John Marshall Mid-High School Principal Aspasia Carlson asked the Oklahoma City School Board for more freedom and more work, and next year, she'll get both.
The school board voted 5-3 Monday to dub the northwest Oklahoma City campus an enterprise school.
Carlson will have more flexibility with spending and staff, and she'll have a local school board, in addition to the districtwide one. Carlson and her board will make decisions about the operations of the school.
“The people at the school are the ones who can do the daily work to improve the lives of students,” Carlson said. “This isn't a commentary on the effectiveness of the (district) board. This is about trying to address that question of ownership.”
Contract details have to be approved by the Oklahoma City School Board. One issue the board had with the contract involved “must transfers,” or teachers who are transferred out of John Marshall that must be placed at other schools in the district.
John Marshall proposes to send out no more than 10 percent of the staff — six teachers.
“I don't think it's fair for you to say they're not good enough for your school but they're good enough for the rest of the district,” District 2 board member Justin Ellis said at Monday's board meeting.
Carlson said she will meet with the teachers, look at the schedule and determine who to send on.
Under normal circumstances, dropping an ineffective teacher is time-consuming, Carlson said. The process can take about three years. But not all teachers asked to leave are ineffective, she said; some won't fit into the new academic plans for the school.
With an enterprise status, Carlson will have more flexibility with her staff. For example, she will be able to move special-education students into the general population more often with co-teaching. Special-education teachers could move with students into traditional science and social studies classes.
Also, courses such as art, dance, music and drama can collaborate more, Carlson said. She hopes to add a marching band in the fall.
The goal is to make decisions based on her student body, not necessarily on the district as a whole.
“We're doing this for the kids here now, because they deserve it,” Carlson said.
How it works
Of more than 70 schools, the district has three enterprise schools: Columbus Elementary School, Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School and Northeast Academy.
Running an enterprise school means long hours but big rewards, said Lynn Kellert, principal of Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School.
Belle Isle received a grade of A from the state Education Department this year, and the school twice has been named a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
Kellert said the best benefits of running an enterprise school are controlling the school budget and the staffing.
For example, Belle Isle has a full-time nurse — something that wouldn't be allowed for a school with 450 students under the districtwide formula. But the school's board wanted one, so Kellert found a way for the nurse to teach health classes to the older students.
“It does make a school much more accountable,” Kellert said. “You're making the decisions. You sink or swim.”
Carlson said she expects more work and is willing to do it. She expects enrollment in John Marshall's finance academy to jump from 43 to as many as 100. She wants a fine arts academy, too. And she said she's excited about a local school board that is ready to work.
Carlson said she hopes more students living within the John Marshall boundaries will choose to come to her school instead of transferring out or attending a private school.
“I hope they give us a second look,” she said. “Improvement doesn't happen overnight, but we're working on it. For some people who had written John Marshall off as a non-option, maybe they'll give us a second look.”
Improvement doesn't happen overnight, but we're working on it. For some people who had written John Marshall off as a non-option, maybe they'll give us a second look.”
John Marshall High School principal