Change. It’s the only thing that seems the same around here at Oak Park.
In the last three years, we have gone from a school with over 2,000 students to one that’s listed at 1,314 (according to the Missouri State High School Activities Association official enrollment figures for 2010-12). An amazing 67 faculty and staff members are no longer here since 2006. Therefore, because of those numbers, some course offerings and the quantity of people involved in extra-curricular activities have been affected.
Other recent changes have come fast and furious as well: the appearance of our recently-tiled and painted hallways, the new Norman logo, the addition of freshman orientation day, End of Course exams, Norman’s Nickels, Advisory, Flex Time, the Oak Park Way and, of course, mini notes. We were able to avoid the 7-period day, for now.
By no means am I complaining—in fact, I am currently on the “Administrative Initiated Transfer List.” In other words, because of student-teacher ratios here at Oak Park, it was determined that I could serve the district in a more efficient capacity in another school. So, odds are, I may be teaching elsewhere next year. I could be really bitter about that decision, but I have taken the attitude that this change in my life may turn out to be a great opportunity.
At this point in my life, I would love to be a school administrator. As you all know, there are many, many issues and challenges in education today. I believe, in that position, I could have a hand in solving some of those problems. Sometimes, it takes an ability to have varied perspective to begin to come up with solutions. If I were to teach at another school, I would add a different experience to my resume. I would like to think that additional perspectives would help make me a better administrator.
That’s just one example of how a different approach in my attitude can help me get through a potentially troublesome change in my life. I can reinvent myself in whatever new job I will have to come out being better off in the long run.
Here’s where that lesson might help all of us. I believe that the entire Oak Park community has been beaten over the head with the change stick so much over the last three years, that it has really hurt our school pride and enthusiasm for being a Northman. Maybe it’s just me, but the Oakie passion at school assemblies, games and even in the hallways for students and faculty seems to have dwindled over time.
Oak Park is the only school in the district to have seen this much change, and it’s no wonder that would have an effect on our overall attitude. In talking with students and teachers, there are a prevalent number of people who don’t use the word “fun” when it comes to being at school. That’s not the way it used to be around here.
So, there needs to come a time when we say enough is enough. With the economy and times being tough for everybody, nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We need to reinvent Oak Park.
The cool thing, is that I don’t think we have far to go. We are still excelling at everything! Just look at our wrestlers and color guard placing second in the state, the huge numbers of superior contest and state ratings that many of our fine arts performers recently attained, our Science Olympiad pulling off a top 10 state finish, and our debate, robotics, DECA, FBLA, cheerleaders, pommies and publications all having stellar years as well. Our faculty members and coaches have also earned distinction and recognition. Of course, our sports are still extremely competitive and our academics are second to none. I don’t intend to leave any deserving group out, but I think I’ve made my point of how we still are thriving.
Plus, I’m not saying there is no enthusiasm at Oak Park—we have student spirit groups at games and STUCO works really hard to put on quality school events. As I just mentioned, there are plenty of people in this school to cheer for! Unfortunately, it seems there are only pockets of people here and there who actually do so.
As the years go by, all of the change we’re currently experiencing will be ancient history someday. An entirely new generation of individuals will walk these halls, to proudly wear the Blue on Blue. Wouldn’t it be great if those people could look back on us and say, “Wow—it was pretty rough around here back in 2010, but it looks like they still brought Oak Park to another level.”
The thing is, the pride has to come from ALL of us—teachers, administrative assistants, custodians, food service workers, instructional aides, administrators and, especially, students. We can’t just talk about it. It has to show up in competition, in the classroom and in the stands. It can’t just come from Dr. Skretta. We all have a part to play in Oak Park’s reinvention.
Despite what people dressed in green to the north may think, Oak Park is STILL the best school around.
Hey, who knows, maybe I’ll even be around next fall to see it!