Superintendent goes over key issues facing local schools (Woodward News)

By Elise Solloway

Superintendent Kyle Reynolds gathered with local residents in Woodward High School’s media center to go over several topics on Wednesday.

Reynolds shared photographs showing the progress on each of the ongoing construction projects taking place in the school district, in addition to statistics on the ongoing shortage of funding for public education in Oklahoma.

Reynolds shared an overview of the construction projects paid for by a previous school bond issue – new classrooms at each school, increased school office space at the three elementary schools with more secure entrances, safe rooms at all schools which also serve as classrooms, additional restrooms at all schools, weight room for WHS, Dance Team rehearsal room at WHS, concession stands at WHS gym, media room and science lab connecting Woodward Middle School North with Woodward Middle School South.

Also, new entrance at Woodward High School, WHS hospitality room near the gym, a three-story elevator for the WHS gym and a two-story elevator at Woodward Middle School South (to meet the needs of handicapped students, staff, or patrons).

Reynolds painted a gloomy picture of Oklahoma’s economy and legislation that are affecting most schools across the state.

“The state’s $1.3 billion dollar shortage is due to decreased oil and gas activity, lost jobs in the energy industry, and both increased tax cuts and increased incentives,” Reynolds said. “Oklahoma has decreased the per-student spending by 24% from 2008 to 2016.”

Reynold’s noted the number of students in the district have dropped from 3,074 in Oct. 1 last year to 2,883 currently.

“According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute,” Reynolds said, “there were $57 million dollars raised by the state lottery in 2016 and $132 million from state gaming that is earmarked for public education.”

Reynolds added that was in comparison to $356 million dollars in tax cuts to the top income earners in Oklahoma, which cuts into additional funding previously spent on public education, including retirement funds for Oklahoma’s current retired teachers.

“The solutions you hear coming out of the Legislature are what they call the three-legged stool. The House, the Senate, and the Governor all three have to agree on the budget, and May 27th is the last day they are at work,” Reynolds said. “They have to have the balanced budget in place before they walk out the door.

“Spending cuts are going to happen. State agencies are being cut. We’re being told that we are being cut. According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, the state of Oklahoma should cut spending, increase revenue through new taxes, have less tax cuts, and reduce or eliminate tax incentives/rebates that take money away from Oklahoma schools.”

“How does this affect Woodward Schools?” Reynolds said. “The school budget formula reveals that Woodward Public Schools needs to cut $954,000 dollars from its budget. That is a conservative estimate for what we’ll lose next year.

“So how are we going to handle it? In order to do so, we will be eliminating summer school, and reduce staff by absorbing retirements, resignations, and non-renewal of temporary staff. There will be approximately 15 current personnel not re-hired for the 2016-2017 school year. That gets us to our mark.”

Reynolds said class sizes will also be on the rise with up to 25 students in future elementary school classes and up to 30 in secondary school classes.

Before discussion, Reynolds shared the following words of wisdom with the those attending the forum: 1) “When you are in the middle of the fray . . . keep your head above the dust and look forward.” 2) “When the horse is dead . . . de-mount.”

In looking to the future Reynolds shared his views on what education needs to be like for the student population. His list of suggestions included the following: implement student technology and instruction practices that align with the 21st century learning and digital citizenship, prepare PreK-12 students for career and work force opportunities, and help them all be responsible digital students.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.