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How to Fund Several Teacher Salaries and Improve the Urban Core

I've witnessed plans for a new Oklahoma City Public School headquarters morph several times with each change of superintendents, from the Journal Record Building (now the Heritage Building) to the old Central High (now OCU Law School) and then to a former bank building (last home to Claim Management Resources) at NW 6 and Classen Boulevard.

Developers were interested in taking on the property before it was bought by Oklahoma City Public Schools. The building itself was deemed by now ex-superintendent Robert Neu to be insufficient for operations and school board meeting room. So instead of scrapping yet another predecessor's plan (the site was chosen by interim superintendent Dave Lopez), Neu started to plan for building a one-story building on the lot immediately to the south that was last home to the bank's drive-through tellers.

Here is where an opportunity awaits the next superintendent, if there is an acknowledgement schools are best at education and working with kids, and real estate isn't nor should it be expected to be an area of expertise for educators. Imagine working with the city to issue a request for development proposals for the south lot. Ask for a multi-story development that includes construction of the board meeting room as part of the project. The school system either gets a long-term lease for the meeting space or it could do a an air-rights sale that allows the developer to build and own the top floors while the school board retains ownership of the first floor (this is a common development tool and really just an elaborate condominium approach).

There are about a dozen ways to do such a deal that provides the school board what it needs, while fostering development that could put real money into the school coffers without being counted against its state funding formula. And with development going on all along Classen Boulevard, have no doubt interest is out there to do these sorts of deals.

It's doable. And it could even be done in a way that the school system's own property could actually generate property taxes --- which would of course benefit the school system.

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Steve Lackmeyer

Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›