EDITOR’S NOTE: During the past three months, The Ardmoreite has conducted a series of interviews to identify some of the issues that exist within Ardmore City Schools. This week, a series of articles will focus on some of the issues based on interviews with former and current administration, school board members, former teachers, and concerned citizens.
In looking at the state of Ardmore City Schools, Assistant Superintendent Missy Storm sees the glass as being half full.
With Superintendent Sonny Bates out for the week, Storm spoke with The Ardmoreite and addressed a couple of issues, and spoke about many of the positive things taking place within the school system. Storm went on the record regarding the high school band’s trip to New York City. She declined to talk about the confusion regarding the hiring of Philip Black, stating it was a personnel issue and she was unable to violate the right to privacy within the school.
As for the reported issues regarding Ardmore Board of Education President Willie Tiller overstepping his authority, specifically with the high school girls basketball program, Storm also declined to comment directly.
“I don’t think it would be advantageous, number one, to try and continue a conversation about allegations, as you call them, that may or may not have occurred with a board member,” she said. “I’m not comfortable responding to that.”
Storm was comfortable talking about the school district and its accomplishments. When asked if the administration felt positive about the job it was doing, Storm credited the staff and students.
“We have an amazing district,” she said. “We have challenges. We have students and parents that are diligent about working toward their education. We have those that haven’t engaged at the level we know they could or should to be able to be successful. We work hard on those students, and we have teachers that are tremendously committed to do that, and we have administrators at the building level that are diligent about doing that as well.”
Storm said, in hindsight, you could always go through and realize there are other things one could do or make an adjustment just like in every profession.
“I think we are very comfortable with where we are and moving forward,” she said.
In talking about what the administration could hang its hat on, Storm highlighted the bond issue that was approved in 2013. She also addressed some of the challenges, which include Valero’s protest of its property tax, and state economics and Common Core State Standards.
“Several years ago, when I was in another position (in another district), I was the evaluator for the program Take Two when it started, and Ardmore was a mecca down in south central Oklahoma,” Storm said. “It had an amazing reputation. I was surprised when I came back down here that reputation was a bit tarnished because I know how diligently people have worked — and the type of people we had. But at the same time, economics in the state have certainly had an impact. We have had a diversity of populations over the same period of time, so it is comparing apples and oranges.”
Storm said the bond issue and the way the community came together was an outstanding representation of people ready to move forward.
“Across the district, by and large, it was a very successful, very productive, non-negative eventful type of year,” Storm said. “Parents were content. They brought some issues to the forefront as parents should and will. We are in partnership with parents. That’s always going to happen, and I think those things are very important.”
Storm also said Bates and the school board are student directed.
With recent issues, Storm said she did not know if the bond would pass if it were to appear on the ballot tomorrow.
“I think there have been a lot of challenges,” she said. “There is a lot of information, just as there was to prepare in spring a year ago, to make sure people know what is out there, what changes will occur with their bond money and their vote. I don’t think you ever go into a bond issue without having your homework done, and your public relations done.”
Storm said people can go by Jefferson and Lincoln elementaries and see bond money at work, and it is what the students deserve.
When asked if she was concerned that a number of the largest supporters from the last bond issue believe there was a disconnect between the district and the public, Storm said, “I don’t know that to be true. I don’t.
“I know people have had opinions and concerns and have been very vocal about some issues going on. I think that type of involvement can be opportunities. It can be seen as a challenge. It can also be an opportunity. You want dialogue. Apathy is what really kills things. It’s not open dialogue — that part is fine.”
Storm said she believes it comes down to what is right for the students. She did not know who is on board and who is not in supporting a future bond issue, and when the school district gets ready to do another phase of the bond, it would want to visit with the people who have been historically very supportive and get them to come back to the table to talk about what changes and priorities might be.
Storm was asked, why would the school district wait to start to reconnect with the public until it wanted something?
“I wouldn’t,” she said. “I think we have people right now that serve on several different committees that come in and we work with them. There is more of a big effort, if you will, during those things.
“We have parents that are involved in different sites as part of teacher-parent groups. We have people that are involved in some of our committees now that work on things. I think it is always good to have those kinds of dialogue. And we have people in and out of here all the time to have conversations about opportunities, concerns and requests. It happens all the time. When you were asking about the bond issue, I was referring to the communication that goes on.”
Storm said Ardmore City Schools is a great place for students to attend, citing its diversity as its strength.
“We work with a diversified public, we really do, and we always will,” she said. “As long as you’re working in the people business, we will have that range. It’s what makes Ardmore City Schools probably one of the richest environments anywhere around, because we do have the diversity. It creates challenges, but it gives our students the opportunity to learn about a world they may not learn if everybody was in a narrower track. It is the type of place I would really think I would want my students in. I think Ardmore is a tremendous place to be.”
In the final installment of this series Sunday, several community leaders express their concerns with the administration and school board.