Oklahoma City Public Schools hopes a long-term strategic plan can turn the troubled district around 

Oklahoma City Public Schools officials, parents and students are hoping that by forming a long-term strategic plan, they can turn the district around.

The key is making sure the current effort does not turn out like some past ones, officials said.

The district began forming the strategic planning committee over the summer and through the fall, scheduling a litany of meetings and surveys of school officials and staff, as well as parents, students, city leaders and other stakeholders in the district's future.

The strategic plan should be ready to submit to the school board for approval by the first of January, said Deputy Superintendent Sandra Park, who is leading the effort.

"It's a great cross-section from across our community," Park said of the planning committee. "We see the plan as our guiding light. It should be the piece of information we use to drive all decisions. Our ultimate goal is to increase student achievement, increase student performance and make sure each student is ready for the grade level they're going into and ready for college."

The focal point of the committee is ambitious, and its plan will affect everything from leadership and instruction to decisions about new buildings, Park said.

"The main drive and goal of (the) committee is going to be to develop a strategic plan that can be embraced and supported by not only the school, but the community and parents. And then the work of the district will be driven by the strategic plan," she said. "Those decisions will be based on the work of the strategic planning committee after the board has said this is the direction we want to go."

None of the exact details in the strategic plan for the district have been agreed upon yet, and nothing takes effect until it is voted on and passed by the school board.

In late October, Park presented the school board with a progress report, and board members expressed the importance of the committee's work.

"I think we're going to be looking very seriously at where are we now, where do we want to go, and how do we get there," board member Ron Millican said. "Those are the basic questions we need to attack."

The committee has thus far looked at where the district currently stands and what issues need addressed, Park said. During its Dec. 1 meeting, it will begin looking at strategies and begin preparing a final report to submit to the board for approval.

The current effort is not the first time steps were taken to improve the district, but those past efforts were hampered by a lack of consistent leadership and a lack of communication and coordination, Park said.

"I think this has been tried several times," she said. "I'm almost to the point of saying it has been over-tried, but with not consistent follow-through and no commitment."

Park said the main issues arising from stakeholders' input have been academic achievement, parental involvement, student safety and leadership.

While some changes will be immediately noticeable, others that come about as a result of the plan will take time, Park said.

"Oklahoma City Public Schools has been making progress academically, we just don't believe it's been enough progress fast enough," she said. "We hope by having a tight strategic plan, we can make progress faster and greater."

One of the concerns is that after the plan is initiated, it will essentially become a toothless mandate, and nothing will really change, Park said. If that happens, both she and Superintendent Karl Springer will be held accountable, she said.

"If we focus on the plan, focus on the students and don't focus on the individual, this plan outlives any individual," she said. "It should outlive current board members and current administration members. It's a document that shouldn't go away.

"We can go through this exercise and it can be just that " an exercise," Park said. "That's exactly what we don't want it to be."

top photo OKCPS board member Ron Millican
bottom photo Sandra Park, deputy superintendent

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