School board welcomes new superintendent

Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Robert Neu prepares for his new position. (Photo by Shannon Cornman)

Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Robert Neu prepares for his new position. (Shannon Cornman)

At 12:01 a.m. on July 1, Robert Neu, the city’s new superintendent, received a text message that initially left him a little confused.

“Tag, you’re it,” was the all the message said from Dave Lopez, the interim superintendent who ended his duties on June 30.

Neu let the message sink in and finally realized he had been passed the baton.

Less than 24 hour after officially taking over as the new superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, the state’s largest school system, Neu addressed the school board and laid out a 100-day plan for getting to know the district and raising expectations.

“I am going to do a listen and learn tour,” Neu said. “Over the next 100 days I’m going to be out and about as much as humanly possible.”

Neu said he planned to meet with each school board member individually on a regular basis and make communication protocols and role definitions clear. Neu also plans to meet with teachers, principals and other administrators in the coming months.

“I know that at the end of this 100 days there are going to be themes that emerge,” Neu said.

The school board welcomed Neu during Tuesday’s meeting and said it was a chance for the district to build on the success created by Lopez.

“It is revitalizing my spirit,” board member Ruth Veales said about Neu’s arrival. “It’s about these children. I am very hopeful about this upcoming year.”

New budget approved

The school board approved a new fiscal year budget at $625,053,726. Seventy four percent of appropriations will be spent on salaries and benefits.

The district projects an enrollment for the upcoming school year at 41,923, which is an increase of nearly 1,000 students.

Hispanic student growth

Neu was welcomed by several community leaders during Tuesday’s meeting, including officials from the Oklahoma City Thunder and City Hall.

Ruben Aragon, CEO of the Latino Community Development Agency, offered a greeting to Neu and reminded him that Oklahoma City’s school district was nearly half Hispanic.

“That’s not a static number,” Aragon said. “That number will grow.”

Aragon also remarked that half of all Hispanic residents in the city are under the age of 23.

Third-grade reading advancement

In a presentation to the board on the state reading sufficiency act, which requires all third-graders to meet certain reading standards before promotion, it was reported that 18 percent (636 students) of third graders were retained last year.

State imposed third-grade graduation requirements offer four methods for how students can be promoted, which include a reading screener, the state test, good-cause exemptions and conference based promotion, which the legislature passed this year, overriding Gov. Mary Fallin’s veto.

Sixty six percent of third-graders advanced because of satisfactory grades on the state test. Nearly 81 percent of all third-grade students were promoted.

Ben Felder

Ben is a news reporter covering local politics, City Hall and education in urban Oklahoma City. He lives in OKC with his wife, Lori, and son, Satchel. Ben holds a masters in new media journalism from Full Sail University and is an OKC transplant from Kansas City, Mo. Twitter: @benfelder_okg

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