Monday August 8, 2016

Oklahoma City Public Schools’ new year brings challenges, opportunities

Oklahoma City Public Schools just completed its first week of the new school year. Approximately 45,000 students entered our schools, some with energy and excitement about learning, others tired, hungry, needing mental health services and a host of other issues. Our public school district welcomed them all with open arms, despite air conditioning breakdowns, bus breakdowns, book shortages and a host of other issues caused by poor funding.

There were a number of bright spots, however. Superintendent Aurora Lora visited several schools and spent time welcoming and reading with students. District employees were deployed across the city to do the same. Our district leaders, teachers and students aren’t worrying about what they don’t have. They are focused on what can be done with what they do have. Despite what they lack, high standards, accountability and achievement are the focus for the 2016-2017 school year.

That being said, our schools can’t do it alone and there are many ways to help. Connecting in strategic and meaningful ways and supporting the efforts that OKCPS has designated as their critical needs is the best way to make an impact.

Community partners continue to step up in a number of ways. OUHSC is using Partners In Action as a platform to fund costumes for the dance teams at Douglass High School. Love’s Country Store’s provided funding to support Partners in Action and projects through The Foundation’s partnership. In addition, they contributed $70,000 to the Coat-A-Kid program, which provides students in need with a warm winter coat when the temperatures cool. The downtown Kiwanis Club provided $2,000 to fund coats for a grade, and Rotary Club 29 is funding coats throughout this year. RSM is conducting a fundraising effort as part of their national Birdies for Love program that will benefit The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools. Emily Sutton from KFOR is organizing a Foundation for OKCPS fundraiser with two events at Paint N Cheers, called Painting for a Purpose.

The Foundation and OKCPS are hosting a community partner networking event at Capitol Hill High School on Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. to connect “Partners in Action” with Capitol Hill and their feeder pattern schools. Fields and Futures and the Energy will be there to provide support, as they do through their program funding OKCPS fields by donating a portion of their proceeds at every Energy game.

There are too many partners to name here, and so many, like Sonic, Cox, Independent Insurance Agents of OKC, BancFirst and others have been loyal supporters of The Foundation’s efforts for many years. These recent examples show how community partners can strategically align to support OKCPS with their greatest needs.

It’s also important to remember that many of our schools are looking for volunteers to spend time with students as reading buddies, tutors and mentors. It is a commitment of time, but has value beyond measure.

Schools aren’t businesses, but using business practices like strategic alignment, focus and accountability are important for the district and community partners to follow. This is how cultural change will happen within OKCPS and the stakes are too high to do it any other way.

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