- Ingvard Ashby
“Is it worth it?” asked Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel in a Jan. 13 letter addressed to “families, staff and community.” McDaniel was not quoting Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott but offering an update on the progress of the Pathway to Greatness plan, which closed 15 public school campuses and required students, teachers and administrators to relocate and consolidate for the 2020 school year.
“I can tell you resoundingly that we’re already seeing benefits for kids, and we will continue to see them,” McDaniel wrote, answering his own question.
However, many of the respondents to the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers’ annual survey conducted between Oct. 31 and Nov. 14 and available online at NonDoc.com, seem to be grading on a different scale: 45 percent reported that student welfare and school climate had declined since the program’s implementation while 11 percent said it had improved.
“Our class sizes are higher,” wrote one respondent. “Granted we have hired new teachers, but there isn’t enough room for all the teachers that we need. Counselors and other staff are working out of closets!”
Others reported “extremely low” teacher morale, being “overwhelmed and stressed out” and increased behavioral issues caused by “students being disappointed, resentful and confused why they have to attend a school very far away from them when their family has limited resources.” One respondent said teachers face “a mess not of our own creation and no recourse or remedy.”
However, McDaniel’s letter said the majority of issues “are not new problems,” adding that, “the reality is that this system has had winners and losers for a long time.” Offering an update to the district’s board of education on Jan. 13, McDaniel made at least one statement the majority teachers, parents and even students might agree with.
“This change was radical by a lot of definitions,” McDaniel said, according to Oklahoma City Free Press. “And in no way are we doing any kind of victory lap here.”