Here are my comments from the board meeting tonight:
Today is the 131st first day of school in Oklahoma City.
In many ways, the 131st first day was like all the other first days before. Excited teachers and nervous students. Some classrooms are too full, and some have too many empty seats. Some things went wrong, but most things went right. Right now, thousands of kids are telling their families what happened at school today.
But really, this first day in Oklahoma City is unlike the 130 before.
This is the first day of school where we as a district have agreed to educate ALL kids.
Not most students.
Not some schools.
Not a few neighborhoods.
ALL kids in ALL schools in ALL parts of town.
Pathway to Greatness required us as adults to admit what we were doing — what we had been doing for decades — was unfair at best.
We had to look in the mirror and acknowledge that we KNOW better, so we must DO better.
Pathway to Greatness isn’t perfect, but it’s real, tangible progress. I know that’s of little comfort to those who started today with tears over these changes. New school. New faculty and staff. New classmates. Today was a hard day for a lot of people.
Everybody had something to give up in Pathway to Greatness, whether it was the loss of your neighborhood school or the loss of your comfort zone. Many of us on this board were directly affected as well. This is hard.
BUT everybody had something to gain. We have counselors in EVERY school. More nurses, more application schools, more support for teachers and leaders. EVERY child has access to art, music and PE. STEM labs are popping up in EVERY elementary school. Our secondary students now have science labs — real ones. Can you imagine trying to learn chemistry on YouTube and then going to college as an engineering major? We were not setting up our children for success, especially our black and brown students.
As a community, we agreed it’s more important to invest in our children than to preserve the status quo. As a board, we put policies in place to back that up.
My only regret is how long we as a community waited. A friend of mine says the best time to plant an apple tree is 20 years ago. Well, we didn’t. So we are planting that apple tree today — a first day unlike any other first days in Oklahoma City. Thank you to the district employees who made the impossible happen this summer. Thank you to teachers and support professionals who stuck with us, even with new assignments. Most of all, thank you to the families who chose to stay. I hope you had the best first day ever.