Statement From Mustang PS (re: State Board & MPS Accreditation)

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UPDATE

8/1/2022

Mustang Families,

We know that there are questions concerning the decision of the State Board of Education last week to reduce our Accreditation rating and the statement that we subsequently released.  The biggest question is “What does this mean?”  As you know, this was a surprise to all of us and we have spent the past few days processing this very question.  In short, there is no immediate impact to our families/students or funding.  The decision to place MPS on Accredited with Warning signals to us that the State Department (OSDE), by vote of the State Board of Education, has lowered our standing (from a level 1 to a level 3 out of 5) for the next 12 months; if a school in this position were to fail to meet OSDE expectations moving forward, they could be placed on probation and if continued deficiencies were not corrected, a school could lose accreditation.  There is no reason that our standing cannot rise again, and we will continue to work with the State Department of Education toward this goal. We are not aware of Mustang’s Accreditation ever being anything but Fully Accredited without Deficiency, so this is unchartered territory for our District.  We are currently looking at all options to remedy this situation moving forward.    

There have also been questions about the specificity of the activity and the Administrative Rules propagated by the State Department of Education in reference to HB1775.  Although there are some privacy considerations in play, we want to be as transparent as possible on this issue.  Through our investigation that was turned over to the OSDE, we determined that some questions asked of students in a Cross-the-Line Activity (conducted in a single class at one of the Mustang middle schools) were based on race. Specifically, 7 of 29 questions pertained in some way to one’s race and were intermixed with questions such as “If one or both of your parents graduated from college, take one step forward.”  The intent of this activity was to help students empathize with each other and bring the students in the class together as a team, but unfortunately it was determined that at least one question did violate the spirit of the law. That question was “If you have ever been called names regarding your race, socioeconomic class, gender, sexual orientation, or physical/learning disability and felt uncomfortable, take one step back.”  Our internal investigation found, and the OSDE concurred, that this question violated the spirit of HB1775,  Again, it is important to note that these questions are not part of any curriculum adopted by MPS, nor are they a part of any curriculum approved or adopted by the State of Oklahoma; the activity was immediately discontinued. (Mustang Public School Board Policy #1114 governs this type of event).  This was an isolated incident and was quickly resolved.  Following this event, MPS teachers received additional training on the curricular requirements of HB1775 in hopes of preventing further missteps, and this training has already begun for 2022-23.  It is important to note that despite what has been reported, the legal theory of Critical Race Theory (CRT) has not been and is not being taught in Mustang Public Schools.  Although HB1775 is widely known as the “anti-CRT bill,” that terminology is not present in the language of the law nor the rules.  Mustang Public Schools does not condone actions contrary to the law; we have and will continue to train staff on how to meet the requirements of the law and will work to resolve any issues or concerns as they arise.  As previously stated, MPS is committed to fostering an inclusive, respectful, and supportive learning environment, and it is regretful that this situation occurred.     

Despite all that has happened, what has not changed is our laser focus on our students and our commitment to provide a world-class education full of opportunities for them.  We will continue to work with you, our families, to listen to any issues that may arise and work to resolve them.  As always, we welcome any parent/guardian who has a concern about their student(s) to visit with school administrators.  We appreciate the opportunity to serve our community; we are partners in education, and we are truly better together.  We cannot overstate the importance of your support, and we are so thankful for each of you.  Thank you for your time in reading this, and we are looking very much forward to a wonderful 2022-23 school year that starts on August 18, 2022!  


ORIGINAL STATEMENT

7/29/2022

At the regular meeting of the State Board of Education held on Thursday, July 28, 2022, there was an action item included on the agenda for “Discussion and possible action on school district and school site accreditation recommendations for the 2022-23 school year -70 O.S. §§ 3-104, 3-104.3, 3- 104.4; OAC 210:35-3-201.” During the discussion on this item, Mustang Public Schools was mentioned as having had a verified HB1775 complaint. The Board proceeded to vote to place Mustang on Accreditation with Warning status based on this complaint.    

“We were shocked to learn of this action,” Superintendent Charles Bradley said. “Looking at the agenda item as posted by the State Board, I do not know how a reasonable person could discern that this was coming. We were as surprised as anyone to hear our name mentioned today.  After watching the replay of the State Board meeting it appears that at least one of the Board members, including one who made the motion to increase the penalty, was seemingly unaware that we were included on the agenda.”   

In January 2022, a concern was brought to MPS Administration concerning a potential HB1775 violation.  Just as with any concern presented, we promptly investigated and acted quickly to resolve the issue to the complainants satisfaction within a matter of days (see below).  Despite MPS acting in good faith and fully resolving the issue detailed in the original concern, almost five months later, the complainant proceeded with the filing of an official HB1775 complaint with the State in June 2022. Upon that, MPS fully cooperated with the State and presented our investigative findings; the result was that the OSDE agreed with our conclusions that a verified violation of HB1775 had occurred and recommended to the State Board that Mustang be placed on Accreditation with Deficiency status.  Despite the actions of the District, the State Board chose to vote to give MPS the status of Accredited with Warning. This was a more harsh penalty than what was recommended by the Oklahoma State Department of Education to, according to Board members, “to be consistent with the [earlier] vote on Tulsa Public Schools.” 

“We are disheartened that this single outlier event has resulted in this harsh action,” Bradley said.  “We acted expediently to resolve the complaint to the complainant’s satisfaction and yet no consideration was given by the State Board to our response to this event. With the Board action to increase the penalty above the recommendation, I seriously question the criteria for these Accreditation Categories. We are eager to work with the State Department to understand why this decision was made.”  

The situation referenced in the original HB1775 complaint is addressed below:

Mustang Public Schools is committed to fostering an inclusive, respectful, and supportive learning environment where each person, students and staff, feels a sense of belonging and is treated with dignity and respect.  In an attempt to foster a sense of belonging and empathy amongst students in a Leadership class, a voluntary “Cross the Line” activity was conducted by a teacher.  The lesson/activity is not part of any curriculum adopted by MPS, nor is it a part of any curriculum approved or adopted by the State of Oklahoma.  

Cross the Line activities originated from the anti-bullying space and were meant to help students to develop the understanding that everyone has something that they deal with and to empathize with and not bully or tease others.  Unfortunately, the activity that was chosen in this instance was one that was adapted from and focused on topics not appropriate for our students.  We eliminated the use of this lesson, effective immediately and moving forward, and regret that it was used at all.  

As this is a personnel matter, the district is not able to provide further information at this time. 

Please be assured that our focus will always remain on the academic and social well-being of our children.  As always, we welcome any parent who has a concern about their student(s) to visit with school administrators.  We appreciate the opportunity to serve our community, and again, please reach out to us with any questions or concerns.  

In reference to HB1775, Mustang Public Schools does not condone actions contrary to the law; we have and will continue to train staff on how to meet the requirements of the law and will work to resolve any issues or concerns as they arise.  

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