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

Knowing each other

In 1996, the Mulhall-Orlando High School graduating class included Joline Oldenburg. After college, she taught six years at Perry, five at Kingfisher and now has returned to her home district.

“The only way a small school can succeed is for every teacher to take on multiple roles,” said Oldenburg, the high school principal. “M-O is blessed to have a hardworking and caring staff that is willing to do anything necessary for the betterment of our students and school.”

She said that teachers in the district believe every student can learn and stress the importance of being a lifelong learner. That goes for in and out of the classroom.

“We want students to be well-rounded,” she said. “We offer college classes and honor classes in addition to standard curriculum, athletics, student organizations and FFA.”

Brenda Johnson said although their children are in elementary, they like other aspects that tend to come with a small district.

“You have a lot more accountability,” Johnson said. “If you think about it, if you're a high school kid in that district everybody knows what you're doing pretty much, you learn to be accountable for yourself and if you stray too far, someone's going to straighten you out.”

Academic gains

Robin Hill is part of the Organization of Rural Elementary Schools in Oklahoma. And while the school itself is located in the Norman city limits, portions of the district fall in other city limits as well, said district Superintendent Jim Martin.

Martin mentioned some of the same qualities as seen in Mulhall-Orlando, including how teachers are committed to the success of each child.

“This means every child in the building, not just in their classroom,” Martin said. “All teachers knowing all or most students in the building is a benefit of the small-school setting. In addition, teachers utilize tools and resources that are available to them.”

Martin said parents, the students themselves and the staff contribute to success in the district.

At home

As work continues on the Johnsons' new house in the Mulhall-Orlando district, Brenda Johnson said they are pleased with the choice they've made.

“At the end of the day I want to go back to that community,” she said. “We want that school district and we want our cows around us.

“That's where we want to call home.”


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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