Putnam Heights
Superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools Sean McDaniel and Putnam Heights Academy principal Shane Nelson speak to reporters on Friday, July 26, 2019. (Archiebald Browne)

Students from what was once Seeworth Academy Charter School will now attend classes in the former Putnam Heights Elementary building for Oklahoma City Public Schools’ 2019-2020 academic year.

The “alternate school” program will operate under the name Putnam Heights Academy after short notice from Seeworth’s board of directors that they will not be relinquishing their building lease along with the charter school, OKCPS Superintendent Sean McDaniel said during a Friday press conference.

The Seeworth’s board relinquished the charter school in a June 20 meeting, meaning the district will operate the school. At the time, the Seeworth board agreed to hand over all property to OKCPS, as well as relinquish their lease with the property held by the school, starting July 1.

However, McDaniel said Seeworth’s board of directors had a “change of heart” just days ago and decided not to relinquish their lease with the property. Regardless of the school’s building or its name, OKCPS now has 300 to 350 kids whom the district is “obligated both legally and morally to educate,” he said.

“Just a few days ago, we were made aware that they had a change of heart and that they were not willing to give up a lease to the property,” McDaniel said. “So we then went into fully trying to figure out what would we do with the 350 kids.”

Seeworth’s board would have had to cancel its lease of five years with the McLaughlin Family Foundation in writing. When they did not, the foundation contacted McDaniel to tell him they are not able to work with OKCPS, the superintendent said.

McDaniel was asked the reason why Seeworth did not relinquish the lease.

“[Seeworth’s board], that community, that group of parents and kids, collectively put 25 years into that program — their heart and their soul,” McDaniel said. “I think maybe they got to a point where they just wanted to hold onto it.”

McDaniel speculated that something “might transpire in the next year or two years where they need that property,” he said.

Reached Friday afternoon, Seeworth board President Lee Ann Wilson told NonDoc that she has no comment on the matter. A call to Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd (D-OKC) — who is also on the Seeworth board — was not returned before publication of this story.

Seeworth Academy background

Seeworth Academy Charter School, a school for at risk kids, was moved under control of OKCPS on July 1 after allegations of financial misuse by former Seeworth superintendent, Janet Griggs, emerged.

The Seeworth board of directors voted unanimously to hand over all assets to OKCPS except for the school’s bank accounts. Those will remain property of the Seeworth board until all audits on the school are completed.

McDaniel said that while most of the audits have been completed by OKCPS, there are still multiple inquiries pending.

Future of the students

Shane Nelson, principal of what is now Putnam Heights Academy, said he was excited and pleased to be apart of the school.

“My first job in Oklahoma was right here at Putnam Heights Elementary School,” Nelson said. “Now to lead a wonderful group of kids, by grace these kids deserve the most amazing education.”

In a letter released to parents of Putnam Heights Academy on Friday, all OKCPS students will receive free breakfast and lunch as a part of the Community Eligibility Provision program.

Bus transportation will be available for students as well as all existing programs including all athletics and arts, according to the letter.

The new Putnam Heights Academy will serve students in grades five through 12 for the fall of 2019, and students rising through those grades will still be eligible to maintain enrollment, according to the letter.

However, students in fourth grade or below will have to enroll in their school zones.

School for Putnam Heights Academy is set to begin at a delayed date of Aug. 21.