Message from McDaniel - January 13, 2020
Dear OKCPS Families, Staff & Community -
This evening, I provided the first official update to the OKCPS Board of Education on the implementation of the Pathway To Greatness, our very ambitious reinvention initiative that aligns our resources to our current status and builds a foundation for equity in the opportunities that are so important to our students, our teachers, and our families.
We’re one semester in, and there’s been an incredible amount of work done since our Board approved my recommendation in March 2019. Hundreds of construction projects and staff relocations, the much-anticipated Trade-Ups have come to life, the Northeast Legacy Committee has put together their recommendations, 14 of our 15 repurposed buildings have found new life, and so many other things. Certainly we have had some challenges along the way, but we are seeing some tremendous results to date.
It is hard work to implement this kind of aggressive change, but we believe it’s going to be worth it as our kids become the recipients of both academic and whole child benefits.
I’m so proud of our staff for taking advantage of the opportunities presented by P2G and for being willing to make and implement quick recommendations to adapt when things needed to happen for our young people. I see you supporting our students, families and each other as we move through this journey, and I hear you challenging the narrative that expanding access to high quality schools and programs through P2G is somehow harmful for the students who have been accustomed to having access to opportunity in the past.
I’m also grateful to our families for coming together to champion strong schools, whether that is in their same building or in a new location. A strong community of parents and other stakeholders working together is essential for our students, our schools and our city to thrive. Educators can't do it alone. It takes a village.
There is absolutely no way we could have even begun this journey without our unbelievable community partners. I can’t say thank you enough to the businesses and individuals who live in our community, and some even outside of our community, who said, “We believe in what you’re doing and we want to be a part of this journey.”
But, perhaps more than anything, I’m proud of our Board of Education who over two years ago refused to accept the status quo any longer and directed us to start this journey knowing it was going to be tough, anticipating many of the challenges that come with biting off something this significant. But through it all, our board has stood with us, providing stable leadership and support with the understanding that the payoff at the end is truly going to change lives. I’m very, very proud of that.
There are some who still question whether or not the exchange was worth it -- the school closings, the attendance boundary changes, the different things that have happened over the last year and a half. Is it worth it? And I can tell you resoundingly that we’re already seeing benefits for kids, and we will continue to see them.
That said, we also hear the struggles that have come with this change. Please know that we are committed to understanding the root causes of problems that continue to exist and implementing solutions. Most of the complaints we hear on a regular basis are not new problems, though they may have been below the surface. It’s easy to notice only those things that are challenging or uncomfortable and to criticize. It’s easy to feel like you’ve lost something when you now see up-close-and-personal the impact of years, maybe even generations, of inequity on young people who are now zoned into a new school and, thankfully, have access to better opportunities to learn. But, the reality is that this system has had winners and losers for a long time -- some families have had access to schools with enough resources, quality teacher teams, and reasonable class sizes and some families haven’t. Now more students have these, and that means that we all win.
I have said all along that the restructuring needed to build a foundation through the Pathway to Greatness was just one essential first step to transforming OKCPS into an organization that consistently provides a high quality education to every child every day. Instead of focusing on our challenges, I encourage everyone in our community -- our business leaders, our partners, neighbors, families, educators and staff -- to find a way to get involved. The more help and encouragement we receive, the quicker our students, families and staff will see and feel the impact. We believe this is good work. We believe it’s the right work. And we need to have everyone on board to help us along the way.
Many thanks for the sacrifices that you’ve made and the patience that you’ve shown thus far.
Through Pathway we have proven to ourselves and to our community that we can do hard things and follow through. It hasn’t always been easy, but our P2G implementation is progressing as planned. Now, we must focus on what comes next. Our district teams will continue to identify the things that are not working well and correct those as quickly as possible. But, overall, I am very happy with the direction we are moving as a district. The most important thing for all of us right now is to stay the course. After all, this journey is a marathon - not a sprint.
The Board and I remain confident that this work is necessary to improve the health of the entire OKCPS system and to provide equity and opportunity for our students. Now more than ever, we must focus on the future. Our students deserve it and our city's long-term success depends on it. We are truly stronger together.
Sean McDaniel, Superintendent of Schools