ON the first day Douglass High School students walked the halls of their new building, the Oklahoma City School Board chairman at the time stood before students with a message of hope.
“The investment they made in you is one we expect to pay off for years to come,” Cliff Hudson said that day in January 2006. He was referencing voter support of MAPS for Kids, which paid for the new Douglass and hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of capital improvements throughout the district.
Contrast Hudson's remarks to last week when the current school board chairwoman, Angela Monson, tried to sidestep accountability for what has all the makings of an educational travesty. Top school district officials had gathered to make a shocking admission: 87 of the 107 Douglass High School seniors don't have the necessary coursework and test scores to graduate come spring.
The news comes as the school is reeling from allegations that the former principal, Brian Staples, manipulated attendance and grade records. Staples resigned last month. The district turned its investigation over to state education and law enforcement authorities. Federal education officials also are investigating.
In response to questioning, Superintendent Karl Springer said the “buck stops with the school superintendent.” Those words have a hollow feel when considering the totality of the district's response to date. The district has said some of the allegations against Staples are true while some weren't. But in refusing to distinguish between the two while trotting out the newest findings, they're nonetheless pointing fingers at Staples.
While reserving blanket judgments until more information is known, we can't get past Monson's statement last week: “We did not fail our students.” The evidence suggests otherwise. If her attitude is representative of the entire board, some soul searching is in order.