Planned elementary for downtown Oklahoma City may be charter school

Leadership from the Oklahoma City School District has spent the better half of a year negotiating with Kirk Humphreys and other urban leaders about creative ways to run the proposed urban school.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND mrolland@opubco.com Published: June 13, 2011
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An $11 million elementary school building planned for downtown could become a hybrid-charter school run by both Oklahoma City Public Schools and a group of prominent urban business leaders.

It would be a compromise born from nine months of negotiations between the district and a group that once was looking to open its own privately run but publicly funded school downtown.

“Ordinarily, school districts oppose charter schools. If they succeed, they succeed at the expense of the district,” said former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys, who heads the charter school group.

That's not the case with this school, he said.

“When this (elementary) school succeeds, it will be a victory for the district,” he said.

That's because the largest district in the state actually would be the charter school applicant, reversing its typical role, and requesting that a university be the sponsoring entity for the school.

“We're not handing it over,” said Oklahoma City School Board member Phil Horning, who has been one of the district's top negotiators. “We're going to participate with them fully. We are every bit a district school. We're the charter applicant.”

Humphreys agreed.

“We are not a foreign body,” he said. “We are an Oklahoma City district school. They're not turning over anything.”

The two sat down Thursday with The Oklahoman to discuss the draft agreement, which is nearing completion.

Humphreys and Horning declined to speculate how long it might take to tie up the loose ends.

“That school hasn't been constructed yet, so we don't have a deadline,” Horning said.

At the very earliest, the school that hasn't even been designed could open August 2013.

Once an agreement is reached, it will have to be approved by both the Oklahoma City School Board and the 27-member board for Oklahoma City Quality Schools. And then it would depend on approval from a chartering entity, likely the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University or both.

Getting close

A name for the school already has been proposed — John W. Rex Elementary School — for the late philanthropic businessman whose generosity left a huge mark on public and early childhood education.

In the proposal, a 15-member board would govern the school, making decisions about the academic curriculum, leadership, personnel matters and even the length of the school day and school year.

Six members would be appointed by the district and six members would be selected by Oklahoma City Quality Schools. Those 12 members would then appoint three remaining members.

Who will attend?

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