By DAVID JONES
VETERAN EDUCATOR: After a long career with Broken Arrow Public Schools, new Bixby Public Schools Superintendent Kyle Woods appreciates the work former Superintendent Mary Jane Bias contributed, and he says he wants to move the Bixby district forward as the population continues to grow.
DAVID JONES for Bixby Breeze
Kyle Wood may be the new superintendent of schools in Bixby, taking office July 1, but he has left a large part of himself in Broken Arrow: his son and his daughter in fact.
“My son is a senior at Broken Arrow High School and plays football and baseball,” Wood says with a smile, “and my daughter is a junior and both of them have been students in the Broken Arrow system since kindergarten. They had no wish to leave all their friends and start over.”
So while Kyle heads off to his job as head of the Bixby school system, his children (except for his six-year-old son, who finds Bixby schools perfectly acceptable) will drive to rival Broken Arrow.
What tension can be expected when Bixby plays Broken Arrow?
“Happily,” says Wood, “we’re in different conferences; Bixby is 5A and Broken Arrow is 6A so we don’t meet all that often.”
For a Bixby superintendent, Wood knows Broken Arrow very well. He served in the Broken Arrow school district 17 years before coming to Bixby.
“I was principal of the Broken Arrow High School nine years and at the time of my leaving was the man all the Broken Arrow school principals reported to. I was basically the principal for the entire district.
Wood made the leap between districts because, like many educators, he wanted to run his own show. He admits he is taking it slow, working currently on the physical problems of the school system. Taking over a school system in the middle of the summer, when most of the people he would be looking to for input are on vacation, is not conducive to making radical changes. Still, he says, such changes aren’t needed.
“The former superintendent, Mary Jane Bias, left Bixby schools in marvelous shape. She left me what I had been looking for when I was seeking to become a superintendent – an outstanding district well run with a good reputation.
“Taking over in the summer has its advantages. This is when the planning for the upcoming year occurs. The problem is the lack of input from the teachers and administrators in the field for curriculum discussions, so for the time being I’ll be emphasizing maintenance issues.
“I’m trying to learn and understand what has happened in Bixby, the history of the system. I know I like what I see. The city did a lot of good work under Dr. Bias.”
By moving to Bixby, Dr. Wood has moved into a smaller marketplace. Broken Arrow, he says, has roughly 16,000 students. Last year the Bixby total came to 4,296. Physically, it contains two elementary schools from kindergarten to fourth grade, two containing fifth and sixth grades (the newest of those, North, is brand new and will contain only fifth grade students in 2007-2008 and adding the sixth grade next year).
There is a middle school for seventh to eighth grades and a high school from ninth through twelfth. There is also, for students having a rough time in a normal school environment, an alternative high school where they can get more individualized attention attached near the high school. That school currently only has about 40 students.
“We expect the school system to get much larger as Bixby fills out,” Wood says. “We have a lot in common with Owasso and Broken Arrow. All those districts are high-quality areas with excellent land available for expansion. As the cities grow the schools will have room to grow.”
Wood isn’t looking to make massive changes quickly. “My natural inclination is not to go in and automatically change things. This district has been very well administered during Dr. Bias’ tenure.
There are very efficient practices in place and effective instruction. Still, an organization can always change for the better.”
Wood says it is important for everyone from instructors to students to know exactly what is expected of them.
“We are going to publish what we expect our students to know at the very core.
“Education has changed throughout the years. Fifty years ago no one worried about computers. Now knowing how to use computers, how to access information from the Internet, is a necessary part of so many businesses it cannot be ignored.
Still, the essential elements remain the same. We must emphasize the fine arts, teaching science, language arts, mathematics and social studies. Social studies is a large umbrella that covers everything from geography to United States and world history.
“Intuitive and deductive reasoning must be taught. It’s not enough for students just to learn how to amass information; they must learn what to do with it.”
For the time being, Wood says he is content to let a well-built engine of education run down the track. All looks like it is proceeding smoothly and harmoniously both within the school system and at home.
At least until Bixby plays Broken Arrow!