Graduates prove hard work, hope will propel them to brighter futures

June 05, 2017

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Another school year is complete for Oklahoma City Public Schools. Anyone paying the least bit of attention knows about the dire circumstances public education is in because of the state budget and education funding debacle. Even with a so-called flat education budget, districts across the state are faced with radical cuts to their budgets again next year. Classroom sizes will be increasing again, supply and operational budgets will be slashed even further and programs providing much needed services will be cut. And, yes, some schools may even have to be consolidated at some point in the future.

Despite these troubling and tragic times, there are many shining beacons of positivity and hope. Oklahoma City Public Schools just graduated nearly 1,600 students. Based on the previous year, it is anticipated that approximately 38 percent will attend university, community college or CareerTech. Future artists, musicians, engineers, teachers, police officers and more walked the stage to begin the next stage of their lives. Many of these kids have not had an easy time of it. Generational poverty, trauma, incarceration and homelessness are all happening in our city and to our kids, and, while not a reason to lower expectations, these issues have to be acknowledged and faced head on. Our graduates prove that hard work and holding on to hope will propel them to a brighter future than they've grown up with.

Our schools provide that hope, as do community partners stepping in to fill gaps that OKCPS can't handle alone. Community partners also provide hope to our teachers, principals and district leaders who work hard every day to help our students succeed. This school year showed the generosity of OKC citizens in unprecedented ways and proves that focus and strategic alignment makes all the difference in terms of outcomes.

Community partners continue to step in to fill the gap in a variety of ways. The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools' partnership with DonorsChoose.org yielded funding assistance for more than 700 OKCPS teacher projects this school year and reached the $1 million total financial impact milestone since the partnership began in November 2014.

Partners in Action is still a relatively new initiative that connects community partners with schools and their needs. This school year marks partner matches of close to $700,000, not including volunteer hour valuation.

ReadOKC, the first initiative of the OKCPS Compact focused on reading and literacy, has given every pre-K through 6th grade OKCPS student the goal of reading 20 minutes per day during the summer break. Access points for reading are being promoted throughout the city and many partners are involved in reaching children where they are this summer, encouraging reading to beat the summer slide. Public Service Announcements will be running throughout the city and a reading room at the former Stride Rite Shoe Store at Penn Square Mall opens this weekend with books donated by Scholastic and the Metro Library. More information can be found at okcps.org/ReadOKC.

Thank you to all the community partners who have provided support. Our schools need you more than ever.

Congratulations to the 2017 graduates of Oklahoma City Public Schools. As a community, let's support them, encourage them and hire them.

Read Mary Mélon's original NewsOK editorial.