Oklahoma's Own In Focus: Oklahoma City Schools Aiming To Build On Progress Made During McDaniel’s Leadership

Despite the resignation of Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel, the district said the challenge will be maintaining the progress made under his leadership.

Tuesday, February 27th 2024, 9:06 am



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Oklahoma City Public School's longest-serving Superintendent in 20 years stepped down from his role. Dr. Sean McDaniel will officially leave his position at the end of June. 

District Board members said it's difficult to retain urban superintendents. Before McDaniel joined the district in 2018 -- OKCPS had gone through five official, acting, or interim superintendents since 2008. In a letter to families and staff -- McDaniel wrote that his decision was not an easy one. He cited "fundamental differences in perspectives" with one member of the school board. 

News 9 reached out to several board members for comment but has not heard back. OKCPS board chair Paula Lewis declined on-camera interviews on Monday. 

The school board will call a special meeting to approve the resignation in the coming days. They will discuss the next steps -- like hiring an interim superintendent. 

OKC Mayor David Holt -- recognized how hard it is to be a superintendent in a big city district. He said in a post on social media -- "For six years, [McDaniel] was consistent, reliable, and always in tune with what our city needed from him and OKCPS." 

Also in his post, Holt noted McDaniel's major accomplishments during his tenure -- like the rollout of the "Pathway to Greatness" plan -- which consolidated schools and changed the resources available at metro schools. 

He also helped pass a nearly $1 billion school bond in 2022 to invest in district infrastructure. He handled a pandemic that is still impacting how students learn today. The OKCPS School Board said McDaniel’s leadership helped the district transform education despite the COVID-19 impact. 

OKCPS elementary school leaders said students are catching up to where they need to be. However, the district said the challenge is maintaining that progress.  

“Students are resilient,” said Jamie Polk, assistant superintendent of elementary schools at OKCPS, in an interview with News 9 before McDaniel’s resignation. “They are making significant strides.” 

Assistant superintendent of elementary schools Dr. Jamie Polk said students didn’t lose knowledge during the pandemic, but they missed out on opportunities to learn. 

“You can’t lose what you didn’t have,” Polk said. 

Polk said students’ social skills took a step back. However, Polk said her team has worked over the years to create community within their classrooms. 

“So that our students do know how to interact with each other,” Polk said. 

A new report by Harvard University and Stanford University showed students in Oklahoma trail a third of a grade level behind 2019 levels in reading and math. Oklahoma City students' math and reading scores increased slightly from 2022-2023. 

“There’s more to life than that standardized test,” Polk said. 

Polk said attendance and teacher-to-student connection are just as important. More than 90 percent of OKCPS students face economic disadvantages, and 39% of the student population speaks Spanish. 

“I’m actually attempting to learn Spanish myself,” Polk said. 

 Polk said administrators like herself are becoming more involved in meeting students where they stand. 

“That means the principals understand the curriculum and the instruction,” Polk said. “We all are speaking a common language.”    

Polk said relationships are their greatest lesson plan. 

“We can go so much farther if we actually listen to the student and allow them to be a part of their education,” Polk said.

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