people appreciate it, (like we in administration do). It’s also a great welcome sign for visitors to our community.”
At about nine feet wide and four to five feet tall, not counting the frame holding the sign, this is not what may be called a small message board. And once you calculate in its new three-and-a-half foot concrete base, Gragg said the sign sits “probably about or up to 15 feet off the ground.”
Gragg explained that the message board capabilities, while coming soon, are not available to the administrative computer system yet, but will allow them to customize messages on a routine, hourly, daily, weekly and/or monthly basis — whenever a message of any kind is needed.
“The sign’s digital message board is not completely set up with the software to communicate with our computers, but we do have a wireless antenna already in place,” Gragg said. “Our technician is currently working on that and will have that going any day, I’m sure.”
It’s not that there hasn’t been a sign in that location for quite some time … there has been.
However, it was a simple, static sign — reading “basically only the name of the school district” at that time, Gragg said — that pales in comparison to this new one.
Once the technician finishes the setup of the software, allowing it to communicate with the needed hardware, the superintendent said the community messaging capability, featuring multiple digital, LED lighted screens, is something he is very proud of.
“We are happy to soon be able to communicate with the community using our digital message board for the foreseeable future,” he said. “And … it really looks great. We are proud to have it.”
The district had needed help getting the sign, and Gragg made sure to iterate the school’s gratitude to the local sponsors that helped make the new piece of equipment a reality financially — those being Tanner Chevrolet, Citizens State Bank of Okemah and BancFirst of Okemah.
That’s not all, though. Gragg told the News Leader that Steve Cheatwood also donated all the labor for the installment of the approximately 45 square-foot (or more counting its frame) sign — a job he does all over the country, installing signs such as this new one in Okemah.
Cheatwood, Gragg said, is an independent contractor, who does install work for the company out of Norman that made the digital sign.
As for what kinds of messages will be displayed, the administration hopes to communicate whatever is needed to be known by students, their families, daily citizens and passersby. Things like upcoming holidays, days school may be out, weather, approaching sports games on the calendar, special messages and more.
An important thing to Gragg, he said after the last school board meeting and reiterated on the phone during a subsequent interview, is making sure the sponsors know the Okemah Public Schools administration and staff and student body thank those sponsors named above.
“We do thank our sponsors (of this new sign),” he said. “It is such a great looking welcome to our community and will prove to be a valuable communication tool.”