“I knew it would be fun to create a school, not just build buildings, that sort of thing — but actually create a school the way that I knew it ought to be done for the benefit of the students,” she said.
When she first went to work at OSSM in the summer of 1988, the facility was 32 acres of land filled with dilapidated houses, old storefronts and an elementary school in desperate need of remodeling. Today, OSSM includes an academic center, a residence hall, a gymnasium, a discovery center and a library.
Manning, who has been a professional educator for nearly 50 years, said OSSM helped fill an important need.
“Oklahoma is behind other states, as far as achievement in math and science, and it seems to me [the state was] on the right track to finding young people who have a real interest in helping foster development along those lines,” she said.
Manning said OSSM is a model for what can be done in other Oklahoma schools. Her plan for OSSM was to improve Oklahoma’s ranking in science and math performance and prepare students for technical fields and work in Oklahoma.
“With the jobs that Oklahoma City has coming in, we need these young people out in the technical field so that they’ll be here for those jobs,” Manning said.
Despite retirement, Manning said she has no plans to stop working with the school anytime soon. She said she has offered to lead an effort to get the history of the school written.
“There’s not really any legislative history that’s recorded,” Manning said. “We need to do that and then we need to record the history of the actual development and some of the accomplishments of the graduates.”
She also plans to do what she can to help raise funding for the school.
“It’s been a wonderful experience and I’m grateful to the people of Oklahoma for the opportunity,” she said. “I’ve worked with some wonderful faculty members and some wonderful volunteers, who serve on our boards, help us with special events, it’s been the best public-private partnership I’ve ever been involved in.”
Manning will be succeeded at OSSM by Frank Wang.