After sharp words from both sides, the Oklahoma City School Board voted Monday to tentatively dub John Marshall Mid-High School an enterprise school.
The board still has to negotiate a contract with the group of John Marshall leaders and volunteers. The board voted 5-3 to approve the enterprise application.
Enterprise school status gives the school its own school board, more flexibility for spending and staffing, and other unique rights. The district has three other enterprise schools: Columbus Elementary School, Belle Isle Middle School and Northeast Academy.
District 6 board member Jay Means, who voted against the application, asked John Marshall Principal Aspasia Carlson if she thought the Oklahoma City School Board wasn't good enough to run the school.
“We don't feel the board is unable or incapable or unwilling,” Carlson said. “But the closer you are to the site, the more your eyes and hands are daily in the work.”
District 5 board member Ruth Veales said she worried another enterprise school would “open the flood gates” for other school leaders to put in similar requests. Veales voted against the proposal.
District 2 board member Justin Ellis said he didn't like that the contract includes that the John Marshall principal could cut six teachers, who would then have to be picked up by other schools in the district.
“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,” said Ellis, who voted for the application.
District 7 board member Ron Millican, who voted against the application, said he recently visited the school and witnessed a positive environment. Why change the status quo, he asked, if things are going well?
“We're just not satisfied with it just being ‘not broken,'” Carlson said.
In other business
• The board pulled from the agenda a discussion about changing the high school grading policy. District officials had proposed a policy that would allow students who failed a course but passed the end-of-instruction exam to get a grade of D in the course.
• Oklahoma City Planning Director Russell Claus made a presentation to the board about the Strong Neighborhood Initiative. The city of Oklahoma City plans to spend at least $7.5 million during the next five years rehabilitating neighborhoods in need. Part of the program involves collaborating with schools in the areas slotted for aid.
• The board renewed contracts with St. Anthony Hospital for four residential education programs at the hospital. The district provides 13 teachers for the four programs, which service children who are there because of court appointment, DHS placement or family committal.
• The board approved a $153,000 change order for MAPS for Kids renovations at Capitol Hill Elementary School. The most expensive changes are replacing the gym floor, fixing lockers and laying tile in nine classrooms.
• The board approved $6.7 million for construction of classrooms and gyms at Buchanan, Gatewood, Johnson and Oakridge elementary schools. The bid process can begin.
• Community supporter Cathy Busey introduced El Sistema Oklahoma, an after-school orchestra program that will launch in the fall. The program is a partnership of St. Luke's United Methodist Church and the partnership with Oklahoma City University Wanda Bass School of Music.
We're just not satisfied with it just being ‘not broken.'”