The state's largest school district recently named Robert Neu as superintendent.
Thursday, Neu toured the district and had the opportunity to speak with students, faculty and staff. Already, the new superintendent is ready to take on some major challenges facing Oklahoma City Public Schools.
The super seniors at U.S. Grant High School served as the first official welcome for Neu and his wife, Kelly. The students cheered and wished him well.
Neu applauded the group's achievements and said he would work to raise student achievement and make student ready for success in a more global world. He said the focus would have to start with the lowest achievers and boosting their performance with the hope for a trickle-up effect.
"We really have to focus on the most struggling learners and we've got to lift them up. We have to," said Neu. "We've got to know our kids. Our kids have to be attached to an adult in the system."
Neu inherits a district with glaring obstacles. Last year the Oklahoma Department of Education gave Oklahoma City an "F" for the annual grade. Neu said grading systems like the one in Oklahoma come with positives and negatives. He said he was encouraged by the use of student performance improvement as a factor, but added the letter grades do not represent the bigger picture.
"The thing that always scared me about grading systems, no child left behind and the focus on assessment is that's just a snapshot and I'd really like to see it be a broader dashboard."
He added that it would take time to greatly improve the district's letter grade, but said he would look inward for proof of improvement along the way.
"We've got to ensure their success. We've got to ensure at least one year's growth for that year of service that we provide."
The district also faces overcrowding in some schools with changing demographics in different parts of the city.
"I'd like to try and engage the entire community in this discussion and not just to solve the short term needs that we're facing in the south end, but to look strategically beyond," said Neu.
That is an area Neu would like to push the entire community to get involved, especially parents. He said the district would have to look at changing demographics and come up with long-term solutions to raise performance in all parts of the city.
According to Oklahoma City Public Schools, Neu was signed to a three-year contract beginning July 1, 2014. He will be paid a salary of $240,000.