|Growth and Opportunity were the key themes at last week’s State of OKCPS meeting. This gathering is an annual event, sponsored by the Greater OKC Chamber and the OKCPS Foundation where Oklahoma City Public Schools leaders share highlights with state legislators and local leaders.
OKCPS Board of Education Chair Paula Lewis welcomed the group, followed by a Foundation update on our Teacher and Leader Pipeline Programs and remarks by the Chamber’s Education VP, Drew Dugan.
Superintendent Sean McDaniel shared progress from the bond election, especially focusing on the innovative workforce development programs being developed. He lauded the innovative telehealth services being provided to our students through a partnership with OU Children’s Hospital. OKCPS also offers seats for Pre-K and Kindergarten students without utilizing a lottery or waiting lists.
Deputy Superintendent Jason Brown outlined the strategic direction for the district, highlighting key pillars, primary objectives and goals. There was a great deal of substance, innovation and accountability provided in the plan.
Fredy Lopez closed the meeting. Fredy is a senior at NW Classen High School and serves as the OKCPS Teen Superintendent, elected by his peers on the Superintendent’s Student Leader Advisory Council. Fredy shared with the audience his appreciation for all the opportunities OKCPS has provided him. He talked about OKCPS teachers who believed in him from elementary through high school. He talked about Dr. Combs, his elementary school principal, and his principal at NW Classen, Dr. Sunie Killam. Both believed in him and pushed him to grow as a leader. He shared his appreciation for the OKCPS Foundation and the support the community provides our schools. He thanked Superintendent McDaniel and shared that his experience on the Superintendent’s Advisory Council made him realize he wants to be in education. (We hope he will soon apply for our Teacher Pipeline Program.)
Fredy was articulate, warm and genuine. It was easy to see why he is the Student Council President at his school and why he was elected Teen Superintendent. He had more poise speaking in public than many people three times his age and it was obvious that he truly has pride in his school district.
The rest of Fredy’s story wasn’t shared that morning, but it is important because it provides a window into the lives of so many of our 33,000 students. Fredy wakes up early every morning to take his little sister to school. He waits in the drop off line because he wants to be sure she gets inside and he doesn’t want her to get cold. That sometimes makes him late for his own first hour of class, but he does all he can to keep up with his school work and extra- curricular activities that mean so much to him. He attends school all day and leaves immediately for his nearly full-time job at a landscaping company. He works to earn money to help his family. Despite the heavy load he carries, his positive energy fills the room.
There is growth and opportunity happening in OKCPS. If all the data and programs and plans don’t convince you, just ask Fredy.
–Mary Mélon-Tully, President and CEO of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation