Patrick Gaines promotes local control, Barresi’s waiver request, technology and charter schools

 Patrick Gaines, one of three candidates seeking the District 4 position for the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education, has been involved in civic and community leadership for many years.

In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, he listed what he considers the top three issues facing local education:

“My top priorities are to find ways to increase parental and community
involvement in the schools, bring back more local control to individual
schools and expand on the successes we already have in our district.

“Parental and community involvement is a must to move our schools forward in a positive direction. We need to bring back that feeling of ownership we used to have with our local schools."

In some areas this is easier than in others. However it is absolutely essential.

“As part of this ownership interest, communities and local schools must feel that they have the ability to control the agenda and the future of their schools as much as possible.

Where they are succeeding they must be able to feel ownership of that success. Where they fail, they too must be responsible for that failure. Schools that have successful programs must have the latitude to continue those programs.”

He concluded, “In the Oklahoma City school district we have a lot of very successful schools. We need to find ways to simulate those successes and apply them to those schools that are underachieving.”

State Superintendent Janet Barresi has requested from the federal government a waiver for Oklahoma from No Child Left Behind requirements.

Asked if he agreed, disagreed or had mixed views on Barresi’s request, Gaines commented, “I agree with the Superintendent’s request.

"I am not in favor of mandates on individual schools that do not take into account the needs of the individual school but rather are placed on the schools or the district as a whole without specific interaction with the school administrators.

"I am in favor of finding ways to benchmark our success but we need to do it on a more local level since the needs of each school very tremendously.”

Public school districts in Oklahoma pay millions of dollars in legal fees to private attorneys and law firms, but the amount of those fees is not information readily available for public inspection through the Oklahoma Department of Education.

CapitolBeatOK asked Gaines if that is information that should be available for inspection by the general public and news organizations.

He answered, “Absolutely. One of my key issues is more parental and community involvement. To have more involvement and more of a sense of ownership, the actions of the Board of Education must be transparent.

We must break down this perceived and real barrier between the- administration and the local schools and the barriers between the schools and the parents and the community.”

With the historic MAPS for Kids project entering the final year of historic infrastructure improvements for local schools, Gaines was asked to name what he believes the next major reform effort should be.

He answered: “Oklahoma City has done a wonderful job transforming downtown and the surrounding areas through the MAPS programs.

MAPS for Kids is a prime example of the success of this tax program. However, MAPS for Kids concentrated on the external shells of the schools. It is now time to look to the inside of the schools and see what we can do to make Oklahoma City public schools the best in the state.

“One area in particular that we need to focus on is technology. While we made improvements in this area, we need to concentrate on improving the technology side of our schools.

Further advances in technology would not only help our teachers, but it would allow the parents and the community more access to the schools and build on our theme to promote parental and community involvement.”

Gaines told CapitolBeatOK he supports charter schools and expressed sympathy for broader forms of school choice.

He said, “I do support charter schools because I believe that we should never exclude looking at alternative means of delivering education to our children. We should always be investigating educational resources like charter schools and online education.

There are issues that need to be addressed with these ancillary programs but the worst thing we can do for our children is not look at alternative options for education.”

The interview with Gaines occurred in the same week that Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb brought attention to a proposed reform of public school governance, namely moving school board elections from February, when voter participation is extremely low, to a more representative electorate in November.

Gaines commented, “I think that would be a good proposal. From a practical stand point, not only would it increase participation, it would decrease the cost of holding these separate elections.

During the election season of November voters tend to spend more time researching issues. By moving them to November with the rest of the elections, you would increase the chances of having a more informed electorate.”

Gaines is a past president of Bricktown Rotary Club, and has served in leadership positions for the Neighborhood Alliance, United Health Charities and Wilson Arts, Inc., in addition to service as a member of the city Historic Preservation Commission.

Gaines has been an active parent volunteer at Wilson Elementary, where his two children attend. He is the owner of Gaines Government Services, LLC, representing a variety of clients at the state Capitol and in relations with state agencies.

District 4 covers MidTown Oklahoma City and much of the central southside. The election is scheduled for Tuesday, February 14.

If no candidate secures an outright majority of votes cast, a runoff will be held on April 10.