No school takeover
By Karl Springer
I want to directly address the people of Oklahoma City and explain my opinion on the potential state takeover of our schools on the state’s priority list: It is a terrible idea.
Here’s why: Oklahoma City Public Schools were like a stalled-out train languishing on the tracks when I became superintendent three-and-a-half years ago. The 10 years prior averaged one superintendent per year, and each had a unique vision and plans to tackle this district’s enormous problems; but laying the tracks and the path for success require consistency. There were many starts and stops, backing up, rerouting and reassessments over that period of time as each leader, for whatever reason, bowed out. During that decade, OKCPS students and teachers made due without a cohesive plan to propel this district forward. There were pockets of success, but many of our most vulnerable students were derailed and floundering.
Tearing up the track will delay the success we all desire.
I have spent the last three-and-a-half years partnering with our courageous Board of Education, local colleges and universities, teachers, students and some of the best academic theorists in the nation to gain traction for our schools. We have tackled infrastructure, extended the school calendar, implemented intersessions for supplemental tutoring, and developed innovative academic strategies through grants and research to benefit our students. We have a comprehensive strategic plan in place for our 40,000 passengers.
We are achieving results, even in our “failing” schools. Many people are unaware that Oklahoma City Public School students can earn college credit while in high school — tuition-free, without ever setting foot on a college campus. This opportunity allows some students to graduate high school with the equivalent of an associate’s degree. Last year 31 Douglass High School students participated in the concurrent college enrollment program, earning a combined total of 354 college credit hours. Of these remarkable students, 19 were seniors who collectively earned 222 credit hours upon high school graduation. This year, 36 Douglass High students are participating in the program; 29 are seniors. This kind of opportunity is nonexistent in most school districts. Free college credit is unusual, but our students increasingly take advantage of this opportunity.
Douglass High School is one of the campuses we risk ceding to state control.
Derailing us now would be a shame. We have done the backbreaking work of laying the tracks and now, just as this enormous train is finally gaining speed and is on its way, the state may ask us to halt. Time for a change in leadership, they say; time to reassess, re-evaluate, reconsider and change direction. Again.
The state wants immediate results in the form of high test scores and measurable improvements. We do, too. Everyone does. This is a journey. Tearing up the track and rerouting this train again will delay the success we all desire.
We cannot allow our momentum to be broken.
We cannot ask the students to keep waiting.
They do not have the time.
Springer is superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools.