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The Morning Bell: Can OKC mayor improve education?

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Sen. David Holt, left, visits with members of the Kiwanis Club, including Jim Vogt, center, after Holt concluded remarks about his mayoral race during a talk to Kiwanians at their luncheon in the Petroleum Club on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman
Sen. David Holt, left, visits with members of the Kiwanis Club, including Jim Vogt, center, after Holt concluded remarks about his mayoral race during a talk to Kiwanians at their luncheon in the Petroleum Club on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman

Good Wednesday morning. The state's largest school district is looking for a new superintendent and the Chickasha board will reconvene an investigation into one of its employees. 

But first, in some American cities the local school district is managed by city hall. That's not the case in Oklahoma City (or the rest of the state). 

However, Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, who is the favorite to be the city's next mayor, said he wants education to be an important part of his possible tenure. 

Speaking this week to the Downtown Oklahoma City Kiwanis Club, Holt said previous mayoral candidates have said they care about schools but "that's not really my job, there's nothing I can do about it," reported The Oklahoman's William Crum

"I just don't think we can get away with that in the future," he said. "There's nobody who can convene people and come up with a strategic vision like the mayor.

"I feel that responsibility. I feel it personally. My kids are in Oklahoma City Public Schools."

It's unknown what that type of focus could end up looking like. Holt has supported city-run charter schools in the past, pointing to John Rex Charter School as an example to follow. 

It could also include the city and school district deepening its relationship, including school-focused projects in the next MAPS proposal or simply using the bully pulpit of the mayor to advocate for local schools. 

Holt faces Taylor Neighbors and Randall Smith in the Feb. 13 mayoral primary.


While Oklahoma City will have a new mayor, it will also have a new superintendent following the resignation of Aurora Lora on Tuesday. 

"Our board has gone through some transitions during my time here and I believe that it is now time for me to step aside and allow you to come together as a team to find a leader that will be right for you as a new board," Lora wrote in her resignation letter. 

According to The Oklahoman's Tim Willert, there has been friction between Lora and school board members, who have met several times recently to evaluate her job performance. In fact, Lora had considered resigning months ago, Willert reports. 

"She said she'd been unhappy for the last couple of months and that she made a mistake with that post and that just brought it to a head," one insider told The Oklahoman.

Chief of Staff Rebecca Kaye will be acting superintendent starting Thursday.

Running a large urban school district is never easy. Here is a look at five challenges she faced during her tenure as superintendent. 

Lora was the 11th superintendent of OKCPS since 2000.

'Inappropriate messages' shared with student

The Tulsa Police Department is investigating a report of a female Edison Preparatory School teacher sharing inappropriate messages with students, according to the Tulsa World.

“We have a report with very limited information in reference to a teacher at Edison sending ‘inappropriate’ messages to multiple students,” Sgt. Jillian Phippen said in an email. “However at this point we do not have a definition of inappropriate because we have not interviewed any of the students.”

Ada City Schools selected as an Oklahoma GEAR UP IV district 

Over the next seven years, the Ada community will receive Oklahoma’s fourth consecutive GEAR UP grant, receiving localized education services and activities that have been proven to help students better prepare for and succeed in college, reports the Ada News.

Oklahoma GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a federally funded program administered by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The program is designed to prepare middle and high school students for college success through direct student support services, effective educator professional development and leadership opportunities, and parent and family outreach activities and events.

Chickasha Board of Education to reconvene due process hearing

Pam Huggins, a special education director with Chickasha Public Schools, was suspended in December on allegations of failure to report child abuse of a special needs child. The board announced it will reconvene a due process hearing for Higgins on Thursday where more witnesses may testify on Huggins' behalf. The Chickasha Board of Education will then go into executive session to deliberate on the evidence presented, reports the McAlester News-Capital.

Suggested read: When white parents won't integrate public schools

The website City Lab recently spoke with Integrated Schools, an organization that works to encourage white and/or affluent families to consider urban public schools. From the article: 

We first ask parents to tour two schools that aren’t otherwise on their list—meaning schools with a high concentration of poverty. We ask them to go with an open heart and to find something positive in them, whether it’s how great the principal is or how engaged the teachers are. Getting inside the door of a majority-minority school is powerful: It’s just a building filled with kids, and people then think, “I can imagine my kid here, too.”

That's all for today's Morning Bell. Got questions, comments or story ideas? Reach me at bfelder@oklahoman.com. 

Related Photos
Sen. David Holt, left, visits with members of the Kiwanis Club, including Jim Vogt, center, after Holt concluded remarks about his mayoral race during a talk to Kiwanians at their  luncheon in the Petroleum Club on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman

Sen. David Holt, left, visits with members of the Kiwanis Club, including Jim Vogt, center, after Holt concluded remarks about his mayoral race during a talk to Kiwanians at their luncheon in the Petroleum Club on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9b30b5c3436066e5173e20aa35086875.jpg" alt="Photo - Sen. David Holt, left, visits with members of the Kiwanis Club, including Jim Vogt, center, after Holt concluded remarks about his mayoral race during a talk to Kiwanians at their luncheon in the Petroleum Club on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman" title="Sen. David Holt, left, visits with members of the Kiwanis Club, including Jim Vogt, center, after Holt concluded remarks about his mayoral race during a talk to Kiwanians at their luncheon in the Petroleum Club on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Sen. David Holt, left, visits with members of the Kiwanis Club, including Jim Vogt, center, after Holt concluded remarks about his mayoral race during a talk to Kiwanians at their luncheon in the Petroleum Club on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure>
Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›

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