Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Meet New OKCPS Superintendent: Rob Neu (April 2014)

This evening the board of Oklahoma City Public Schools approved the contract of Rob Neu as the new district superintendent. Interim superintendent Dave Lopez, former Secretary of Commerce for the State of Oklahoma, continues to serve as the district’s top leader until Neu will assume the reins later this year.

OKCPS Hires Robert Neu as Superintendent by Wesley Fryer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Wesley Fryer 

Neu is an educator originally from Michigan, but has most recently served as the superintendent of schools in Federal Way, Washington, which is just south of Seattle.

Robert R Neu: Superintendent - Federal W by Wesley Fryer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Wesley Fryer 

Mr Neu does have a Twitter account registered (@RobertRNeu) but has not posted to it yet. Since the only profile the account currently follows is for Waterford Schools (@WSDNews), a Michigan district Neu served as superintendent from January 2007 to May 2010, the account creation likely dates back to that era. Neu was a presenter in the May 2011 Milken Institute’s Conference in Los Angeles on the panel, “Creating the Classroom of the 21st Century,” and the complete 76 minute video of that presentation is available on YouTube. Mr Neu made comments throughout the panel. Use the time-stamped YouTube links below to jump to those specific parts of the video. I have summarized some of his comments following each link.
3:05 (comments on Jeffersonian “select and sort” educational model, reflections on today’s educational focus on helping ALL students succeed)
23:17 (discussion of flexible academic standards, data tools at the fingertips of teachers, wasted professional development money, predictions for education in 2020: [by 2020] We need to do away with grades, do away with grade levels, and to get into mastery and make [school] a performance-based activity)
33:50 (history of putting in classroom computers/technology without careful thought, focus should be kids reading, writing and talking about ideas, technology must improve student learning)
37:30 (1:1 computing is becoming more affordable, technology must be a tool that assists the teacher and drives student learning just like a pencil or pen, tech should not impede the learning process, we need private company partnerships in tough financial times)
39:33 (How to change classroom behavior with educational technology? Start with the teachers, give them data on student performance, empower teachers to collaborate and share best practices. We need to change policies which currently ban digital devices in the classroom)
47:12 (I’d like to rewrite NCLB, it’s not realistic for 100% of students to be successful 100% of the time, NAEP is a better measure, comparisons between our schools and Singapore’s “select and sort model schools” are invalid, look at work of Yong Zhao and his warnings about the negative impact of our focus on high test scores / high stakes testing)
53:02 (the students we were educating in 1960 looked very different in many ways from the students we are educating today in many US schools, this is not an excuse, we have a lot more challenges, we have 122 first languages in our district as of today, many students with severe disabilities who we are serving to a greater degree than we were in 1960, you need to put things into context when you look at the clients we are serving, look at the demographic changes taking place in our society, African-American and Hispanic males are struggling disproportionately, in 1964 we had the first international math study, we took next to last place – 10th of 11th. So having lower scores on international comparative math exams is not something new, we’ve gone on since the 60’s to become the greatest economic country the world has ever seen, this argument has become very convenient [for many edu-reformers])
1:07:08 (I worry about us heading down a path where “choice” systems provide differentiated educational options, but most are not open to children of poverty because they cannot provide transportation)
1:12:40 (Our teacher workforce is better than they have ever been, of course we can still get better, so many teachers doing wonderful work in challenging conditions. Using my own children as an example, we had one of the first Internet-connected schools in the late 1990s in Federal Way at “Internet Academy,” my daughters in public school can improve their skills with online supplements, we had/have more computers at home than TVs, through public libraries and homes, we have to give ALL children enrichment opportunities with technology. We cannot ever replace the human touch of the classroom teacher… getting love in the classroom from teachers can’t be replaced with technology. I was impoverished growing up and blessed with wonderful teachers. We have to keep developing the hybrid teaching model.”

To learn more background about our new OKCPS superintendent, see the following webpages and news articles:

  1. Official bio of Robert Neu on Federal Way Schools’ website (PDF archive available)
  2. Meet your Neu superintendent of Federal Way schools (July 2010)
  3. Bienvenido, Robert Neu: The shoes of a superintendent (April 2010)
  4. Oklahoma City Public Schools chooses Seattle-area man for superintendent post (NewsOK, April 2014)

The November 2013 letter to the editor of the Federal Way Mirror, “Superintendent Neu, your company is broken,” references dissension on the Federal Way board about district grading systems and assessment.

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2 responses to “Meet New OKCPS Superintendent: Rob Neu (April 2014)”

  1. Chea Driver Avatar
    Chea Driver

    Hi. I’m a student at the University of South Alabama. My name is Chea Driver, and I was assigned to comment on your blog this week. From what I read, it sounds like you all will be getting a very forward-thinking superintendent. I’ve done a lot of research over the course of this semester, and almost all of the topics I’ve researched were mentioned in the comments from the videos. Most recently, I read a book titled TEACHING DIGITAL NATIVES: Partnering for Real Learning by Marc Prensky. It’s a great book about the direction we need to be moving with our pedagogy in order to keep up with 21st century students and provide them with the skills they will need. We certainly need some changes to take place, and hopefully the change of superintendents will lead to more positive changes in your area! Good luck!

  2. Mark Knapp Avatar
    A globalist with very little in the way of independent ideas. Thank you OKCPS for taking Sup. Neu to new pastures.