Editor's note: This is part one of four in a series looking at how Ardmore City Schools has been impacted by the Vision 2020 initiative. Part one looks at technology and parental involvement.
In 2009, community members with a stake in the area’s education system devised a path to make it more efficient and effective. In a report to the community that October, the Ardmore Vision 2020 education committee released a report that broke down area education into five categories: early childhood, K-12 education, four-year university, workforce development and lifelong learning.
Each category in the report identified areas of improvement and plans of action to undertake before 2020. With the new decade mere weeks away, all aspects of the education category from a decade ago have been addressed and most items have since been completed. According to a fact sheet from the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce, major education items included voter approval of a ¼ cent countywide sales tax in 2013 and 2018, and the opening of the University Center of Southern Oklahoma campus in 2017.
These items only scratch the surface of how Ardmore's education system — specifically Ardmore City Schools — has changed since 2009.
Through several interviews with students, teachers, principals and administrators, the countless small changes over 10 years seem to add up to an evolved school system. When Vision 2020 was first launched, many facilities across Ardmore City Schools were aging and vehicles that transported students were dated. The iPhone was only two years old when the initiative began, but the writing was already on the wall that technology would be an important aspect of keeping a school district up-to-date.
Ardmore City Schools superintendent Kim Holland said that evolving technology presents funding challenges. Holland specifically mentioned the one-quarter percent sales tax increase as a means of keeping ACS's technology up-to-date and that the district would struggle without it.
“Almost all of the instructional analytics and instructional aids for student intervention require new and faster technology,” he said in an email.
Students are not the only people within Ardmore City Schools who rely on technology since the district and individual schools must also utilize technology for day-to-day operations. Holland said state and federal requirements mean a specific workforce is needed to manage the district’s technology department. Teachers are also using technology to keep parents in the loop with students’ education.
One action item of the Vision 2020 initiative was to increase parental involvement and Lincoln Elementary School principal Lacy Barton believes that involvement has increased thanks in part to technology. She said teachers now use smartphone apps and social media to increase communication between teachers and parents.
“They’re not having to make 20 phone calls, they can send one text,” Barton said.
At Jefferson Elementary School, teachers are also communicating with parents in new ways but are finding new reasons for the communication.
“I think a lot of it is just knowing the purpose of why we’re contacting parents,” said principal Myiesha Antwine. She has also noticed an uptick in parental involvement since 2009 thanks in part to what she called “positive postcards.”
Rather than parents only receiving communication from school for disciplinary actions or report cards, Antwine said parents now stay better informed about school events and exceptional behavior from children. She also pointed to specific events hosted by the school that regularly draw in many parents, including meet-and-greets, holiday programs, and an upcoming Math Night on Dec. 10.
“We definitely understand parents can’t be up here all the time, but whenever we call a parent...they’re supporting us 100%,” Antwine said.
Beyond parental involvement, Barton said that general community involvement in education is up in recent years. She attended Ardmore schools as a child, started working with the system about 13 years ago, and believes a growing number of relationships between local business and school administration are beneficial for education.
“Just over the course of my time here at Ardmore schools, I have seen an increase not only with parental involvement, but the community overall,” she said.
Antwine feels that community support for a 2018 bond issue to include a $5.4 million extension to Jefferson Elementary School is also a sign of growing community involvement in education. She hopes that the school can return the support and become a place to hold community events once construction is complete in 2020.
“Because now we have a gym and we have parking,” she said with a laugh.
While Barton has seen some goals of the initiative accomplished, she sees Vision 2020 as a progression to improve local education rather than a single program to try and fix problems. With Vision 2025 underway, she wants to keep finding ways to reach multiple goals and build relationships between schools and community stakeholders. “Our schools are a part of the community, and the community is aware of that,” she said.