OKC school district's past problems must be left behind

March 10, 2019

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As Oklahoma City Public Schools embarks on the recently passed Pathway to Greatness plan, it is worthwhile to reflect for a moment on what got us — the collective us, as a community— to this point.

OKCPS Board of Education member Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs stated very eloquently the challenges our district has faced over the past decades, just prior to the unanimous vote by the Board of Education to pass Pathway to Greatness.

Jacobs said, “We are a district of 46,000 students and about 30,000 empty seats. Those seats weren’t empty 50 years ago during segregation. But then there was the botched busing plan, white flight. The northeast quadrant was neglected. The booming Southside was largely ignored. We had a revolving door of superintendents and school board members. Charters came. Funding left. Families and teachers in pockets of the city kept their schools on life support.

"We are dealing with a problem older than any of our students. It is a complex problem that is gut-wrenching to fix.

"This redistricting has been a year and a half in the making. It has been researched down to the studs by engineers, educators, community members, board members and administrators. This was created by board policy and the evaluation of the district as a whole: demographics, facility usage, academics and programming, the location and physical condition of our buildings, the surrounding community, safety and legal restrictions, and all will be assessed every five years.”

Jacobs went on to say that Pathway to Greatness is not a panacea and that couldn’t be more true. There is no silver bullet or simple fix.

This plan is an actionable way forward and taking action is better than doing nothing. The fact that the school board had a unanimous vote is in and of itself a remarkable feat. The fact that the process was transparent and inclusive was also a major accomplishment and very different from more recent attempts to create change.

There is a lot of hard work ahead. It’s time to put aside our differences and work together to help Pathway to Greatness succeed. There is enough blame to go around for how we got here. Now it’s time to get busy being part of the solution.

Read Mary Mélon's original NewsOK editorial.