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Message from Superintendent Dr. Nick Migliorino
NPS Families and Staff,
I want to start by addressing all the great teachers in Norman Public Schools. Every day, at every one of our schools, our amazing teachers do incredible and inspiring work that impacts students for life. They do this despite shortages of staff, funding and frankly, respect. That is why when issues and controversy arise around public education, whether in the community, the state, or the nation, we strive to do everything in our power to support, inform and protect our teachers and staff. I am incredibly grateful for each and every one of them and I know our community is as well.
As you are aware, there has been a great deal of news lately regarding books. Let me assure you, we have a wealth of books available to our students in our schools. Whether in our teachers’ classrooms or in our fabulous school libraries, the shelves are not bare. We believe having a diverse and wide range of literature available to our students is incredibly important. As we’ve stated, it is our job to teach students to think critically. As such, we provide opportunities for students to use and discover a variety of appropriate resources, think through a wide range of perspectives and deepen their thinking. Our mission is to “prepare and inspire all students to achieve their full potential.” Great literature can and should be a source of inspiration along that journey to achievement.
With that said it is also our responsibility as professionals to ensure we know what resources are on our shelves, just as we know what appropriate, standards-aligned curriculum is being taught to students. What we have asked is that teachers review the materials in their libraries to ensure age-appropriateness. We’ve asked that teachers have either personally read the titles and can vouch for them with their own professional judgment, or can provide at least two professional sources verifying their appropriateness. While this is new guidance, ensuring appropriate materials is nothing new and is a responsibility we’ve always had to protect our students. (Click here to view the classroom library guidance documents)
While we stand behind our intent to protect teachers and students and reduce fear, we recognize that the timing and manner in which this guidance was presented missed the mark. We apologize for the additional stress and anxiety that teachers and staff experienced as a result.
With regard to the QR code that has gained so much attention: we have no issue with resources rooted in helping students and educators grow their knowledge in diverse, inspired and positive ways. Public libraries are critical to education and society as a whole. In fact, we’re proud to partner with our local library, Pioneer Library System, to provide access to all students and staff.
As we have stated many times—and despite incorrect information on social media and in the news—Norman Public Schools has not banned any books. We also know and believe that parents and guardians are ultimately responsible for their child. Norman Public Schools will always respect a families’ wishes with regard to their child’s education and access. While we ask our families to trust that we will only make appropriate resources available to their children—ones that have been professionally vetted and are grade/age/developmentally appropriate—since 1992 we have had in place both formal (Board policy 5002-1-B, form) and informal processes for parents to review and challenge materials when they have concerns about a particular resource.
Finally, to the extent possible, I want to address the specific situation involving a teacher at Norman High and attempt to set the record straight so we can all move forward.
After the first day of school Friday, Aug. 19, a concerned parent reached out to us about an issue that happened in their student’s class. The parent alleged the teacher had, during class time, made derogatory and divisive remarks toward state legislators and used her classroom to make a political display expressing her own opinions.
As we do with any and all complaints, whether from a parent, student or fellow teacher, we reviewed the matter. It is our obligation and duty to hear all angles and perspectives. As soon as she made herself available, we met with the teacher to address the issue. We made clear our concerns—particularly given this was the first day and not connected to any curriculum—set out our expectations moving forward and hoped and expected her to return to the classroom. Ultimately, the teacher chose to resign. Again, at no point was the teacher ever terminated, suspended or placed on administrative leave.
I also want to clarify that the complaint we received on Aug. 19, and the review we conducted over the following days, centered on the teacher’s personal political speech to a captive audience of students. There was no violation of OK HB1775 or SDE rules nor was the issue about any books actually on the teacher’s shelves or the use of the public library QR code.
In conclusion, this entire incident has exploded well beyond the initial complaint. Outrage on social media, inaccurate reporting in the news and cynical political maneuvering have brought an avalanche of attention to our district. As a district, and as a lifelong educator myself, we have been saddened and hurt by the deluge of comments and the negative assumptions made about all of us.
We would never want any educator to live in fear of losing their hard-earned certifications and licensures. Teachers spend much of their lives earning degrees and certifications to become the very best, qualified, professional educators they can be. They do this because they believe in the power of public education to inspire and lift ALL kids. Threatening teachers’ with removal of licensure and certification is counterproductive, divisive and ultimately not in the best interest of students.
We all know the challenges facing public education. We all know the divisive nature of this debate in our state politics. However, Norman Public Schools remains steadfast in its focus on delivering the very best possible education to our students… from the very best teachers in the state.
I thank you for your continued support. As always, it is a privilege to serve you.
Dr. Nick Migliorino
Norman Public Schools