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Two Oklahoma school districts are examples of those earning all A's from the state Education Department

Administrators and parents of two small school districts like that everyone knows children throughout their schools
by Bryan Painter Published: January 7, 2013

The two-story house Mark and Brenda Johnson are building between Mulhall and Orlando isn't just a home, it's a choice.

It's a choice for a way of life. It's a choice of school district. And the two go together, Brenda Johnson said.

More than a year ago, the Johnsons sold their current home and, at that point, had to make a decision.

Both are employed at Oklahoma State University, and it's about a 25-minute door-to-door drive. Did the parents of two elementary-age daughters want to shorten that commute and make it easier to get the girls to their activities? Or did they want to remain on their farm where they raise cattle and keep Sydney, a fifth-grader, and her sister Charley, a third-grader, in Mulhall-Orlando public schools?

The decision wasn't really that difficult, Johnson said.

Under the state Education Department's new A-to-F school evaluation system, Mulhall-Orlando was one of seven districts with more than one school that received all A's. Amber-Pocasset, Arapaho-Butler, Canadian, Central High, Reydon and Ripley districts also had all A's.

Just north of the Oklahoma City metro, Mulhall-Orlando is a district of about 250 students in Logan County. The elementary, pre-K through sixth, is in Mulhall and the junior high and high school, seventh through 12th, is in Orlando.

Robin Hill School in Cleveland County was one of five single-school districts receiving A's. It was joined by Bishop, Cottonwood, McCord and Pioneer, according to the state Education Department.

Robin Hill, located in the metro in Norman, has 252 students in pre-K through eighth grade. They are examples of the school districts receiving 4.0 grades.

“I think what makes it different is that all the teachers from every grade know all of the kids all the way through the system,” Brenda Johnson said of Mulhall-Orlando. “Before they even get to their next grade, that teacher has some idea who they are and they already have a relationship with them. They contribute to the learning of the kids from all grades.

“They all know the kids by name, they know their siblings and they know their parents in most cases. That's a luxury we have just because of the type of environment that we're in. A lot of us are farmers and ranchers. We all kind of rely on each other for one thing or another.”

J.B. Southerland and wife Lynn have two sons, Johnny in eighth grade and Zane in sixth grade attending Robin Hill School. J.B. said the size of the school district played a part in the decision of where to live.

“Growing up, I went to small schools and then moved down to Houston and went to a very large school,” he said. “So I've kind of seen both sides of it and it was like, ‘You know when I have kids let's look for something a little smaller.' And it's turned out to be fantastic, because it's just so personal. I know every teacher at that school by name.”

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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