FOR too long, Oklahoma City's public school district has been an immovable object, a brick wall against which the dreams of educational renewal have been shattered. The district earned a D on its recent state report card. Few would argue with that conclusion.
It's time that this immovable object met an irresistible force.
Lynne Hardin, candidate for the Oklahoma City Public School Board chairmanship, best fits that description. Hardin is a product of district schools. She's an active booster of those schools. Her enthusiasm for the district is contagious. She can lead the school system through the tough choices that must be made and put it back on a path to excellence.
If elected, Hardin would be in a position to effect change because, as she notes, “The chair sets the agenda.” The first step to improvement is having someone at the helm willing to hold important discussions. Hardin's supporters include many who've worked to grow Oklahoma City and improve its schools. They include Cliff Hudson, Kirk Humphreys, Lou Kerr and Ron Norick.
Hardin and local schools would benefit if voters in District 1, in northern Oklahoma City, choose Bob Hammack, a business executive and civic leader. The incumbent in that district isn't seeking another term. Hardin's primary goal, one that we believe Hammack shares, is to re-engage the community in its school system. She wants to get parents more involved in their children's schools and to get teacher buy-in for improvements.
Hardin has brought diverse groups together for common goals in other endeavors. She would bring that skill set to the job of school board chairwoman. Hardin has been an entrepreneur since the 1970s and is president and CEO of Integrated Solutions Inc. A certified professional facilitator who's done work in the areas of health, education and public policy, Hardin has served as executive director of the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics Foundation and on the board of The Oklahoma Independent Colleges and Universities Foundation. She also helped raise nearly a million dollars for her alma mater, Northwest Classen High School.
Obviously, the position of school board chairwoman will involve a learning curve, but Hardin's instincts seem good. She is rightly appalled that roughly half of students who start first grade in the district don't graduate as seniors from the district. Hardin welcomes the participation of local parents and business leaders in our schools. She criticizes accepting federal grant money that requires taking teachers out of the classroom. If local charter schools can successfully educate low-income children from single-parent homes, she correctly notes, other schools should be able to do the same.
Hardin sees systemic failure in the scandal at Douglass High School, where a state audit found up to four of five seniors weren't on track to graduate: “I don't know how anyone could not have understood this was happening.” On the other hand, incumbent board Chairwoman Angela Monson's response to the audit was to declare, “We did not fail our students.”
Hardin's background, her passion and her energy make her the best candidate for the job. In the Feb. 12 election, The Oklahoman endorses Lynne Hardin.