The 2016-2017 school year began the first year of Owasso Public Schools’s five-year strategic plan, which will continue through 2022.
The plan was created with the help of a committee of more than 100 people from all areas of the community in order to bring variety to the table and to hear what they want, says School Superintendent Dr. Clark Ogilvie.
While every initiative that is outlined in a strategic plan may not end up being achieved during the time frame, the plan provides an outline of where we want to go and how to get there, Ogilvie continues. “If you don’t make a plan, you’ll find yourself wandering from year to year.”
The plan was approved by the Owasso School Board of Education in June 2016. Its five areas of focus are curriculum and instruction, technology, extracurricular activities, student services, and facilities.
Regarding curriculum and instruction, “STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) is our priority,” says Ogilvie. “In the future, we will be spending more time, energy and money to develop STEM.”
While in the past, the district’s STEM courses were confined largely to its gifted program, the administration is tweaking district courses in order to expose an increasing number of students to STEM instruction.
An added focus is also being put on the high school graduation rate, with a goal of improving it from 90 to 95 percent. “Although that (90) percentage stacks up to most schools, we would like to see it higher,” Ogilvie says.
“We also don’t want to see kids graduate but need remedial classes when they get to college; we want to prepare them for college.”
The school district continues to further its efforts to bring technology into the classroom with the help of bond issues. In Owasso’s 2015 bond, there were several million dollars allotted for technology, with another $3 million for technology that Ogilvie expects to see in the bond issue put forward this fall.
With the start of the current school year, “the number one program that we’ve been focused on is implementation of the one-to-one effort (one student for every device): 3,000 Chromebooks were distributed to all students grades 9-12 for their use at school and at home.
Ogilvie highlights two key reasons for the initiative: first, to better prepare students for college and career. “Students have to know how to utilize this technology in college. We want them to be on par with everyone else.”
Secondly, “when the tablets were demonstrated and I saw the level of student engagement, that sold it for me. They love being taught this way,” he says.
Individual tablets also allow students and teachers instant access to in-depth information on a topic: “It’s a level of research that textbooks don’t provide,” Ogilvie says.
He hopes to see a future bond issue include funding to expand tablets to middle school and elementary students.
The third area of the plan focuses on growing extracurricular participation through increased access for students and improved facilities.
“The more kids who participate in extracurricular activities, the better,” Ogilvie says. “These activities teach discipline, how to focus, how to achieve your goals; all of that transfers over to the classroom.”
The administration plans to continue its efforts to add more depth to its extracurricular programs and to add and improve facilities: “the goal is to give every team or group a home.”
Additionally, a character program will be instituted for extracurricular activities, starting with athletics, called Game Changer, in an effort to encourage good character development and to build on Great Expectations, the character program at the elementary level.
Next in the plan is student services, which encompasses continued focus on student safety through school operations and equipment, including medical and counseling services.
“It’s difficult to hire enough counselors and nurses because of the cutting of state aid, and we can’t use bond money to pay salaries,” says Ogilvie. “Sometimes we have to share nurses and counselors between school sites.”
With the funding for education in its current state, the school district maintains its interest in growing its community partnerships. Presently, its partners include Owasso Community Resources, Rotary Club of Owasso and Owasso Education Foundation.
“We rely a lot on our community to help us,” Ogilvie says.
The strategic plan also includes a future expansion of RAM Academy, which currently houses 80 students, grades 9-12. The administration’s goal is to expand RAM Academy to include middle school students.
Regarding school facilities, first on the list is the construction of Owasso’s ninth elementary school on 17 acres of land, located near 116th Street North and Highway 169.
Funding to construct the school will come from the 2017 bond issue, if passed, with the plan to open the school for the 2019-2020 school year.
In order to better handle growth in its upper grades, administrators plan, in the future, to construct a new Eighth Grade Center and move ninth graders from the Mid-High to the current Eighth Grade Center, which will become a Ninth Grade Center, because of the school’s proximity to the High School and Mid-High. Therefore, the 2017 bond will include money to buy land for a new Eighth Grade Center.
Other facility improvements include a new science wing and safe room at the High School and a safe gym for Smith Elementary.
“Going forward, every bond issue will have a safe room,” says Ogilvie. “Our patrons have made it very clear that they want these safe rooms, and they are willing to pay for it.”