OKCPS Superintendent talks Pathways to Greatness at Chamber Forum
With Oklahoma City Public Schools district facilities operating at 60 percent capacity and enrollment projected to decline over the next few years, it is clear that the status quo is not an acceptable way to approach the future of the district.
Yesterday, OKCPS Superintendent Sean McDaniel shared his recommendation of a Final Path forward for OKCPS to reinvent the district. For more than a year, OKCPS has been on a journey to design a future where students are served equitably and have access to more educational opportunities and support services -- regardless of their zip code.
“It hasn’t been easy, but I am so grateful that our staff, as well as our families and our community, have been willing to share their ideas, concerns, and considerations along the way,” said McDaniel. “We have been able to respond to a number of great ideas from our stakeholders to make the plan better. By placing our trust in each other and by leaning into difficult conversations, we’ve been able to chart a Final Path that will lead to new levels of success for all of our students. The plan isn’t perfect, but no plan is. We have 45,000 reasons to say ‘yes’ and move forward for our students.”
OKCPS has also identified four schools that will become transformation schools for the 2019-2020 school year; Britton, Martin Luther King Jr, Thelma Parks and Rockwood Elementary schools.
In addition, OKCPS announced tentative plans for repurposing district buildings that are slated to be closed. Community health centers, early childhood centers, and special programs such as the Oklahoma Children’s Theatre and Junior Achievement are on the table.
At a Chamber Forum event the day before making his final recommendation to the OKCPS Board, McDaniel provided more than 120 local business leaders insight into the Pathway to Greatness project’s three proposed plans that will provide the district a more equitable education experience for all students under a more efficient model.
The plan will impact every OKCPS student, staff member and family via proposed changes which include: new school boundaries, school consolidations or closures, changes the way grades are structured for elementary, middle and high schools, as well as school buildings being repurposed to meet other needs in the community. The plan also offers significant trade ups for each school, the term the district is using to represent the redirection of resources toward better education opportunities for students.
“Trends over time show that our enrollment is declining slightly and will likely level-off in the next couple of years,” said McDaniel. “This means our share of state funding will decline, even if the overall funding level increases again. A comparison of the number of students we have enrolled and the amount of space in our school buildings shows that we are maintaining a lot of instructional space that we aren't using -- a choice that is directing resources to facilities instead of to our students.”
“We have done considerable work in the last few years to update our instructional practices, to collect and analyze data about long-term trends, and to stabilize our financial situation,” McDaniel said. “Through these efforts, it has become clear that our district is primed and ready for a reinvention to take us to the next level.”
McDaniel emphasized that it is time for things to change, stating that “the status quo is not acceptable.”
He also acknowledged that the way OKCPS did business in the past contributed to today’s problems and that the problem is “a district-wide problem that requires a district-wide solution.
“We must build on what is working and improve what is not working,” he added. “It is time to create the future of education, not recreate the past.”
He went on to say: “The purpose of this process is to get students the resources they need and to align our budget with our values. Our highest priority is serving our students equitably and to ensuring access to more educational opportunities and support services regardless of their zip code.”
The criteria which were chosen by the Board of Education to be used to make decisions about specific facilities include:
- Demographics – actual and projected enrollment trends
- Utilization Rate – enrollment trends vs school capacity
- Academic Performance – student achievement trends
- Physical Plant – building condition, amenities, efficiency
- Location – proximity to other schools, natural barriers
- Program Considerations – educational offerings
- Community Services – neighborhood role of school
- Safety – facility hazards and surrounding area crime activity
- Legal Restrictions – contractual or bond constraint
- Bottom-line Impact – estimated financial results
“We believe that our Pathway to Greatness work will allow us to deepen our investment in serving students and increase student achievement,” said McDaniel.
According to OKCPS, districts who have undergone the same type of redesign have seen enhanced social and behavioral health support; added before school activities and care programs; expanded after school activities and care; child development and parenting classes; more robust teacher staffing; more electives, district-wide; more extra-curricular activities; increased STEM opportunities; comprehensive Advanced Placement offerings; and other benefits.
“I know it’s been a long journey, but we must keep our eyes on the horizon. OKCPS’ Pathway to Greatness is paved with increased access to learning opportunities, more social supports and better support for teachers -- and those building blocks will mean a brighter future for OKCPS and for our entire city,” said McDaniel.
To help ensure families and the community are familiar with the Final Path, OKCPS will host a final round of informational meetings next week before the Board of Education votes on whether to move forward with Pathway to Greatness on March 4:
Monday, February 25th - Capitol Hill @ 6:30 pm *Presented in Spanish
Tuesday, February 26th - U.S. Grant @ 6:30 pm
Wednesday, February 27th - NW Classen @ 6:30 pm
View the P2G Final Path Presentation, the project timeline and find additional information at www.okcps.org/PathwayProject.