A principal stood before the Oklahoma City School Board last week and, under intense questioning, spoke a simple but profoundly important truth: Status quo isn't good enough.
“We're just not satisfied with it not being not broken,” said Aspasia Carlson, the John Marshall Mid-High School principal since 2011. Carlson attended the meeting to ask the board's blessing to allow John Marshall, which serves students in grades six through 12, to become an enterprise school.
She was met with unbridled support from District 1 board member Bob Hammack but skepticism from other members. The board eventually approved the proposal, subject to contract negotiations. Three members (Ruth Veales, Jay Means and Ron Millican) voted no.
Enterprise schools are public schools that operate under contract with the school district. They have their own governance board that typically has more control over issues such as hiring. Enterprise schools aren't as independent as charter schools. Employees of enterprise schools work for the school district and are subject to the negotiated union contract.
Questioning and debating any proposal that comes before them is the job of school board members. It's their duty as stewards of the public school system, protectors of taxpayer investment and champions for 40,000-plus children. But the board's debate in this case raised a serious question as to what it is they are championing for the students.
“If the system is not broken, why are we trying to fix it?” Millican, a former school administrator, asked. How could a board member, with a straight face, claim the system isn't broken?
Carlson answered that the school wants to improve its C rating to a B and eventually an A. The proposal to become an enterprise school came from the school's community advisory board. Although such boards aren't active at many schools, they were designed to promote community involvement and support school improvement efforts.