The man credited with changing the way Oklahoma City Public Schools does business said Tuesday he hasn’t decided how much longer he will serve the district now that a new superintendent is in place.
“It’s probably premature to determine what my roll may be,” Interim Superintendent Dave Lopez said. “I wouldn’t anticipate that I will be a full-time employee of the district after August.”
School board Chairwoman Lynne Hardin and others have made it clear they want Lopez to run the operations side of the state’s largest school district so incoming Superintendent Rob Neu can focus on academics.
“We need to focus on operations and we need focus on academics,” Hardin said. “Both of these things need to be happening simultaneously, and in my opinion, are different skill sets. Dave is masterful at understanding the organization and where there can be productive changes from a systems standpoint.”
Lopez is a former telephone company executive who served as commerce secretary for Gov. Mary Fallin before agreeing to run a school district with a $450 million budget until a permanent replacement for Karl Springer was found.
Since taking over in August, Lopez has initiated a series of bold moves aimed at improving academic and fiscal accountability. Lopez recommended eliminating the positions of four high-ranking administrators to make the district more efficient, moves that will save the district nearly $800,000 in salaries and benefits annually.
He also made a recommendation to overhaul the district’s administrative structure by relocating about 100 employees from district headquarters to schools on the northeast side to combat complacency and improve responsiveness.
A district leadership team he assembled in January has acted to improve safety and security, teacher recruitment and retention, technology and professional development, and academic programs.
A leaner structure, Lopez has said, provides immediate benefits and will provide the incoming superintendent flexibility while he or she determines long-term structure plans.”
Neu said Tuesday he is impressed with the work Lopez has done in a short period of time, calling it “courageous.”
“I would be honored and absolutely committed to having him stay on as long as he would like, in any capacity that he and I feel would best suit the needs of the district,” Neu said.
Both men said they will discuss a possible long-term arrangement in the coming days.
Hardin and board member Bob Hammack said they emphasized Lopez’s value as operations manager during interviews with Neu and other candidates for superintendent.
“He took over the reins of an organization that was not noted for speedy or effective actions,” Hammack said. “Within a short period of time he was able to change a complacent atmosphere and by example has altered the course of the district.
“It’s our desire as a board that Dave would stay on at least through Christmas. But we understand he’s got a life to live, too.”