Building on 2017's Success in 2018

January 15, 2018

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2017 was another incredibly challenging year for public education. But recapping the year provides a chance to celebrate successes, review meaningful data and define the direction of the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Focus, alignment and impact were the words that guided us in 2017, even as budget cuts continued and teachers left our state in record numbers. In spite of that, the Foundation’s work provided significant benefits for Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) in a variety of ways, thanks to generous community support and a strategic, focused effort.

Our key focus areas, which align with OKCPS’s greatest needs, are outlined below:

Providing Innovative Support to Teachers

Our partnership with DonorsChoose.org continues to empower teachers to ask for and receive what they need in their classrooms, from basic supplies, books and athletic equipment to art supplies to field trips. The Foundation assisted 848 projects, and 1,771 additional projects were funded completely by citizen donors. We remain the largest education foundation partner that DonorsChoose.org has in the country.

Increasing Community Engagement and Awareness

Partners in Action, our initiative connecting community partners with schools and their needs, continued to flourish. Total financial impact so far is nearly $6 million, with more than 600 partner matches completed. From “Thundering Up” Westwood Elementary to building a basketball court at Hawthorne Elementary to supplying music equipment at Star Spencer High School, thousands of students were positively impacted by our amazing community partners. We raised funds for Coat-A-Kid and purchased nearly 6,000 coats for students in need. We also launched a pilot program called Kit-A-Kid to provide school supplies, which we plan to expand in 2018.

Supporting English Language Programs

As the district’s Hispanic population continues to grow, English-language learning programs are increasingly important. The Bilingual Teacher Pipeline Project is helping 34 bilingual paraprofessionals working in the district become certified teachers by funding their education. Our first group begins student teaching next fall. We will launch our program for Spanish for English-speaking OKCPS staff in January, and we have provided multi-language technology to the district to assist and engage families. Plans are underway to partner with Community Literacy Centers to expand English-as-a-second-language classes for family members; the classes will be held in the schools. This aligns very well with our goal of increasing Hispanic family engagement and provides a great service to the schools and family members. We also purchased translation technology for schools to use with families.

Teacher and Leader Professional Development

The Foundation has supported the Urban Teacher Preparation Academy, a program developed and led by University of Central Oklahoma to support newly certified teachers in OKCPS by providing mentorship and professional development. The average retention rates for these teachers over a five-year period is an impressive 86 percent, compared to 23 percent for new teachers not utilizing this training.

Advocacy

Educating the community about challenges and successes in public education, and especially OKCPS, is an important role. The Foundation has taken on advocacy as a key focus. In 2018, we will highlight ways OKCPS is a great investment that provides a rich educational experience for students. We don’t hear these stories often enough. Efforts in this area will be evident in 2018.

Other Highlights

Our All Hands Raised luncheon was co-chaired by state Sen. David Holt and Rachel Holt, and the event set a new fundraising record. Attendees gained a better understanding of our work and impact in OKCPS. Our 2018 event is set for April 5 at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church.

The Foundation honored Madison Wingate as the OKCPS Teacher of the Year, along with nine finalists and school site Teachers of the Year at our Stars of Education event in May. We also recognized Valuable Volunteers, Support Staff and Community Partners at the celebration. Our 2018 event is set for May 1 at Farmer’s Public Market.

We hosted the 34th annual Wall of Fame ceremony and inducted Lee and Sherry Beasley, Pete White and Thurman White into this prestigious group of achievers. All the honorees bring inspiration to OKCPS and highlight the ways the district influenced their success. Our 2018 Wall of Fame event is scheduled for Oct. 29 at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel.

Looking Ahead

The Foundation can reflect on 2017 with a sense of accomplishment in the areas of focus, alignment and impact.  However, we still have much work to do, and we look forward with a great sense of optimism. We see our work with a clear VISION for assisting OKCPS in being a world-class school district. We will provide VALUE in all we do for our schools and for our community partners. And, we do this with one VOICE, speaking up for every student in OKCPS.

These are our schools. These are our kids. This is our city.