By BOB LEWIS
Coworkers past and present agree with retired Superintendent Dr. Clarence Oliver when he says Gwynta Buchanan has more than earned the right to be called an Icon at Broken Arrow Public Schools.
When the doors opened for the start of this school year, Buchanan was at her desk beginning her 24th year as an employee at Broken Arrow High School. While this tenure is impressive in any career, it tends to fade in light of the 57 years she has been part of the local school system.
This saga began the day she started kindergarten at Southside Elementary School. Twelve years later, she was one of 268 students who walked across the stage to receive diplomas making them members of the BAHS Class of 1970.
For most people, that ceremony would have been a happy memory that marked the end of active involvement in the local education process. Not so for Buchanan.
After a seven-year period in which she started a family and demonstrated her passion for Tiger sports through involvement in the Booster Club, the call of education simply couldn’t be ignored.
That timeframe included committing herself to a multitude of PTA activities and serving as a substitute teacher. She began her career being offered and accepting administrative positions at Southside Elementary, Haskell Middle School and her current post as staff operations at the high school.
To say that Buchanan has seen and been part of a significant period of change would rank as an understatement. No. 1 on her highlight list is growth, a fact driven home every time she sees the Performing Arts Center. As a child, she lived in a two-story house directly across of the street from that Main Street site and remembers all the years that it as little more than an empty field.
The day she began kindergarten, the district served about 1,500 students, a number of whom were bused to BA from 20 dependent districts that surrounded the community. As the city exploded in size so did its school system and Buchanan found herself in the midst of an amazing transformation that saw the student population expand at the rate of one full classroom… every month!
Today, BAPS serves nearly 20,000 students, boasts of having Oklahoma’s largest high school and continues to sustain a growth rate in excess of 3% per year.
Other milestones that rank high in her memory, she says, are her beloved Tigers capturing their first state football championship, the national titles won by the Pride of Broken Arrow Marching Band and the quest for excellence exhibited by teachers and students in classrooms across the school’s sprawling campus.
On a purely personal front, she can’t help but beam when it is pointed out that her son, Brock, and daughter, Danielle, as well as four (soon to be five) of her eight grandchildren are following in her footsteps as K-12 graduates.
The best part of her job? “My coworkers and the personal and professional relationships we have established, Buchanan says. “At the high school there are seven secretaries with 20 to 25 years of service. That says a lot about the type of operation we have.”
Former BAPS district office receptionist Lindalee Jackson says in the 34 years she has known Buchanan, she has come to appreciate just how deeply her friend is dedicated to God, family and the school district. “We are very fortunate to have her,” Jackson said.
Oliver agreed noting, “Gwynta has spent half her life in front office assignments making visitors feel welcome, answering difficult questions, aiding a half-dozen or more school principals in knowing about Broken Arrow’s history and handling multiple tasks to keep the wheels turning smoothly. With a beautiful smile showing each morning, she constantly reflects one of her favorite phrases: ‘It is a Great Day to Be a Tiger!’
“This lady is a blessing to the school district and to the community.”