New McAlester superintendent prepares for school year

·3 min read

Aug. 5—Dr. Richard Steeber said he has three top priorities as the new superintendent of McAlester Public Schools.

He said his focus is on safety and security, finance, and accountability as he enters his first year leading the district.

"I'm going to start there," Steeber said. "It's very global, but those are my three global priorities."

Steeber was hired in May and comes to McAlester from Grand Prairie (Texas) Independent School District, where he served eight years as Assistant Superintendent of Human Capital. He was responsible for primary staffing via data analysis across the district's 38 campuses serving 30,000 students.

Steeber graduated from Fort Gibson High School in 1984, then played baseball and earned a bachelor's degree from East Central University in 1990.

He started as an educator in Oklahoma before moving to Texas in 1996. Steeber worked as a baseball coach, math teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, superintendent and more.

Steeber earned a master's in education administration from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in 2001 and a doctorate in education administration in 2008 from Texas A&M University-Commerce.

After serving in several administrative roles, Steeber said his approach in the first few days on the new job at McAlester was learning about the district and the community.

"I'm learning, I'm trying to listen and you're constantly in the stage of making assessments of things that are good, some things that might need changing," Steeber said.

Steeber said the COVID-19 pandemic wrought challenges for school districts everywhere with many finding creative solutions to help students continue their education.

McAlester schools partnered with a company to implement internet hotspots along bus routes so students could continue their course work remotely when school were closed for public safety.

Many districts provided meals for students along bus routes and other solutions arose to issues. But studies have shown students overall fell behind in their course work.

Steeber said the pandemic affected academic achievement in every grade level and he believes an aligned curriculum can help students who declined.

"One of the bottom line things that I see for the improvement of accountability starts at the foundation, with pre-K through 12th grade aligned curriculum," Steeber said.

"I see that as a very, very important goal," Steeber said.

Steeber said he envisions aligning curriculum to create a slight overlap between grades that will help students transition to the next grade level.

He said that approach will help students start on the same page each year and close some gaps as the district changes its campus alignment.

District voters approved in February 2021 a $34-million plan to build a multi-level middle school and event center. The facility is set to be complete in May 2023 on the hill between the existing high school and East Van Buren Avenue, with plans to add dozens of classrooms and labs in a new MPS middle school, an outdoor amphitheater, an event center that holds 1,808 people and facilitates multiple sports, band and wrestling, and more.

Steeber said he's excited to see the new facility completed and hopes to continue building on momentum in the district.

"Because at the bottom line, we do this for the kids," Steeber said.

Contact Adrian O'Hanlon III at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com