Bryant to lead Barnsdall Schools

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Sayra Bryant has been chosen to be the next superintendent of Barnsdall Public Schools.

The Board of Education voted, 5-0, the evening of March 21, after an executive session that lasted a little more than two hours.

Jeff Lay, who is in his fifth year as superintendent, has chosen to step down at the close of the 2021-22 year. 

Bryant is currently Barnsdall’s high school and junior high school principal. Her first full year in that post was 2013-14. She has been employed by the school district for more than 20 years consecutively, and she was a 1991 graduate of Barnsdall High School.

Bryant has continued her education and is now close to completing the work for a doctoral degree.

Bryant will become Barnsdall’s superintendent at an important time of transition for the school system, from a four-day instructional week to a five-day instructional week, she said.

The change has been mandated by the Oklahoma Legislature. Barnsdall has been using a four-day instructional week for 12 years, so many Barnsdall kids will be adjusting to a slightly different weekly pattern than they have known.

Bryant said some Oklahoma school districts making the switch to five instructional days are choosing to make the fifth day virtual rather than in-person.

Barnsdall is not doing that. It has chosen to make the fifth day an in-person instructional period.

”Learning is social,” Bryant said, explaining the choice. “You need a teacher. You need other students. We wanted to go ahead and do that day in-person.”

Barnsdall will shorten its instructional time per day from about seven and a half hours to a little more than six hours per day, but do that over five days rather than four.

“We’re changing the school day, and that affects everyone,” Bryant said. “We want to try to do what’s best for everyone involved.”

Bryant said she is also very concerned, as she looks ahead, about making good choices regarding the school district budget.

A high inflation rate is among factors that will require the school district’s leadership to weigh carefully what students need, what can be spent in the immediate term, and what may have to wait, she explained.

“Every decision I make, I know affects other decisions,” Bryant said. “But you also can’t not decide about something.”

As the mother of kids who have played sports, Bryant is acutely aware of the importance to youth of having teams and other groups to which they can belong.

Bryant also noted the importance of students and parents thinking in terms of the school district as a whole, not just one building or another within the system.

”We’ve come a long way as a district, where it’s not this building or that building,” Bryant said. “We’re just one happy district.”

Barnsdall Public Schools has recently implemented a major bond-financed facility improvement project. The district has nurtured a climate in which students can make important contributions to the development of clubs and the curriculum. Student leadership and advocacy were critical to the implementation of Agriculture instruction and the formation of a Future Farmers of America (FFA) club.