Thankful for OKCPS

November 26, 2015

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On this Nov. 26, Thanksgiving Day, The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools would like to offer 26 reasons why we are thankful for Oklahoma City Public Schools. 

We are thankful for...

1) Students like Marco Parra, a senior at Capitol Hill, who embodies a commitment to our future. “I want to give my parents, my brothers, my community a better life,” Parra said.

2) Rising math scores across the district that are a tribute to new strategies put in place by district leaders and the devotion of teachers.

3) OKCPS alumni who remain supportive of the district and call on us to remember our role in shaping the lives of students. “These kids are not just some people, they are your responsibility,” said Willa Johnson, who was one of three district alumni inducted into the Wall of Fame in 2015.

4) Students who care for others like those at Hawthorne Elementary who raised $1,289 to donate to the victims of the OSU Homecoming incident. 

5) Those who have given money to buy new coats for over 7,000 students. There is still time to donate here!

6) A diverse district where over 70 languages are spoken.

7) Harding Fine Arts Academy, which was recently earned National Blue Ribbon designation.

8) The Link Crew program. At John Marshall High School, upperclassmen are helping freshman prepare for life in high school. 

9) Students like Evan Bostic of John Marshall who spent last summer at the Crump Law Summer Camp at Howard University in Washington DC learning about the judicial system. 

10) A district that is giving students a chance to advance their family. “No one in my family has ever gone to college and I’d love to be the first one to go to college,” said Northwest Classen junior Latia Simpson. Latia is a strong student and has her sights set on college after she graduates in 2017.

11) A district that values the voice of students when trying to implement change. “Believe it or not, fourth-graders have a lot to say about the changes that need to be made,” Bodine Elementary principal Nikki Coshow said about her school’s reversal of high suspensions and discipline issues.

12) Partners like the Boys and Girls Club and the Latino Community Development Agency helping the district provide intervention services, rather than suspensions.

13) Schools like Webster Middle School that have seen improvements in the area of discipline after implementing new frameworks like PBIS that significantly decreased disruptive behavior.

14) The Wilson and Cleveland Elementary chess clubs, which both earned 1st-place trophies in this year’s state grade championships.

15) New reading rooms from Russell Westbrook like the one recently opened at North Highland Elementary. "Reading is a key to success," Westbrook said. "When people in my position are able to do things like this, give kids something exciting to see, give them some type of encouragement, give them access or some type of way to reward them for reading."

16) Super Saturdays and other events designed to build parental involvement. “As part of the district’s five-year strategic plan called the Great Commitment, staff created professional development events with the goal of helping parents become active in their child’s education,” wrote Oklahoma Gazette reporter Laura Eastes.

17) The district’s Career Academy programs that let students train for a future career before they graduate from high school. "At first, it was just kind of a class to take, but ever since this summer, I've got it on my mind as a career," said Capitol Hill senior Angel Martinez, who joined the Engineering Academy."I like that it's hands-on, and it lets you be creative."

18) Small business owners like Ramiro Vasquez Padilla, owner of La Oaxaqueña Bakery, who understand the importance of supporting local schools. “We can all make a difference,” Padilla said. “This is our community and the schools are our community.”

19) A drive administrators have to create a world class school system. “There are no truly great cities, major league cities, without great public school systems,” said Superintendent Rob Neu.

20) Teach for America teachers like Jarred Geller at Eugene Field  Elementary. “The way I see it, entrepreneurship teaches personal responsibility, initiative, problem solving, ambition, creativity, leadership and fulfillment,” he said. “These are the values we need to foster to help strengthen and build our communities.”

21) Parents like those at Gatewood Elementary who are committed to building a better school even before their own children are school age. “I felt really passionate about getting engaged so we could see the school grow and be a better place when we have a son in the school,” said Jennifer Monies.

22) Teachers like Sam Sy who go beyond the classroom to support her students. “I will pick them up for school, take them home and do what I can for them,” said Sy, who is the orchestra teacher at Northwest Classen High School. “They know I will provide for them and push them.”

23) Teachers like Roosevelt Middle’s Stephanie Toney who are learning Spanish in an effort to better connect with students. “I felt like [learning Spanish] would help me communicate better with parents and students,” Toney said.

24) Volunteers like those from St. Luke’s United Methodist Church that were willing to respond to a principal’s call for help. “I got an email [from the principal] that said ‘I’m going to lose six boys if I don’t get some adult mentors for them,’” said John Frank, one of many volunteers from St. Luke’s at Rancho Village Elementary. “I had never been a mentor before but I sent [the principal] an email and said ‘I’ll be there in two weeks.’”

25) An Apple Technology grant that supplied iPads for all 715 students at Arthur Elementary. “We can't wait to see the creativity and inspired learning that will begin to take place,” said Apple Vice President Lisa Jackson.

26) Having a school system that reflects the diversity of our city. “The school district really is just a small microcosm of what our community is,” said school board member Gloria Torres. “Whatever comes into our city, we get to see it [in the schools] first. We are very much at the front line, and we are preparing our city.”