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Outlook 2013: Oklahoma City superintendent reflects on career, looks to future for district

Oklahoma City Superintendent Karl Springer discusses his work and his vision for the district’s future.

BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Published: April 28, 2013

Oklahoma City Superintendent Karl Springer has spent the past five years running a school district that is a complex collage of challenges and successes.

The district is home to about 43,000 students — a population that would make it the 11th largest city in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma City School Board voted this spring to keep Springer on for at least another three years.

Springer answered questions about his work life and himself.

Q: You were born in California. How did you end up in Oklahoma?

A: My wife’s parents had retired to Oklahoma, and during a visit one summer, I interviewed on the spur of the moment to teach history and coach track and cross-country, which I had competed in in college. I was lucky enough to be hired immediately at Muskogee High School. Although we only intended to live here for a year or two, we came to love Oklahoma. We raised our children here.

Q: You started your career as a special-education teacher. Why?

A: I was an aide to a handicapped student during my graduate year in college. He was brave and optimistic despite his disabilities and made me appreciate the potential each of us has. Years later, during my first year of teaching, I was asked to start a Special Olympics track meet in that district. That inspired me to pursue a master’s degree in special education and change my focus from regular education to working with children with disabilities.

Q: How does your military service help you in your job now?

A: I have learned that personal responsibility, attitude and a fighting spirit overcome all challenges. I try to lead by example. The biggest lesson in the military was creating the best organization by mentoring and encouraging the success of others.

Q: Why did you decide to apply for the Oklahoma City superintendent job?

A: I believed, as I do now, that Oklahoma City has the potential to be an outstanding urban school district. I want to be part of that transformation. I think that every child, no matter his circumstances or background, has the potential to succeed in school and in life. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded with great teachers and administrators who have the same vision. It is difficult sometimes, but the rewards are evident when we see our children growing and achieving. I am encouraged by the progress we’re beginning to see yearly.

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