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John Rex Elementary, Northeast Academy push for new charter expansion

E.I. Hillin / Red Dirt Report
Members of the OKCPS board approved sending an amended John Rex Elementary Charter School application to University of Oklahoma for sponsorship.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Two local schools with very different histories seek the approval of charter school applications. John Rex Elementary Charter School, 500 W. Sheridan Ave., opened in 2014, but seeks to amend its five-year charter plan to offer middle school grades.

Northeast Academy, 3100 N. Kelley, was established in 1936, offers grades sixth through 12th and seeks to become a Science Technology English Math (STEM) charter school. Representatives from both schools showed up wearing their school colors on Tuesday evening for the OKC Public School Board meeting.

Parents, alumni, and former board members spoke during the public comment segment of the meeting asking the school board for approval of their charter school applications. Brenda Hernandez spoke to board members about why it was important for her two children to continue their learning path at John Rex.

“My family and I live in South OKC,” Hernandez said. “I am here to speak to you about the positive impact our school is having not only in the lives of my children, but in the lives of many children our community.”

Brenda Hernandez addresses the OKCPS board during the regular meeting on Tuesday evening. Hernandez said she felt it was important for her to represent the diverse community at John Rex Elementary Charter School. 

OKCPS board members unanimously voted to submit the charter expansion application to the University of Oklahoma. The next step will be up to OU who is the school’s proposed sponsor. They are expected to make a decision in the next few months.

Dr. Joe Pierce, Head of School, said John Rex is financially supported by fundraisers, grants, and state aid. The proposed John Rex School five-year expenses are estimated at $23 million with estimated state aid revenue of $18 million.

The elementary school was constructed with funds from MAPS for Kids project and can accommodate a preapproved student population up to sixth grade. The location of the school’s expanding seventh and eighth grades is not yet known. According to the application submitted to OU, the school is committed to finding a facility by the 2019-2020 school years.

Northeast Academy supporters will have to wait and see what the board decides in the coming months to find out if their application will be approved. Angela Monson, former board member and community leader, spoke to the board members about the academic decline of a once high-performing magnet school in northeast OKC.

“The bottom line is our kids lose,” Monson said. “They lose their zeal to learn. They lose their desire to come to school. They lose scholarships for college. They lose college opportunities. They lose career opportunities and lose their life opportunities.”

Angela Monson, former state senator and former OKCPS board member, speaks on behalf of the supporters of Northeast Academy becoming a STEM charter school. Monson said things have changed substantially for the district and it’s the students who lose. 

Although the Northeast Academy application approval was not on the agenda for this meeting, Monson and other commenters said they wanted to make sure the board knew they supported the change of the school.

“We wanted to make sure it’s always in the forefront in the board members’ minds,” Monson said. “We got a whole lot of people supporting this transition.”

Northeast Academy’s Enterprise Board submitted its plan to convert to a collegiate STEM charter school to the OKCPS board in November. If approved the school would become an academic beacon in area of high poverty and low performing schools. In 2012, Northeast Academy was granted the status of enterprise allowing the creation of the Enterprise Board.

The next scheduled school board meeting is at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 6 at 900 N. Klein. 

Photos by Red Dirt Report's E.I. Hillin.

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E.I. Hillin

Elizabeth Ivy Hillin, 30, grew up in Lindsay, Okla., where the dirt is definitely red. Hillin...

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