Big 12 gives Heronville Elementary a library makeover
Oklahoma City mayor David Holt stood in the remade Heronville Elementary School media center and reminded the assembled dignitaries, school officials and sixth-graders what the Big 12 Conference had not donated to the school just southwest of downtown OKC.
“The Big 12 is a collection of educational institutions,” Holt said. “The library is a most fitting recognition of that.”
And then Holt asked for a student volunteer. Up popped Roselin Valdez. Holt handed her a book, took one himself and christened the new library by standing with Valdez before falling backwards onto a giant beanbag adorned with Big 12 logos.
“The library is open,” Holt declared.
The Big 12, in conjunction with a $150,000 grant from the College Football Playoff Foundation, funded the $70,000 makeover of Heronville’s library, which was unveiled Tuesday.
“What better way to repay the support we get in Oklahoma City than to make the investment in education,” asked Bob Burda, the Big 12’s associate commissioner for communications.
The Big 12 took its $150,000 from the playoff foundation and funded library makeovers at schools in Arlington, Texas; Oklahoma City; and Kansas City, Kansas. The Arlington makeover was unveiled around the Big 12 football title game. The KCK unveiling will be next week in conjunction with the men’s’ basketball tournament. The Heronville unveiling coincides with the women’s basketball tournament, which starts Friday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“There are no words that fully describe my gratitude,” said Heronville principal Karen Mock. “Thank you so much, because you know what? Our kids deserve this.”
For 30 minutes after the ceremony, Heronville students by grade filed through the library to check out the new learning space. The younger kids squealed with delight.
“One of the greatest things in life for an educator is to see that face of the kid who sees something that he or she just falls in love with, and that’s what I saw when kids are walking in this room,” said OKC Public Schools superintendent Sean McDaniel, who the night before was rewarded with an 8-0 vote by the school board to support his controversial “Pathway to Greatness” plan, which included closing 15 schools and reconfiguring or relocating 17 others.
But there was no controversy Tuesday at Heronville.
“Doesn’t seem like thank you is enough, but I want to say thank you to the Big 12, to our foundation … to all of our partners, who saw something and said, we think we can do a little bit better. So here it is. This is a spectacular day for us as a district.”
When the College Football Playoff was formed, it created a foundation design to bolster education. Then-Big 12 associate commissioner Britton Banowsky was hired to run the program, with a branding of “Extra Yard for Teachers.”
In five years, the foundation has invested about $30 million all across the country. The Big 12 has received approximately $150,000 per year. Last year, it selected 150 student-athletes for its Champions for Life program and asked each to suggest a teacher from their past who would receive $1,000 grants.
This year, the conference decided to invest heavily in three elementary schools in its geographic footprint. The Big 12 gave $50,000, and Big 12 corporate sponsor Phillips 66 donated another $20,000 to the project.
Mary Melon, president of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation, was asked to recommend an OKC school.
Melon recalled visiting Heronville for a Read OKC event, remembered a spacious but “tired” library and suggested the school on SW 29th, between Western and Pennsylvania avenues.
“This was an opportunity to dream really big for our kids,” Mock said. “We see our library as the heart of the building. We use it all the time. To have this facelift, you can see how much it means. It motivates learning.”
All in all, it was a splendid morning.
Ken Luce, founder of the LDWW marketing firm that counts the Big 12 as a client, hosted the event. And after Holt and Roselin Valdez fell on the giant beanbag, Luce said, “I’m from Dallas. Our mayor doesn’t do that.”