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Getting the Job Done
In her first term as Chair of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education, Paula Lewis made several important promises to those living inside the OKCPS district; and, over the past four years, she has kept her word. Having consistently addressed the issues that our children face both in and out of the classroom, we need Paula to continue her work as the Chair of the Board of Education to ensure OKCPS will continue to grow and move forward.
Paula Promised Superintendent Stability
Paula knew that the constant change of the superintendents in OKCPS was harming students and families, as the lack of stable leadership stalled much-needed change in the way education was being delivered to students and left teachers and staff feeling unsupported. In the Spring of 2018, she led the board through a thorough, nationwide search that resulted in hiring Dr.Sean McDaniel. Along with the new hire, Paula led the board through multiple work sessions designed to create an efficient, focused board that would provide clear direction, accountability and support to the new leader. Having been extended year after year, Dr. McDaniel‘s current contract is effective through 2023. This gives him the second longest tenure in more than 15 years, and Paula continues to believe he is the right person for the Superintendency of OKCPS.
Paula Promised Transparency and Accountability
Paula believes OKCPS students and families deserve a school board and a school district that are transparent and accountable to them. Under her leadership, the Board has worked to support the Superintendent while also holding him accountable for increased transparency of processes in the district. This was especially evident during the Pathway to Greatness discussions when the Board of Education called for ongoing updates on the district website, along with the implementation of multiple surveys so the voices of our community could be heard. More than 100 hours of community meetings were also held, as Dr. McDaniel stayed until the very end to answer every question from every parent, student, teacher, and community member. OKCPS has also increased financial transparency by creating easy access to five years of district audits, budgets, school staffing formula and estimates of needs online. The board addressed improving transparency and accountability when they began livestreaming business meetings. Paula will continue to foster transparency and accountability for the board and at all levels in the district.
Paula Promised To Address Student Mental Health & Wellness
Paula strongly believes in the science of trauma and acknowledges the trauma that many of our students and families endure as a result of generational poverty and other factors. Realizing that this trauma directly impacts learning, Paula championed the belief that it is the school district’s responsibility to provide resources needed to create equitable access to a world class education for every child. In 2018, EmbraceOKC, an evidence based, mental health initiative designed to meet the specific needs of OKCPS students and families was launched. The first of its kind, EmbraceOKC was created through a unique partnership between OKCPS, the City of OKC, the Greater OKC Chamber of Commerce, the United Way of Central Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. The OKCPS Board of Education unanimously passed a Resolution on January 13, 2018, that committed to making EmbraceOKC a budget priority moving forward. And, their focus on mental health was evident in the district’s reinvention plan, Pathway to Greatness, when the counselor staffing ratio was lowered and the board passed a budget to provide funds for the additional counseling positions. Now 100% of OKCPS students have access to at least one full-time counselor(s) in their school to address student mental health needs and to provide mental wellness education.
Knowing there is still much work to do, Paula’s Newest promise is to facilitate the implementation of culturally responsive leadership and practices that will remove barriers to academic success associated with implicit bias and structural racism. She supports and affirms the diversity that our different communities bring to Oklahoma City Public Schools. That’s why she led the Board in ensuring that every school provides equitable education by unanimously passing an Equity Policy, which also led to the creation of an Equity Department -- one of the first in the country. Paula knows that the board, the district and the community must continue to have hard conversations and urgently work towards addressing and correcting systemic racial inequities. She believes that OKCPS will only rise when we provide each of our students with exactly what they need to take flight!