Bill Scanlon mug

Bill Scanlon

Apologies to Snoopy, and the words of introduction to his great American novel, but it was a grey and rainy afternoon when I visited Norman High School. As a City Council member, I had visited Norman North, but that was BC (before COVID).

During a recent meeting with Norman Superintendent Nick Migliorino, I received an invitation to invest equal time at Norman High. I eagerly accepted.

Back many, many decades ago, I attended high school. My recollection is of an institutional setting, and — with a few exceptions — an “us versus them” relationship between students and faculty (I’m not complaining or singling out a particular school system — that relationship seemed the norm in those days).

I went to schools in Holdenville (still remember the smell of freshly baked biscuits wafting through the building), and in Garden Grove, California (where a banjo-playing underclassman/comedian named S. Martin held forth). Both cities used the same paint scheme: pale green classroom walls (to induce sleep?).

What I found at North — and at Norman High — was a completely different atmosphere.

I visited both schools shortly after some major renovations took place. At Norman High, these included a new wing dedicated to research and hands-on use of such things as 3D printers. State-of-the art equipment is available to students, and a library/research area offers access to a wealth of information.

Adjacent to this area are meeting rooms equipped with computer terminals and white boards — and a coffee shop. Back when, I wasn’t even allowed to chew gum in school.

Norman High sports a complete TV production facility — studio, control room, editing facilities, etc. Students produce a daily program covering Tiger happenings and announcements. Back when, I was one of three students qualified to run the projector, on the rare occasion there were films to watch.

And while I could go highlighting facilities, I’ll stop with a mention of the new band and choral rooms — expansive, these rooms double as a shelter, keeping students and faculty safe in times of danger. Colors at the school are vivid, and in good taste.

Facilities notwithstanding, I was most impressed by the faculty, staff and students at Norman High. The principal, Hallie Wright, greeted me as I entered the school dripping wet. We spoke for a few minutes, before she took me on a tour of some of the things I’ve just mentioned.

Along the way, we had brief conversations with some faculty members and students. Several students came up to Ms. Wright to comment on some academic issues; one in particular asked about an alert released earlier that day about a possible threat to the school.

Ms. Wright was matter of fact in describing the situation and setting that student’s mind at ease. I should note that there was an increased police presence at Norman High that day, but everything was low key. And I noticed a number of students talking with the cops as friends, not enemies.

Last week, I attended a lecture at the University of Oklahoma by Thomas Friedman, author and New York Times columnist. Friedman said that the key to success in his profession is to listen, stating further that listening gains respect and earns confidence.

Thinking about it, that’s what I was seeing at Norman High; that describes the relationship between faculty and students. Wow, that’s what I was missing years ago; teachers then demanded respect by virtue of position, whether or not they had anything to say.

Pardon another literary reference: someone once wrote that, “You can’t go home again.” Hallie Wright says otherwise. At the end of my tour, she showed me the classroom where she had taught some 30 (?) years earlier.

I knew then that her love of Norman High and its students was genuine, and manifest in how she approaches her role. We are so lucky to have people like Hallie Wright in our schools. I’m so lucky to have met her, and to count her as friend. GO TIGERS.

And before I forget (leaving Norman High, but not Norman): the Sooner Fight Academy has a few remaining vacancies, with some scholarship monies available. Looking for a neat introduction to science and technology for your kids? Visit the Academy at flightcamp.ou.edu, or call 405.325.1635.

Bill Scanlon is a former Ward 6 city councilor who volunteers in support of the Norman Police Department and Norman Fire Department, and serves multiple city committees. Prior to his work in Norman, Scanlon served 26 years in the U.S. Air Force — where he last worked as chief of mission analyses under the assistant chief of staff for the Air Force, Studies and Analyses at the Pentagon — and worked for Northrop Grumman in Washington, D.C.

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