The big accomplishment of the evening for OKCPS took a deceptively short amount of time for the Board of Education to vote in Monday night.
But, in the largest school district in the state, it was a major accomplishment to get all of the district’s labor agreements and hiring complete in preparation for the next school year’s business beginning July 1.
Hiring and labor
In years past the district has struggled to finalize its contracts with its various labor forces before the beginning of school.
In some years negotiations would be continuing well into the school year as contract employees continued to work under the old contract until the new one was finally hammered out.
But, a tentative agreement was reached in May with the Oklahoma City AFT Local 2309 representing certified teachers with some significant raises.
Negotiated labor agreements are tentative until the members ratify the agreement with a vote.
The top tier of the administration was hired earlier in the month.
Then, all but classified employees in the district’s labor force were hired and agreements were approved quickly by routine-seeming votes Monday.
It was quick conclusion after many days of patient negotiations behind the scenes.
Negotiations concluded Monday with the Oklahoma City Federation of Classified Employees, AFT Local 4574 of the AFL-CIO when the board voted to approve of the tentative agreement.
Members will now vote on the agreement.
The board voted to secure the following as employed or reemployed:
- Principals and assistant principals
- Certified personnel, which includes teachers and other certified staff such as counselors
- Non-certified personnel such as maintenance and other support staff
- Employees not represented by an employee organization
After the meeting was adjourned Free Press talked with Superintendent Sean McDaniel about negotiations.
“We have an incredible lead negotiator for this district, Miss Jean Bostwick,” said McDaniel about the district’s Chief Financial Officer. “She and her team, I mean, they’re truly stepping up to the table with an interest-based mentality.”
McDaniel said interest-based negotiations don’t start with one side pitching a low number and the other pitching a high number and then grinding out an agreement.
Instead, “you respect the other team. The other team respects you,” he said about the value of interest-based negotiations.
He said a lot can get done when all parties are “truly in this for the kids.”
“I’m thrilled, absolutely thrilled that we made this kind of progress,” McDaniel said. “So Kudos to both teams for keeping kids and all our adults in mind. It was not a power struggle.”
There was little public discussion in the meeting on sweeping powers given to McDaniel about leasing district properties.
Agenda item 7.01 was approved by the board 5-0. On the agenda, it was listed as, “Authorize Supt to Finalize and enter into leases of District Properties.”
Charter school proposal
Ashley Terry, in public relations for The Wheeler District, presented their proposal for a new charter school in the high-end housing development on the former Downtown Airpark.
The development is on the south bank of the Oklahoma River and the west side of South Western Avenue.
She was re-submitting their application for a new charter school that would serve those moving into the new development of homes that so far have sold for an average of $208 per square foot, ranging in price from $148,000 to $600,000, and students from a defined area just to the west of the development in existing housing that dates back into the 1930s and 1940s.*
Wheeler District developer Blair Humphreys is proposing that Western Gateway be a PreK-5 dual language immersion charter school.
Terry argued for the school from the standpoint of the area needing the high standards and inclusiveness of the school designed to draw a 50/50 split of students whose first language is Spanish and students whose first language is English.
But board members had a considerable number of comments and questions about the project.
Carrie Jacobs questioned whether the school would continue to be able to achieve a 50/50 split with the small first-priority or “Tier 1” zone currently being drawn.
Gloria Torres, who has been in on the discussions since very early in it conception, raised doubts about why the school was needed when the same program is just blocks away in a district school.
Charles Henry asked about why the western boundary of the school is being drawn just along the edge of Will Rogers Courts to exclude the public housing complex just blocks away from the main part of Wheeler District.
Monday’s presentation was technically the first hearing since it was a submitted as a new proposal at the board’s request.
So, action will be taken on the proposal at a future board meeting.
*Additions and correction: Originally we referred to the Western Gateway Charter School project as being a K-5 concept when it is a PreK-5 concept. Also, the original version of this story said that new homes in the Wheeler District were selling for around $600,000. We have added information to that line to show more accurate pricing information on homes sold in the addition so far.