Oklahoma City superintendent calls council's comments on taking over district 'disrespectful'

Discussion among the Oklahoma City Council about having a heavier hand in running the city's school district evoked outrage and vocal opposition Wednesday from school officials.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND Modified: October 7, 2010 at 8:15 am •  Published: October 7, 2010
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Wednesday, Mayor Mick Cornett distanced himself from the conversation of taking over the school district saying he "remained unconvinced that we need to start over.

"My preference would be to work with the existing superintendent and school board president. I would like the council to be a part of the conversation ... No one is satisfied with the way things are."

Springer has been in office for 28 months, and he follows a revolving door of superintendents in the district. In the past 10 years, there have been nine superintendents or acting superintendents in the district.

"By the time they would find things they need to change, it would be time for them to leave," he said.

But the solution to all the issues the district faces is not duplicated efforts with a task force, Springer emphasized, or a heavy intervention from the city.

The reforms

The Oklahoma City School District is in the process of major reforms at some of the district's poorest performing schools — in part because of federal mandates.

Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers, responded to the council members' comments by highlighting those reforms.

"The district and union have not shied away from needed change," Allen said from Washington in a written statement. "We are disappointed to hear that some think city governance of our schools is a needed solution."

Among those changes are longer school days, continuous school years, teacher accountability that is based on student performance rather than tenure, and a peer evaluation system that promises to make it easier for the district to identify and fire ineffective teachers.

Both Springer and Allen have said the three schools currently undergoing these reforms are pilot sites for the district.

Cornett said he would support longer school days and continuous school years for the entire district.

"Our current school schedule is based on kids getting up to help with the harvest," Cornett said. "That's more than 100 years old. We need to adapt."

Springer also pointed to curriculum reforms in both the high schools and elementary schools that are just getting under way. ACT America's Choice has been used for over a year in the high schools to increase reading and streamline the way teachers conduct their classrooms. An elementary school reform task force identified Great Expectations as the best program to improve learning in the younger grades.

These changes will take time to have an impact on student performance, Springer said, but they will have "significant results."