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Pathway to Greatness
OKCPS Superintendent Sean McDaniel, right, speaks with board member Gloria Torres while board members Mark Mann, Carrie Jacobs and Rebecca Budd talk before a board meeting Monday, March 4, 2019. (Tres Savage)

After more than a year’s work, the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board unanimously voted to approve the district’s Pathway to Greatness proposal this evening.

“This will impact in a very positive way the kids in our schools,” Superintendent Sean McDaniel said to start his presentation Monday night. “We are excited about what we are going to be able to do for 45,000 students in our schools.”

The Pathway to Greatness plan will implement new school attendance zones, close 15 schools, adjust grade bands, change feeder patterns and change school names.

Board member Charles Henry said he had concerns about the proposal — such as its closure of neighborhood schools — but voted in favor anyway.

“A lot of times, neighborhoods are strong because they have strong schools,” Henry said.

For weeks, McDaniel has emphasized that remaining OKCPS schools would be utilized at a higher capacity and would see dramatic improvements in resources deemed important by community members.

All remaining elementary schools would have a full-time art teacher, music teacher and physical education teacher, something only 18 of 54 current OKCPS elementary schools have currently. All elementary schools would also have at least one full-time counselor.

In most instances, middle schools will serve fifth through eighth grade students, and the district will end its practice of co-locating middle and high school populations in the same building.

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The Pathway to Greatness changes are scheduled for implementation by Aug. 12, the first day of classes for the 2019-2020 school year.

“We are a district of about 46,000 students and about 30,000 empty seats,” board member Carrie Jacobs said before the vote. “We are dealing with a problem that is older than any of our students. It is a complex problem that is gut-wrenching to fix.”

Jacobs said months of work on the controversial and transformative proposal has caused her numerous sleepless nights.

“Last week my husband very kindly pointed out my first grey hair,” she said to laughter. “I know we employ many teachers who are the only ones who are teaching their grade in their building, and they are desperate for collaboration.”

Jacobs said the district is currently not providing enough access to mental health, arts education, physical education and other resources in an equitable manner.

“Inaction is immoral. Inaction says these things are not OK,” she said. “We have been waiting for decades.”

Charter schools to move

Several of the district’s charter schools are slated to move under the plan approved Monday evening. Harding Charter Preparatory High School, Harding Fine Arts High School, KIPP Reach College Preparatory School and Seeworth Academy will all relocate. The new site locations will likely be chosen from the buildings closed under the rest of the plan.

McDaniel said contracts for relocating the charter schools would be pursued now that the board has approved the Pathway to Greatness proposal. In previous meetings, he has expressed a desire to ensure the closed buildings are repurposed into other community facilities. The district already owns a handful of closed school properties.

Henry asked McDaniel whether the district risks selling school buildings only to need additional schools as neighborhoods grow in the future.

“The 15 schools that we have proposed for closure, we have not had conversations about selling any of those buildings,” McDaniel said. “We will retain ownership of those buildings until such time as this board [makes those decisions].”

School sites set to close

Under the plan voted on Monday, one middle school and one high school would close:

The bulk of the schools to be closed are neighborhood elementaries:

Rancho Village will be repurposed for Emerson South Alternative School.

Board member Ruth Veales concluded debate by asking community members to stay focused on the issues at hand.

“Hold your board members and hold your superintendent responsible for the promise,” Veales said.

OKCPS ‘final pathway’ PDF

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