Mustang Public Schools enjoys the status of being one of the premier school districts in Oklahoma. Thanks to the continued support of the voters over the years, the district enjoys quality facilities and expanding opportunities for its students. It’s also a district where, from pre-kindergarten to the walk across the stage at graduation, everyone is a Bronco. It’s a unique continuity, gradually blending all corners of the district into one high school that is a shining star in the community.
Mustang's Board of Education has been devoted to maintaining the cohesiveness of the community by serving all the students at one premier high school instead splitting the community and district resources with the creation of a new campus. In 2009, voters overwhelmingly approved a bond issue to expand and renovate Mustang High School, maintaining its roots by connecting the pieces of the 1960s campus with several new academic buildings and a commons area with seven serving lines to accommodate its current population of 2900 students. With the support of the community through future bond issues, the capacity and opportunities at MHS will continue to be expanded, while additional elementary, intermediate and middle schools will be needed to keep up with capacity and maintaining manageable class sizes.
Bond Issues Continue the Momentum
The reputation of Mustang Schools is in evidence with its continued growth in enrollment. The district has an average 10-year growth rate of 3.2 percent, ranging from a net gain of more than 200 students in one year to more than 500. To accommodate the growth and to provide opportunities for kids, MPS took a bond issue of $180.8 million to patrons on Feb. 14, 2017. Voters turned out in record number, despite the cold and rain, to cast their ballots. The 2017 bond issue will make it possible to plan for the district’s average student population growth with a new elementary, intermediate and middle school. Capacity on the high school campus will also be increased with a new freshman cafeteria, eight classrooms, a science academy for upper-level courses and a new visual and performing arts center.
Dr. Sean McDaniel, superintendent, and Deputy Superintendent Charles Bradley gave more than 40 presentations since December 2016 to disseminate information and provide opportunities for patrons to ask questions. McDaniel was thrilled, not only with the bond’s passage, but with the sheer number of voters who took time to vote.
“So grateful for the overwhelming support from our community,” he said. “Once again they made the students and staff of the Mustang School District a priority. The passage of this historic $180.8 million bond election is a clear message to all of us in the district that our patrons want our students and staff to have what they need to be successful. We had a record turnout for a school bond election and a record number of 'yes' votes. I want to personally thank everyone who took the time to vote.”
McDaniel said all the projects are expected to be complete within the next 3.5 to 4 years.
Mustang Schools enjoyed the August 2014 opening of its seventh elementary school, Prairie View Elementary on 59th Street near County Line Road. The new elementary was part of the 2012 bond issue and is helping MPS keep pace with the district's unprecedented growth rate.
At Mustang High School, the doors opened on the MHS Event Center in November 2015. With surround seating, the building is nearly triple the size of the previous gym, which was constructed in 1964, more than 50 years ago. The Event Center made is possible to host the community as it honored the 1345th Transportation Company at their deployment ceremony in September 2016.
The 2012 bond issue also made it possible to open two new intermediate centers in the 2013-2014 school year to serve the district's fifth and sixth grade students. A new facility, Canyon Ridge Intermediate School, was constructed on Sara Road. The former Mustang Mid-High (which was originally built as a middle school in 1970) was renovated into a second intermediate school, Horizon Intermediate. The fifth and sixth grade centers eased overcrowding in district elementary schools and middle schools, while still keeping students of similar education and developmental levels together.
Also from the 2012 bond issue, Mustang Elementary moved out of its 1976 gym, with the bare patches in the ceiling, and into a new one. The old gym was renovated into a large music room with an office and storage area. Vocational Agriculture also received a new barn which opened in January 2017, more than doubling the program’s current capacity. The original barn, which remains in use, was constructed more than 30 years ago.
District officials are grateful for the support of Mustang voters, who approved a $7 million bond issue in February 2014 that provided $1.6 million in additional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) opportunities, $375,000 for the arts, a new home for the district's nationally recognized JROTC program, a new vocational-agriculture barn and a baseball/softball practice facility. Other funds from the bond issue will go toward a storm shelter at Mustang Education Center and additional sheltering opportunities at Mustang High School. Another $800,000 will go to the purchase of land for a new school site.
An operational bond of $4.5 million was approved in the spring of 2016. While the state weathered its financial crisis that cut into the allocations of public schools, Mustang was able to provide for its students and take care of its facilities thanks to the voters. The bond purchased textbooks, additional heating and air conditioning repair and repair to facilities such as repaving of the high school parking lot, resurfacing two tracks and the purchase of additional technology.
A new long range planning committee began meeting in the fall of 2014. This committee of parents, business leaders and school staff worked for two years to project what the needs of the district will be in five to 10 years. They have distilled those needs into a list compatible with bonding capacity and voters will be asked to go to the polls on Valentine’s day 2017 and cast their ballot.
District maintains a focus on academics
Even with these exciting changes, the district maintains a steady focus on its longstanding tradition of academic achievement. Mustang Public Schools was the first to implement a model of continuous improvement concerning the success of every child and not just averages across grade levels.
From the youngest students to seniors, the district is focused on a strategy to identify those who are struggling and to get them the help they need to be successful. Once an elementary student is identified as struggling through a universal screening, teachers compile all the student's data on one sheet so they can see exactly where the student needs help. At the intermediate and middle schools, students are identi?ed as needing intervention if they fail their Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests, but teachers can also refer students.
Mustang High School has made tremendous strides in reducing the dropout rate. In the 2011-12 school year, MHS has state reported numbers of 97 drop outs, or 4 percent. In five years, that rate dropped to .9 percent, or 28 students. Dr. Teresa Wilkerson, MHS principal, said the school created an “at risk” list. Between the counselors and principals, they know the story behind each of those students and why they are struggling.
“Our counselors and principals know each student by name and need, whether they have medical issues or they need to go to work,” she said. “We have a strong virtual credit recovery program for students who are not eligible to go to the district’s alternative school at Mustang Education Center or the Canadian County Education Center. We continually look for ways to reach students who are not being successful in the traditional academic environment.”
While the Mustang High School staff celebrated reducing the drop-out rate to below 1 percent, they are not satisfied.
“Unfortunately that is still 28 students,” Wilkerson said. “We will continue to look for ways to reach all of our students in need.”
STEM - Science Technology Engineering and Math
Mustang Schools is one of the few in the state to earn the status as one of the Governor’s STEM communities focusing on science, technology, engineering and math. The goal is to infuse STEM into all levels of learning, from STEM exploration in the elementary schools to actual scientific research classes at the secondary level. At its heart, STEM is about solving real-world problems through science, technology engineering and math.
According to the Alliance for Science & Technology Research, there will 81,000 high paying, STEM related job openings by 2018. These openings will need students with a strong STEM background to fill them. The demand for scientists and engineers is expected to increase at four times the rate compared to all other occupations over the next decade. When it comes to salaries, the average annual STEM salary is $34,000 more than all other average annual salaries.
For Mustang Public Schools, STEM represents teaching science and mathematical concepts through the integration of technology and engineering design. Mustang has received several STEM grants, and bond funds for STEM were approved by the voters in 2014. These funds have allowed many teachers to go to STEM training and have purchased technology and science equipment to better equips our STEM classes.