PERHAPS Oklahoma City School Board members knew exactly what they were doing when unanimously denying transfers into Classen School of Advanced Studies, one of the state's premier high schools. In doing so, the members declared — at the administration's urging — that out-of-district students will no longer be welcome at Classen. Students already at the school who live outside the district's borders won't be asked to leave.
The decision had an immediate impact for some families, although how many isn't yet known. The board officially denied eight transfers, but as many as 40 other families also may be denied entry after believing they had been accepted. Some of the affected students had already enrolled in courses for the coming year. In the days after the decision, top district officials admitted to an internal misfire and said Classen administrators shouldn't have allowed out-of-district students to participate in the admissions process.
School board members and administrators should admit the students who applied and who were accepted in good faith. One board member's “life isn't fair” attitude is beneath what the community should expect to hear from a public official when children are asked to pay the price for the mistakes of adults.
With officials pointing the finger at the school's leadership, it's also appropriate for the board to ask some tough questions about internal accountability and an apparent disconnect between school leadership and administration that makes the board's job extra difficult. Some current board members hadn't yet been elected when the grading scandal at Douglass High School broke. But that situation also brought to light some lax internal oversight that's had real consequen-ces for students who have spent long days and weekends trying to graduate on time.
Another big issue is why the board and administration made what amounts to a major policy shift without informing patrons of its intentions.