Oklahoma City's interim public schools chief said he plans to fire several high-ranking administrators as early as this week, as part of a plan to shake up district operations and improve academic performance.
Interim Superintendent Dave Lopez did not identify those facing termination, but he said Friday that as many as 10 executives would be relieved of their duties for poor job performance.
Lopez told school board members last week that he intended to make sweeping changes to counteract what he said had become a culture at district headquarters “based on oversight and compliance, rather than seeing ourselves as support for school sites.”
Oklahoma City Public Schools — the state's largest district — received 39 F's, 20 D's, 14 C's, 10 B's and 10 A's on report cards released in November by the state Education Department.
Of the district's 93 schools, 18 schools improved, 10 schools stayed the same and 65 schools decreased.
Overall, Oklahoma City Public Schools received a grade of F. Last year, the district's grade was a D.
“There are people who are content with the way it is,” school board member Bob Hammack said Friday. “The only way to shake that up is to bring people in who are not satisfied with an F.”
Lopez unveiled a sweeping six-month transition plan for consideration by the school board that includes a recommendation to overhaul the administrative structure by relocating about 100 employees from district headquarters to individual schools to combat complacency and improve responsiveness.
Those sites have been identified as Greystone Upper Elementary, Martin Luther King Elementary, Douglass Mid-High and Northeast Academy.
“The fact that we're getting closer to our customer, I think, is a very good thing,” school board Chairwoman Lynne Hardin said Friday. “I think this gives us a great opportunity to look at some of the operations that we can clean up.”
Lopez said each school has an abundance of empty classrooms. Relocated employees, he added, could be called upon to relieve administrative staff or even teachers, if needed.
“In addition to their normal work, they'll get a chance to be inspired by the students they get to see every day,” Lopez said Friday. “It will be a daily reminder that they're there for the kids.”
Some parents also are fed up with the district's poor academic performance.
Russell Claus, outgoing planning director for the city of Oklahoma City, said he is returning to Australia, in part, because of his frustration with the school district. His two children attended school here for several years.
“I have a lot of faith in Mr. Lopez's judgment,” Claus said. “Dave, I think, is very astute and able to size up the limitations of any situation that he encounters. “I do know that significant changes do need to occur.”
Lopez also announced plans to move another 150 employees from the district's antiquated administration building into a smaller structure he said would help improve perception and cost the district less to renovate.
Speaking at the Jan. 6 school board meeting, Lopez said the complexity of the district's current structure “results in a general lack of accountability” and that departments “tend to work in isolation instead of coordination.”
“I am convinced that a realignment of duties will help us be more responsive, more efficient and more effective in supporting our schools,” he said. “There may be some trepidation, but I tend to think that everyone is going to be pleased once we get past the adjustment period.”
Lopez said the initial focus of his transition plan would be “the highest levels of management,” adding that he anticipates having a complete organization chart by the Feb. 3 school board meeting.
Hammack is among those who believe the proposed changes are long overdue.
“The only way to be a catalyst for change in Oklahoma City is to recognize that the status quo won't change anything,” Hammack said. “You have to be bold. You have to be innovative. You have to surround yourself with talented people who have success as part of their daily lives and hope that success is infectious.”