OKCPS school board candidates address discipline, budget cuts 

Two candidates, both with classroom experience, vie for a school board seat during a time when Oklahoma City schools face severe state funding cuts and an increase in emergency certified teachers and usher in new discipline policies.

Oklahoma City Public Schools will have a new representative as long-time board member Phil Horning steps down following next month’s election.

The District 3 representative works for residents with both north and south addresses. The district includes Northwest Classen High School, which serves students in the northwest corridor of the city, and southside Adams Elementary School, where a majority of students are of Hispanic ethnicity.

click to enlarge Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs (Mark Hancock)
  • Mark Hancock
  • Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs

Community support

“The budget cuts are going to be crippling,” said Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs, a marketing specialist for BigWing Interactive and a former journalism teacher at Putnam City North High School. “The community has to fill in those gaps or it will be a lost generation. This is the time. I think the city’s ready because there is so much civic pride. The district needs to go out and ask for it.”

Jacobs began her career as an education reporter and visited countless classrooms in OKC. She believes the district is fortunate in staffing with many exceptional principals and teachers. However, she said one of the district’s challenges is community support. If elected, she will encourage community partnerships, which would strengthen tutoring and leadership programs and bring more local businesses into neighborhood schools.

Adam Zodrow spent 11 years as an educator in Oklahoma schools. For four years, he taught English at the middle school level. Next, he served as an English curriculum specialist and alternative education mentor for the K20 Center for Educational and Community Renewal at the University of Oklahoma. At Yukon Public Schools, he worked at the administrative level as the professional development coordinator and director of STEM and gifted education. When Jon Rex Charter Elementary School opened downtown, he went to work as a master teacher over STEM and tech integration. Currently, Zodrow is a consultant for Catapult Learning and is a content strategist for Traction Marketing.

His two young sons, who will attend Kaiser Elementary School in the coming years, serve as his motivation. He views the school board as one of the district’s strengths and would continue the progress achieved as a member.

Zodrow cited a number of instances in which the school board worked with the community to improve education, such as MAPS for Kids, initiatives with charter schools and the Oklahoma City Public Schools Compact. This month, the school board approved the compact, which calls for collaboration with the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, United Way of Central Oklahoma, The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools and the City of Oklahoma City.

“It is refreshing to see a board that is willing to collaborate, have good conversations and make policy decisions,” Zodrow said. “You don’t see patrician politics at work, like we see at the state level. I have been very impressed with our board.”

click to enlarge Adam Zodrow - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • Adam Zodrow

Distinctive discipline

This fall, Oklahoma City school leaders introduced a new code of conduct following an internal audit conducted by the district. The audit began after the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights investigated the district on complaints of bias and discipline-related retaliation against black and Hispanic students.

“I love the idea behind a shared expectation for discipline: This is how we deal with discipline and how we deal with issues in the classroom,” Zodrow explained. “At the same time, to believe that code of conduct can be implemented universally into every classroom with every student is unrealistic. I am not opposed to the code of conduct. I think it is necessary. I am hopeful that the code of conduct serves as guidelines and not gospel.”

Jacobs views the new code as one response to discipline. She applauds the district’s recent efforts to add Alternative to Suspension Programs. This school year, the district partnered with Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County and Latino Community Development Agency to help reduce the number of long-term suspensions. Students stay in school by visiting one of the agencies to work on classwork and talk to counselors about behavior or other issues. She believes alternative programs work and keep students on track.

“You can’t just say they are not worth educating,” Jacobs said. “At times, I feel like that’s what we are telling kids with their suspension. ‘Go home and be by yourself for two weeks, six weeks or nine weeks.’ Nine weeks is a quarter of the (school) year. Academically, it is unattainable to come back from. Academically, you are giving kids a life sentence to not be successful.”

Both candidates expressed concerns about growing class sizes and the statewide teacher shortage.

If elected, Jacobs believes her role will include advocating at the state level for education. She would like to see quarterly meetings with school board members, top district leaders and lawmakers to discuss education issues. She also wants to hear from constituents. The district faces a midyear-funding cut of $1.568 million, and tough decisions are on the horizon.

“Right now, there needs to be a way for parents and residents to share what they think are the core values of the district and what can be trimmed,” Jacobs said. “There is no good way out. You have to involve everyone.”

Zodrow said funding cuts will take a toll on teachers. He believes the school board must find ways to celebrate teachers and ask how they can help and the school board should work closely with teachers to provide support and be advocates for them.

Voters in District 3 will have a chance to cast ballots Feb. 9.

Print Headline: Education votes, OKCPS school board candidates address discipline, budget cuts and strengths.

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