Oklahoma City Public Schools students benefiting from community partners collaboration

April 08, 2018

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Collaboration occurs when two or more people or organizations work together to realize or achieve a goal. Collaboration is very similar to cooperation. That's what Wikipedia says and that is definitely what is going on with community partners supporting Oklahoma City Public Schools during the teacher walkout.

Agencies from across the metro have come together to meet, plan and collaborate with each other and Oklahoma City Public Schools staff to be sure our kids are fed and taken care of during what appears to be, at this point, an extended period of time. Something these agencies and OKCPS realize is that without this effort, many children would be going hungry and without adult supervision while schools are closed. In a more affluent district, being out of school can certainly be a burden for families. Parents have to juggle taking off work or figuring out care giving plans. However, it isn't likely they will be in jeopardy of losing their job or unable to feed their kids.

For many families in OKCPS, generational poverty is part of life. And, for many living just on the edge, adding additional child care expenses may mean they can't pay their rent or purchase gas for their car. They may be working several jobs at a low hourly wage to make ends meet. If they don't work, they don't get paid. It's that simple. This includes many staff members of Oklahoma City Public Schools, by the way. These support staff are part of the fight for increased funding and they deserve it. Their hard work and dedication make a huge difference in our schools and their value cannot be touted enough.

This reality for many OKC families is what drives these collaborative agencies every day, but what has happened in the past few weeks has been phenomenal. Agencies that many times tap the same donor base are at the table together, figuring out what is best for kids. Boys and Girls Club, United Way of Central Oklahoma, YMCA, Urban League, Regional Food Bank, Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma, Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, Sunbeam Family Services, Latino Community Development Agency and many others have been in near constant communication about the best ways to take care of kids. Never once has there been a complaint or negative word, despite the fact that these agencies' staffs are maxed out and working whatever hours are needed to accomplish the mission. OKC Parks and Recreation Department and Oklahoma City Police Department are also part of the group, taking on additional responsibilities to help the cause.

Has this been easy? No. Was this on anyone's plan for 2018? Certainly not. The silver lining in a very difficult time is that collaboration works. Focus on the desired outcome works. Good communication works. It can work at our state Capitol also. This must happen between our legislators and teachers. For our kids' sake, let it be soon.

Read Mary Mélon's original NewsOK editorial.