Monday of this week, an Oklahoma City principal who manages a high school where 82 percent of the students are Hispanic won the Milken Family Foundation’s Educator of the Year award for 2010. Pat McGuigan's report in this week's edition of The City Sentinel captures the wonderful spirit of the event.
Chris Brewster deserves all the praise he is getting. In less than a decade, he has taken a school with some of the lowest achievement scores around and turned it into the second-highest achiever among Oklahoma City public high schools with open admissions. Already, his graduates are working their way through state junior colleges and universities, aiming to join the professions and, in some cases, to become teachers themselves.
A couple of things make this wonderful achievement especially notable. First, the school is excelling even though it has an Hispanic population that is twice that of the percentage found in the school district as a whole. The staff is intensely dedicated to producing students who are proud of their heritage and also able to function in the English-speaking economic mainstream of our state and our country.
Second, Santa Fe South is a charter school, able to operate outside many of the mandates and bureaucratic strictures that limit teaching and creativity at so many regular public schools. Brewster has been a leader in the association of charter schools, which now has a little more than a dozen institutional members.
There are no charter high schools in Tulsa, due to the wasted time of 10 years of litigation the public school district there wasted while charter schools in Oklahoma City steadily improved. Only this year did the Tulsa district reluctantly agree that charter schools are here to stay -- after losing a silly lawsuit and wasting lots of money trying to crush these innovative sites. Yet, the highest achieving tax-funded elementary school in T-Town is a charter school. Think how much more can be achieved by adding upper grades to this dynamic school model.
The students at Santa Fe South are achieving notable things on the athletic fields, as well. The Saints, as they are known, won the boys Class 4A soccer championship last spring. This year they added the state title in cross country. Accepting the Milken award, which was a surprise to him, Brewster was a study in statesmanship and dignity, insisting on the excellence of all those surrounding him.
Every now and then in life, we catch of glimpse of the saints among us.