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Oklahoma City principal looks forward to enterprise possibilities

The Oklahoma City School Board voted Monday night to designate John Marshall High School as an enterprise school.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Published: April 8, 2013

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.”