The Oklahoma City Board of Education is currently starting the process of selecting a new superintendent. Thirty years ago, the Board of Education, confronting problems similar to those faced by the present board, selected Dr. Arthur Stellar as the superintendent. At the time, Oklahoma City was looking to turn around the school system. In the mid-1980s, when Stellar was appointed, the city's education system was hurting economic development. The school district had low student achievement, many at-risk schools, high dropout rates, declining enrollment and poorly maintained physical facilities.
All of this changed with Stellar's leadership. After seven years, the second longest tenure for a superintendent in Oklahoma City history, the public school system was transformed. He reduced the city's at-risk schools from 32 to only three; he raised student achievement in all schools, grades and subjects; the ACT scores average rose from 15 to 19.3; the number of students enrolled in advanced placement classes jumped from 71 to 538; average passing rates on the AP exams went from 13 percent to 56 percent.
In addition to this impressive academic progress, Stellar reduced the dropout rate by half, eliminated social promotions and increased student time in school. He was able to generate widespread parental and community involvement, upgraded the quality and diversity of the staff, and adopted an amazing list of reforms and innovations. The current Board of Education would be well served to consider the appointment of Stellar as the new superintendent.
Walter Lambert, Oklahoma City
Stellar was superintendent from 1985 to 1992. His career has been marked by controversy during and after his stint in Oklahoma City.