The Oklahoma State Department of Education is hosting a year-long leadership program for 48 school leaders throughout the metro, and the Moving UP program kicked off this month. Sixteen principals and assistant principals from Oklahoma City Public Schools were selected to participate this year. Thanks so much to those principals for putting in the extra work to help make their schools better for children and staff! These are the OKCPS participants:
One of the roles of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education is to set policy for the school district. These policies govern everything from student enrollment to selling property to libraries. The district used to have a maze of policies, some of which conflicted and others that were outdated. Central office staff recently revamped the organization of these policies, narrowing them from several hundred to several dozen. Now, the school board policy committee will comb through the remaining policies one at a time. The committee is made up of District 4 Board Member Paula Lewis, OKCPS General Counsel Brandon Carey, and myself. It might not be glamorous work, but it's important. Our overarching goal is to clarify and consolidate. Policies should be easy to understand for families, staff, and the community. These are the policies were are tackling first:
If you haven't had a chance yet to pick up a copy of the Oklahoma Gazette today, grab one soon. News reporter Laura Eastes previewed the District 3 race. Obviously, print is a limited commodity, so I thought I would post my full interview answers here, where space is unlimited. So here are the questions and answers for her preview story, including my typos. Laura said she will be doing a more in-depth look at the race when the election is closer. Props to her for her great coverage of education and local government.
Occupation and brief background on employment: I'm a content marketing specialist for BigWing Interactive, which is a digital marketing company. I worked as a journalism teacher at Putnam City North High School for two years. Before that, I worked as a columnist and reporter for The Oklahoman for nine years. The several years were as the education reporter.
Why are you running for the school board? I first thought about running for school board when I left journalism. Phil Horning has done a great job for District 3, and whenever he retired, I would run. So this year is just the time. We have two girls - 6 and 1 - so my husband and I discussed the election and possible board term at length. Our 1-year-old will be in pre-k four years from now, and I decided that by the time she started school, I wanted to know I did everything I could for her and all the other students to have good schools to go to.
What goals do you hope to achieve if you are elected? I'd like to boost support for schools. We have to identify what's preventing parents, businesses and the community from being involved at every school. I also want to be an advocate for Oklahoma City Public Schools in the community and with state leaders. Our kids need our support now more than ever. We all have to work with urgency.
What special strengths do you believe you would bring to the board? There are a lot of stakeholders in education, and I've been in three of those roles - watchdog, teacher and parent. I think that experience has made me able to ask good questions, listen to all sides and always work with the success of students in mind.
This is a great time to live in Oklahoma City.
Our city is in the throes of a Renaissance. Infrastructure is improving. Businesses are flourishing. We are bursting at the seams with civic pride. The horizon is promising. More good days are ahead, and we feel it. This is a great time to be here.
But that optimism turns sour for some when it comes to public schools. Our children and those working to educate them are battling serious obstacles: poverty, homelessness, a massive teacher shortage. Instead of chiding our school district, we must work tirelessly with everyone -- students, parents, teachers, staff, volunteers and the community -- to find real, long-term solutions.
Like nearly every district in Oklahoma, the number of students is growing in Oklahoma City Public Schools. The number of English language learners is on the rise, and our homeless student population is climbing, too. Nine in ten students are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch. Teachers and administrators are asked to do more for more students, all while earning less than their equally-educated peers. The graduation rate of 75 percent is too low, and college entrance exam scores lag behind the rest of the state.
Despite deep challenges, Oklahoma City Public Schools has many bright spots, particularly growing enrollment in early childhood programs, such as Early Birds and pre-kindergarten. High school students have more options for advanced coursework than they have in years past. We are seeing success in all types of schools -- traditional and charter. Schools are building tighter bonds with the community and business sectors, and those bridges must continue to be built.
The district has about 5,000 members of parent-teacher groups. Barriers to involvement must be identified. As parents, we all want our children to succeed, but some families lack the resources to ensure that. As a community, we must help families move toward success together.
We must work with urgency. No child has a year to lose to ineffectiveness, whether it's a kindergartener learning sight words or a high school senior prepping for graduation. Good things are happening in Oklahoma City Public Schools, and we must all work together to share, modify and expand what works. We also must have the humility to admit when ideas don't work.
We all agree that our children deserve our very best, even though we might not all agree on how to accomplish that. The first steps are to listen and to learn. Our current school board is moving in the right direction; I want to help push even harder. Oklahoma City and Oklahoma City Public Schools are at a juncture. We're all on the same team, and we all have the same goal: success for the children of our city.