Bill Underwood, a Seminole resident who has been involved with the community since 1973, has seen the pride small towns have for their communities and schools firsthand.
Underwood's son played football for Seminole High School, and Underwood compares the city's passion for the team with the way some people support the University of Oklahoma or the University of Notre Dame.
Underwood says the recipe for Seminole and other small communities' success is simple.
“People are friendly, people are nice, schools are good,” he said.
The local school has always been a cornerstone for small towns across Oklahoma, says Jeff Pritchard, superintendent of Seminole Public Schools. Pritchard says families often use the schools to find common ground with their children.
“They (the schools) are the lifeblood to so many of these small communities because they identify with them,” Pritchard said. “A lot of the time, you have individuals who went to school there, they grew up there and they want their children to experience the great experience they had in that same school system.”
However, some in the state are asking if these school systems are serving enough students to be cost-effective.
There are 10 school districts in Seminole County. Though the enrollment for Seminole Public School District is 1,845, the median enrollment for the whole county is 310.
The enrollment for the combined districts in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties are both more than 100,000. Cleveland County, the state's third largest county, has an enrollment of more than 40,000.
Seminole County has seen districts consolidate in the past. In November 2011, voters within the Pleasant Grove school district approved a measure that merged their school district with Seminole Public Schools. This came after budget cuts raised concerns over the future of Pleasant Grove Schools.
Though Pritchard welcomed the Pleasant Grove students and hired their teachers, the influx of population caused crowding at his schools. Pritchard wonders how his district would react if other nearby school systems had to be absorbed by Seminole.
“If one of these other districts was forced to close — say they have 500 students — wow,” he said. “We're needing to build some facilities really quickly.”
Pritchard says he can see both sides of the debate, but would like to see further consolidation coupled with careful planning, extensive research and sensitivity.
“You can look at it from afar and say we need to close the schools,” he said, “but when you go down and you look at each individual school — the administrators involved, the teachers involved, the families involved — then it's a tough conversation.”