“For our newest students, let me say this, no matter what your background in school, no matter what you thought of school before, Dove Science Academy is your school now,” said Vice Principal Marc Julian to the 500+ Dove Science Academy students gathered in the gym.
The high school students in their maroon uniform shirts and the middle school students in their blue shirts sat quietly as they listened to Julian take them through the basics of being a student at Dove.
After his general instructions, students lined up by homeroom and walked out with their teacher who would give them more instructions for the new year.
It was the 16th first day of school for Dove. And it was the 15th for Julian, at the 6th-12th grade charter school authorized by Oklahoma City Public Schools.
He started there as an English teacher during Dove’s first year and has served in several administrative capacities over the years.
“I can’t imagine being any place else,” he told Free Press during our visit.
While the traditional neighborhood schools in OKCPS got their start August 1, the ten authorized charters launched their new school year over a course of different days from July 27 to August 17.
We followed William Stubbs as he visited Dove and later in the morning John Rex Elementary Charter downtown, the second two charters to start school on August 9.
He is the Instructional Leadership Director for Charter and Enterprise Schools and the primary connection between the authorized charters and the district administration.
Starting in her 6th-grade year and now a senior, Briseyda Amador has the firm handshake and consistent eye contact of someone who believes she is on her way into a productive life.
“After this year I want to become a nurse. I want to go to OSU-OKC to get my basics in associates and then go to the University of Oklahoma to finish my bachelor’s degree,” she said.
She carries confidence and pride in what she has accomplished, and believes she will accomplish beyond high school.
Dove is a school that has a strong focus on science, which means it can be challenging for students who get off to a slow start in elementary school.
But the culture of the school is to help.
“They try to help everyone out,” said Amador. “It doesn’t matter if you aren’t the smartest or the brightest, they always help you and provide you with programs and they provide you with help.”
Student, now teacher
Christina Hernandez started at Dove in her 6th-grade year and then graduated from there in 2009. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a Zoology degree, she returned to teach science at Dove.
She said the reason she went into teaching was to inspire and help students who share her culture.
“Coming from a Hispanic background, I know it’s super difficult sometimes with your parents because a lot of them don’t have higher education,” Hernandez said. “And so, when you need help it’s hard to get help at home.”
She is one of the students Coach Arthur Easlon was referring to when he told us one thing he loves about the school is seeing some of the students he once taught coming back to teach.
He is in his 14th year at Dove and the other PE teacher/coach is Cam Case who has been at Dove since it started in 2001.
Hernandez said it was a “big learning experience” to come back and be on the faculty with her former teachers.
And it has advantages of familiarity.
“It’s easy for me to talk to them if I need advice on something,” said Hernandez.
OKC – Tulsa
Superintendent Umit Alp said that Dove Public Schools charter organization has around 500 at Dove Science Academy, grades 6-12; and, then another 250 at their elementary at N.E. 50th and N. Lincoln Boulevard.
Between two Tulsa schools, the organization has another 1,000 students Alp said.