New Oklahoma City Superintendent Karl Springer signed on Monday to join the district under a one-year contract at his request, saying he wants to be subject to the same treatment and evaluation as teachers. Springer, a former teacher, has been the superintendent of Mustang Public Schools since 1999, and has been working in Oklahoma schools since 1977. "I have a sense of responsibility ... This superintendent has no sense of entitlement,” Springer said of his request for a one-year contract. The previous superintendent, John Porter, had a three-year contract. Despite the short term of his contract, worth about $185,000 including benefits, Springer said he plans to stay as long as he can have a positive impact. "There are 40,000 great reasons to want to be the superintendent of Oklahoma City,” Springer said, referring to the approximately 40,000 students in the district, after being introduced at Martin Luther King Elementary, where board members voted on his appointment. Acting board chairman Al Basey said about 40 candidates were whittled to four finalists before selecting Springer. Springer officially takes the reins July 15. By that time he hopes to have a for-sale sign at his house. He plans to move into the city district.
Leadership experienceSpringer's priorities include strengthening early education, making high school more relevant and raising the overall success and stature of the district. "You only get one chance to be a kindergarten student. You only get one chance to be a senior in high school. And what we want to be able to do is to make sure that that one chance that those children get is a great chance for their education,” he said. Springer has about 30 years of experience in education and about 30 years of experience in the military, with overlapping years while in the U.S. Army Reserve. He retired as a colonel. "I'm going to do a lot of listening,” he said. "I want you to come and talk to me.”
Not everyone's happySix board members voted to hire Springer, but Wilfredo Santos Rivera abstained. He said he was impressed with Springer's leadership, but that he was bothered by the selection process. Westwood Elementary Principal Jan Borelli's name was mentioned 17 times by community members who gave their feedback through meetings sponsored by the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools, he said. "She deserved at least an interview.” Still, Rivera said he will give his support to the new superintendent.
Meeting the standardBoard chairman-elect Kirk Humphreys said Monday that Springer fits the qualities community members asked for — primarily that he's an educator, an Oklahoman and a leader, and he shared a story about the face of his leadership back when Mustang faced a budget crunch. "Karl Springer got his key leaders in the district together and said, ‘OK, I'll tell you what we're going to do. We're going to get together this weekend, and we're going to cut $1.2 (million) out of this budget, and we have two rules. No. 1, no one loses a job, and No. 2, the kids won't know we made any changes,'” Humphreys recounted. "Now that's a different kind of superintendent.” Porter, the former superintendent, resigned in January after a tumultuous run as the district's leader. "I think if Karl Springer is north, John Porter was south,” Basey said. "They're totally different people. Karl is a natural healer, because he loves people.” The Oklahoma Association of School Administrators recently named Springer one of 20 District Administrators of the Year. The school board did not hire a search firm for the process, as it did last year.
Smooth transitionAmong Springer's most visible decisions at Mustang was pulling a nativity scene from a 2004 holiday play. He said the controversy that ensued may have played a role in the failure of a bond issue about that time. Springer announced his retirement from Mustang schools in April. However, the board tabled acceptance of his resignation, and community outpouring for Springer persuaded him to stay on. Springer said he never really wanted to retire, just that he wanted to gracefully apply for other positions. "In fact, the day that I sent the retirement information to the board, that was the day that I applied for the Oklahoma City Public Schools,” he said.
Newly announced Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Karl Springer, left, shakes hands Monday with Leon Hill, the district's director of custodial services, after his appointment was announced at Martin Luther King Elementary. BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN