eCapitol News Board of Education renews contacts for OJA charter school
Author: Tyler Talley Date: 01/25/2018
(eCap) The State Board of Education voted in favor Thursday of renewing its sponsorship contract for the Oklahoma Youth Academy Charter School (OYACS) it shares with the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA). OJA operates the school at two of its three facilities in the state, Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center (SWOJC) in Manitou and Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center (COJC) in Tecumseh. Students attend year-round with periodic breaks. Prior to voting on renewing the contract, OJA Director of Education Melissa White and OYACS Principal Leticia Sanchez presented an annual report to board members on the school itself, ranging from finances and test scores to enrollment and graduation. Sanchez noted there are 134 students currently enrolled between the two sites. OJA Executive Director Steve Buck, who also serves on Gov. Mary Fallin's cabinet as secretary of health and human services, was also on hand to take questions. The report also touched on OJA's ongoing consolidation efforts, which will ultimately impact OYACS. Under HB2387Bill is inactive, OJA plans to bring its three facilities under one roof over the next several years by forming a new unified campus in Tecumseh. "I get tremendous amount of organizational efficiency and strong equality of operational offerings for my kids by having all of them in one place," Buck told board members. He added while the number of children referred to the OJA system was down, the acuity of the youths coming into their care was on the rise. "It's very important for us to think about how to have in a campus that appropriately serves the needs of these young people," Buck continued, noting the three current sites were repurposed and not initially constructed to be secure facilities for children. Through this consolidation process, the school is looking to expand the programs it offers as well as the opportunities to the kids it impacts. While the charter operates at two sites, it is not offered at the Oklahoma Juvenile Center for Girls (OJCG) in Norman. "Our young girls do not currently have access to the charter school. They are very capably served by their local district," Buck said. "Because of the unique nature of our kids, this charter is really innovative in the sense that we are able to do things to help serve these young people that have been transient their entire life." Buck said for many of the students, the school represents the first opportunity within their generational tree that education is attainable. State Board Member Bill Price referred to the school as a "huge success story," recalling the initial vote approving the contract three years ago. "You all made a great presentation that this is a unique population that needed to be uniquely served," Price related. The board also approved an additional 66 emergency teaching certificates Thursday, bringing the total amount for the 2017-2018 school year up to 1,917.
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