Superintendent Sean McDaniel gave an extended update to the OKCPS Board of Education on the Pathway to Greatness (P2G) initiative Monday night.
“This change was radical by a lot of definitions,” he told the Board. “And in no way are we doing any kind of victory lap here.”
McDaniel acknowledged that “there is still much more we can do.”
The core of P2G was that “we want to be a part of kids reaching their potential and not be an obstacle,” he said.
McDaniel refused any kind of credit he might receive for the successes of P2G and instead pointed to the leadership of the Board members who give “hundreds of hours” without pay to see that a good education is provided for metro children.
He pointed out the trade-ups that have worked but acknowledged that there are lingering problems, especially with discipline, in the newly configured schools that have not yet been addressed adequately.
He cautioned that while some individual schools might have had a better situation last year, the measure was the average of all the schools in the district and how many more schools benefited from P2G.
The plan called for the consolidation of schools which involved closing some buildings and repurposing others.
At the beginning of the school year parents worked to adjust to new grade configurations in buildings.
A notable shift was when the district reopened the former Linwood Elementary School after having announced its closure.
The 330 students in the fifth grade were placed in the reopened building, now called Linwood Fifth Grade Center, even though they were still administratively included in Taft Middle School a few blocks to the east.
McDaniel gave a presentation on the P2G progress so far. (See the slide deck and short video he used at the end of this story.)
Successes – elementary trade-ups
- 100% of the 33 elementary schools open this year now have full-time art, music, PE teachers and school librarians as well as full-time assistant principals.
- All of the 33 elementary schools also have new, dedicated STEM maker-spaces, many of which have been adopted by 26 organizations, companies, or professional firms.
- 93% of the 33 elementaries this year have a full-time school librarian.
These numbers represent a significant improvement over last year when there were far more elementaries open that spread resources thin.
McDaniel reported that those facts were in sharp contrast to the situation last year. Only 33% of elementaries had full-time teachers in Art, Music, and PE. Only 43% had a full-time school librarian. Only 50% had an assistant principal and only four percent had a dedicated STEM maker-space.
Successes – MS trade-ups
McDaniel pointed to the middle school trade-ups that have worked.
- All middle schools have four mobile science carts.
- Every sixth-grader has access to athletics, fine and performing arts and other co-curriculars where last year only one in five did.
- Six new middle school athletic fields have been built and two more are nearing completion.
- Grade bands for 5-8 grades are now consistent throughout the district.
Successes – HS trade-ups
The superintendent pointed out that one of the biggest successful trade-ups for a high school was the easing of overcrowding at U.S. Grant High School on the south side by reducing the student body by 400 students.
Application school programs increased enrollment by 1,134.
Empty building concerns
The P2G plan consolidated school populations resulting in 15 school buildings not being used for their original purpose this school year.
McDaniel reported that 13 of the empty buildings are being leased this year to other organizations. One, Green Pastures, sold as of the action of the BOE Monday night. The former elementary will become a film and television academy and a film studio.
Gatewood Elementary becoming empty alarmed neighbors in the Gatewood neighborhood who believed that repurposing the building could reduce the values of the homes there which have been selling at premium prices for a decade.
The most persistently controversial element of the plan has been to use the former Northeast High School building at 3100 N. Kelley on the east side of the city as the new home of Classen School of Advanced Studies and turn its former home, the old Classen High School, into a Classen SAS Middle School.
Alumni of Northeast High School and others predominantly on the east side were offended that the district was not using the school as a traditional neighborhood high school as it had been for decades.
The compromise eventually worked out was for neighborhood students to be allowed to attend the application school but with a modified application process different than what had been used by the district for admission to Classen SAS since its beginning.
Even with the compromise sore feelings of long-time alumni who remembered the Northeast of its neighborhood school heydays of the 1960s and 1970s or those who attended when it was a magnet school for medical sciences in later decades persist to this day.
And, now that Classen SAS is in the building with seemingly two admission criteria, some Classen SAS parents have objected to the perceived but not proven lowering of standards compared to Classen SAS earlier years.
Some Classen SAS parents are now raising questions about whether their children should remain in the school.
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