WEWOKA — Sam McElvany works in a very different type of school system from the one where he grew up.
The Wewoka Public Schools superintendent manages a district of 700 students across 35 square miles. The average graduating class has 40 students, and several of the county's other nine districts are within five or 10 miles of his office — a renovated portable building recently used for elementary classrooms.
McElvany went to U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City and has three children who grew up in Moore. For the past seven years, he's been the superintendent in Wewoka, a community of 3,400 people.
At smaller schools, like the ones he's in charge of, teachers are able to give more attention to each student. But at larger schools there are more opportunities for electives and foreign language classes.
“In a small school, you're kind of somebody. You've got a name, an identity,” he said.
McElvany said he's open to the idea of consolidation and even bringing students to his district, but he's afraid it won't save much money.
“You're talking about saving nickels and dimes,” he said. “You've still got to have teachers. You've still got to have administrators. You might save some overhead-type costs, if you can close a building.”
But keeping them open is what people want in Wewoka, which struggles with poverty but holds on to tradition.
About 85 percent of Wewoka students receive free or reduced-price meals, McElvany said.
They can get free meals during the summer. Cafeteria Director Lori Johnson said she served about 100 students each weekday from late May through the end of July.
The district ranks in the middle tier of the state Education Department's rankings system. Wewoka Elementary School was labeled a “focus school” that needs work on some areas of academics, attendance or community and parent participation.