McALESTER, Okla. — McAlester Public Schools Superintendent Randy Hughes said he does not anticipate having to consolidate with other area schools in response to a recent order by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.
Fallin recently signed executive orders that could force consolidation of some K-12 public schools that spend less than 60 percent of their budget on student instruction, which could affect nearly 500 districts.
The order will require that by Sept. 1, 2018, and every year after, the State Board of Education must compile a list of school districts that spend less than 60 percent of their budget on instruction.
The State Board of Education will then make recommendations for administrative consolidation or annexation of the districts and according to the order, those schools are to be notified of their need for administrative consolidation by July 1, 2019, then submit a plan for cost consolidation by Jan. 1, 2020.
“I don’t foresee us having to consolidate,” Hughes said.
If consolidation does occur, Frink-Chambers and Krebs Public Schools would most likely consolidate with MPS, according to Hughes.
Hughes said he spoke with Deputy Superintendent of Finance and Federal Programs Matt Holder of the Oklahoma State Department of Education who said there is no set way of how the numbers are being calculated.
“People really don’t know how the state will figure the numbers,” Hughes said. “The point of the matter is they are trying to fix the budget and plug the holes by consolidating the administrators, but it is not going to save a huge sum of money.”
Hughes said if the state wants to consolidate, MPS will not have room to consolidate with other schools.
“If they make us consolidate, they (other schools) would have to keep their sites; they will have to have their administrators there,” Hughes said. “It is just not going to save money.”
Hughes said he believes by consolidating smaller schools, the school loses its autonomy — or the ability for teachers to make decisions on what they teach and how they teach it.
“Consolidation is really a bad word for smaller schools because they lose that autonomy,” Hughes said. “If Haileyville and Hartshorne consolidate for an example, eachindividual’s place will lose what fits for one school versus the other. We don’t want to lose what makes schools great and that is the local control.”
Hughes said he feels that each school should be held accountable for educating kids to the best of the school’s ability.
He added if the school is performing low and not looking to improve, a consolidation would then be acceptable.
“If schools are performing below what they need, then they need to be encouraged to pick it up,” Hughes said. “That would be the only reason I think there would be to consolidate. If the school is not performing bad, then why mess with them?”
Hughes said he does feel that districts should share resources with each other and help each other when possible.
“There are some things we can share,” Hughes said. “It should be that way — we are all in education.”
Hughes said area administrators already work together to help each other.
“If another superintendent needs help, we all do what we can to help each other,” Hughes said. “People around here already work together.”
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