A bill proposed by David Dank (R-Oklahoma City) in the Oklahoma House of Representatives would combine administration of school districts with fewer than 500 students.
According to 2009-2010 enrollment numbers obtained from the Oklahoma State Department of Education, of Pontotoc County’s eight school districts, those affected by this bill would include Allen, Pickett-Center, Roff and Stonewall. Pickett-Center may be annexed to Vanoss Public Schools in the near future. Asher Public Schools in Pottawatomie County will also be affected.
Administrators at these schools are wary of Dank’s bill.
“Representative Dank, as his wife before him, has tried to bring a lot of consolidation bills to the table,” said Terry Grissom, Asher superintendent. He said while he hasn’t read the bill, he understands it to call for the combination of small school administration.
“In theory that sounds good but let’s just take me for example: I’m also the principal. If you compare my central office staff to somewhere like Tulsa, they have many people doing things that I do here, like federal programs. If (Dank) wants to look at how effective administrators are being used in small schools compared to large schools, I think he’ll be surprised,” he said.
Craig McVay, Roff superintendent, said Roff will be negatively affected if the bill is passed.
“Representative Dank has hammered small schools for his entire political career,” he said. “Representative Dank rarely lets facts get in the way of good political rhetoric.”
McVay said he is confident a better solution can be found.
“The new leadership at the Oklahoma State Department of Education and in the Legislature will more than likely find a much better answer to the funding solution than closing schools or forcing rural Oklahoma into a multitude of ghost towns and boarded up communities,” he said.
Allen Superintendent David Lassiter said his school plans to resist the bill.
“Small town people want someone to go to when they have a concern about school issues,” he said. “I’m curious as to why (legislators) aren’t looking at large school layers of administration.”
Brent Walden, Stratford superintendent, said although the bill will not affect his school, he believes small, rural schools are an important part of Oklahoma’s educational system.
“I’ve been in this business for 35 years and I think there’s a place for rural schools,” he said. “Most of these communities rely on their schools and if you lose your school, you lose your community.”
According to the State Department of Education, 305 of the 527 school districts in Oklahoma have fewer than 500 students.