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Oklahoma City education leaders say they will fight state takeover of schools

BY MEGAN ROLLAND AND CARRIE COPPERNOLL Published: February 23, 2012

The superintendent of the Oklahoma City School District and the city's school board president announced Wednesday they would fight any takeover of struggling schools by state officials.

“Changing the strategic direction at this time could be fatal to our district and not good to the students of our school system,” Superintendent Karl Springer said during a morning news conference at the state Capitol.

The state Education Department received a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act earlier this month. The waiver enabled the state to develop a new accountability model and a wide range of leniencies from the tough educational model, which has ruled since 2002.

One portion of the state's waiver allows the Education Department to hire private companies to run failing public schools that are unable to demonstrate the ability to improve.

“We will resist any takeover by the state Department of Education of our schools,” Oklahoma City School Board Chairman Angela Monson said. “We do have a plan. We do plan to implement and execute that plan. We stand ready to work with the state Department of Education, but we need the same flexibility that they will give to either themselves or a private firm.”

Damon Gardenhire, spokesman for the Education Department, said no decision has been made about which schools, if any, will be taken over by the state.

The waiver requires school districts to submit documents demonstrating their capacity for improvement, which will then be judged by state officials.

“There are kids in the first, second, third grade,” Gardenhire said. “We can't afford to have them in chronically failing schools or having them going into chronically failing schools.”

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