Dr. Richard Steeber said he has three main priorities as the new superintendent of McAlester Public Schools.

He said he is focusing on safety and security, finance and accountability as he enters his first year as district head.

“I’ll 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 the Independent School District of Grand Prairie, Texas, where he served eight years as assistant superintendent of human capital. He was responsible for primary staffing through data analysis at 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 has worked as a baseball coach, math teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, superintendent and more.

Steeber received a master’s degree in educational administration from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in 2001 and a doctorate in educational administration in 2008 from Texas A&M University-Commerce.

After holding several administrative positions, Steeber said his approach during the first days of his new job at McAlester was to learn more about the district and the community.

“I’m learning, I’m trying to listen, and you’re constantly evaluating things that are good, things that might need to be changed,” Steeber said.

Steeber said the COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges for school districts around the world, with many finding creative solutions to help students stay in school.

McAlester Schools partnered with a company to set up internet hotspots along bus routes so students could continue their lessons remotely when the school was closed for public safety.

Many districts have provided meals for students along bus routes and other solutions have been made to problems. But studies have shown that students overall have fallen behind in their course work.

Steeber said the pandemic has affected academic achievement at all levels and he believes an aligned curriculum can help students who have declined.

“One of the critical things I see for improving accountability starts at the foundation, with an aligned K-12 curriculum,” Steeber said.

“I see this as a very, very important goal,” Steeber said.

Steeber said he plans to align the curriculum to create a slight overlap between grades, which will help students progress to the next level.

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

District voters in February 2021 approved a $34 million plan to build a multi-level college and event center. The facility is expected to be completed 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 college, outdoor amphitheater, center of events that holds 1,808 people and facilitates multiple sports, group and wrestling, and more.

Steeber said he was delighted to see the new facility completed and hopes to continue to build on the momentum in the district.

“Because at the end of the day, we’re doing this for the kids,” Steeber said.

Contact Adrian O’Hanlon III at [email protected]