Jay Chilton | July 21, 2016
OKCPS Approves KIPP Charter College Prep School Expansion
By Jay Chilton, CIJ
OKLAHOMA CITY – Proponents of school choice earned a qualified victory on July 18 when a compromise plan offered by newly-hired superintendent Aurora Lora was accepted to expand the KIPP Reach College Preparatory School in Oklahoma City.
The KIPP Academy has produced excellent results for students in grades 5 through 8 during its 14 years at F.D. Moon Academy. In an effort to continue that success and expand KIPP’s ability to provide its proven formula to more students, founder and principal, Tracy McDaniel, sought to convert Martin Luther King Elementary into a charter school and to eventually serve older students at Frederick A. Douglass High School.
Both MLK and Douglass are well-maintained facilities and enjoy available space while F.D. Moon has not been recently updated and is at full capacity. KIPP planned to fill the available space at the two proposed schools and share the successful techniques they have developed with the traditional schools’ teachers.
A minority of attendees at the school board meeting consisting of parents, teachers and anti-school choice activists complained that existing students in the two schools would be displaced by the expansion of the charter school. However, a vast majority of the standing-room-only crowd was wearing blue-and-yellow KIPP shirts in support of the charter prep school.
Following conversations with McDaniel and other supporters of KIPP over recent weeks, Lora recommended to the board that KIPP be allowed to relocate its current students to MLK for the upcoming year. The board would also empanel a task force to recommend where KIPP will open an elementary school in 2017 and a high school in 2018.
The board approved Lora’s compromise recommendation on a 7-1 vote. The only dissenting vote came from Paula Lewis who represents District 4 covering the north-central portion of the city which is immediately west of the affected schools. Lewis’s district runs between Reno Avenue and North 36th Street, and between Kelly Avenue in the east and May Avenue in the west with the addition of Capitol Hill High School as an outlier to the south.
Lora said that MLK and Douglass may host KIPP in future years and may not.
She said that her plan would allow families to have options while valuing what she heard from families in the neighborhood schools, in an effort to better support those families.
With the approval of the plan, KIPP gains more space and better facilities by moving to MLK this year and expects to stay on schedule for expansion of the charter school. Children in the area gain more opportunities for academic excellence and the promise of an improved educational experience through grade 12, and potentially, continued academic achievement after high school.
Jay Chilton is a multiple-award-winning photojournalist including the Oklahoma Press Association’s Photo of the Year in 2013. His previous service as an intelligence operative for the U.S. Army, retail and commercial sales director, oil-field operator and entrepreneur in three different countries on two continents and across the U.S. lends a wide experience and context helping him produce well-rounded and complete stories. Jay’s passion is telling stories. He strives to place the reader in the seat, at the event, or on the sideline allowing the reader to experience an event through his reporting. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of Central Oklahoma with a minor in photographic arts. Jay and his wife live in Midwest City with three dogs and innumerable koi enjoying frequent visits from their children.