Monday August 22, 2016

Focus can be the difference maker

“We are not underdogs, we are overcomers.” Those are strong and courageous words spoken by Nate Bullock in his graduation speech from Northwest Classen High School. Especially when you understand that Nate’s mother is addicted to meth and he raised his two sisters practically by himself, while also working at Target and taking AP classes throughout high school. His story has been told before, but was shared again last week at the Greater OKC Chamber’s State of the Schools event by Superintendent Aurora Lora.

Lora reminded us that low income schools can all have high performers like Nate and Goya Arrendondo, 2016 graduate from U.S. Grant High School, who was the first student accepted into the University of Oklahoma class of 2020. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room full of 550 business and community leaders when we watched the video of Goya receiving her acceptance letter at a school assembly last spring.

Low income schools CAN all have high performers. What we must remember, and Superintendent Lora made this very clear, is that the community is needed to help with these efforts. Taking that further, the community must accept that it is our responsibility to provide this assistance … it is the difference maker for our students and schools to perform at high levels.

The other difference maker is focus. Focus on the part of OKCPS leadership to follow the excellent strategies lined out in The Great Commitment. These strategies put measurements and accountability in place to help every student and all employees of OKCPS perform at higher levels, with higher expectations than ever before. It is possible and it is happening.

The community must also be focused in our approach to helping. Organizing book drives to collect old textbooks and providing items that nobody would buy at a garage sale are completely well-intended, but lack focus for the goals and strategies outlined by OKCPS. Getting to the heart of what the critical needs are is the best way to assist and The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools has worked diligently with the district to partner and launch targeted programs and initiatives to meet these needs.

There are a few simple ways for community partners to engage. Support OKCPS teachers by supporting projects they post on The Foundation provides matching funds for two projects per teacher per school year and these are based on their needs and innovative classroom ideas.

Support OKCPS schools by participating as a Partner in Action. These are needs posted by school principals and include needs such as tutors and mentors, school uniforms, athletic equipment and teacher appreciation lunches. Community partners can also take an active role by listing what they have to offer. That is the perfect place for office furniture to donate, or books and supplies. The schools can see what is out there and respond if it fits their needs.

Support OKCPS students by providing funds through the Coat-A-Kid program. Money is raised each year to provide thousands of new winter coats for students in need.

Information about all of these initiatives can be found at Focus and accountability is the difference maker for OKCPS and community partners who wish to engage and be part of the solution.

Read the original article on The Oklahoman website.

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