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December From the Superintendent's Desk

By now many of you have driven by Woodward Middle School and seen the “Hope Tree” in the courtyard area facing 9th Street. I am touched that members of our community found this an important thing to do for the youth in our community.

 

I think it is important that you have a little background to understand why this happened. As a part of Woodward Public Schools’ participation with the GearUP grant through the Regents for Higher Education, we survey our kids every year. An important component of that survey is the sense of hope our students have for the future. Those are not very good numbers to see; in fact, it’s disheartening to know that so many of our kids do not envision a bright future for themselves. Various members of our community have provided the Hope Tree as a symbol for our children that the future is bright, and our community is ready to nurture and support them in a myriad of ways.

 

Those of us who work in the education industry are typically eternal optimists. The very core of that belief comes from working directly with the youth in our community, and we are ever encouraged by our students. We believe that by educating our students … ALL STUDENTS … we are securing the very future of our country.

 

Of late, I have to admit that my optimism is waning. I was very encouraged when Governor Fallin called the special session, directing our legislature to correct our state’s budgetary issues in meaningful and sustainable ways and find a way to increase teacher compensation. Alas, the special session came and went in disappointing fashion.

 

But something magical happened, and the Governor vetoed the components of the budget that relied on the usual “cash and cuts,” forcing our legislature to again return to a special session to keep our state moving forward.

 

Disappointment followed again a few days later when our governor came out with three executive orders, almost as if a different person altogether were speaking. One order mandates specific “instructional costs” and consolidation of administrative functions for public schools.

 

So the car is out of gas, and we’ve decided to change the air filter and clean the bugs off the grill. Really?

 

The governor wants schools to spend at least 60% of their funds on “direct instructional costs.” What do you think that means? I can tell you that as soon as you start researching this topic, the last thing you will find is a comprehensive and commonly agreed to list of what “direct instruction” means.

 

Where does our school fall on instructional costs? We are close to that 60% mark.  And while we’re at it, let’s talk about administrative costs, since that’s what it feels like we are really getting at. Last year WPS spent 3.6% on administrative costs. So how do we reconcile the gap between “direct instruction” and “administrative” costs?

 

We can’t educate kids if we can’t get them to school. We transport at least 1,000 kids two times a day.

 

You can’t learn when you’re hungry. We feed kids two hot meals a day and send non-perishable items home with many of our students on the weekends since 1 in 4 of the kids in our state suffer from food insecurity.

 

We have nurses, therapists, school resource officers, custodians, secretaries, maintenance staff…. Each one of the employees at Woodward Public Schools plays an important role in the education of our kids.

 

I, like my colleagues all across the state, am a staunch advocate of transparency and accountability,  but an arbitrary number and a vague definition of terms is not helpful. 

 

An examination of the schools in our state and a comparison of our state with others using data from NCES reveals something interesting as well. You would not be surprised to find that schools with higher per pupil expenditures have a higher percentage of instructional expenditures. The same holds true when comparing states.

 

Schools are not asking for gold-plated plumbing fixtures and Cadillac busses. We are simply asking for sufficient and stable resources to provide our students with an education that prepares them for their future. In doing so, we will be able to secure the future of our communities, our state, and our country with a robust and innovative workforce that can compete in a global economy.

 

I will do my best to remain hopeful and optimistic that our state’s leaders will find ways to ensure a brighter future for our youth. I once heard someone at church say, “Quit saying the youth are the future of the church…they are the church!” What a poignant remark, and true on a larger scale when saying the youth of today represent the most important investment we can make for the future of our country.

 

This holiday season I continue to be thankful that I live in such a blessed community that cares so much for kids. I see so much potential in our kids, and I do have hope in my heart for a brighter future because of them.

 

As always, if you have questions or concerns, I would love to hear from you.

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Woodward Public Schools1023 10th StreetWoodward, OK  73802

PH: 580-256-6063Fax: 580-256-4391

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The Woodward Board of Education does not discriminate on the basis of disability, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, or veteran status.

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