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Tulsa School Board Hires Gist As Superintendent

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Before the meeting, teachers rallied outside asking the board to “reboot and reconsider.” Before the meeting, teachers rallied outside asking the board to “reboot and reconsider.”
Dr. Deborah Gist. [TPS] Dr. Deborah Gist. [TPS]
TULSA, Oklahoma - The Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to approve Dr. Deborah Gist as the district's next superintendent.

Gist will be the first woman to lead TPS.

“We are pleased and excited to announce Dr. Deborah Gist as the selected candidate to become the next superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools,” said Board President Ruth Ann Fate. 

“Dr. Gist is a courageous innovator in public education. As a graduate of Tulsa schools, Dr. Gist knows our community well. Her strong belief that every child can learn is well matched with the board's vision for our district. Dr. Gist has served at the highest levels of public education policy, but more importantly, she has served on the front lines as a teacher for eight years. She is committed to working with teachers, parents, community leaders and administrators to deliver a quality learning experience for every student without exception.”

Gist was the only name left on the list of contenders. Gist currently serves as Commissioner of Education for the state of Rhode Island.

The district released details about her tenure in Rhode Island:

  • In 2013, for the first time ever, the percentage of Rhode Island students scoring proficient or better was above the national average in all four assessments in mathematics and reading on “The Nation's Report Card.”
  • Over the past 4 years, Rhode Island's four-year graduation rate has climbed from 76% to 80% while the dropout rate has declined by 5 points, from 14% to 9%.
  • The dropout rate among African American students was cut in half from 20% to 10% over the past four years. For Hispanic students, dropouts declined from 22% to 15%, a 7-point improvement.
  • The number of Rhode Island public school students taking AP exams increased by 67% over the past 5 years.
  • Rhode Island students of color have made significant strides in AP scores showing college readiness.
  • Hispanic students achieved a 19.1% increase. African American students a 40.3% increase over the previous year.
  • The percentage of recent RI high school graduates entering the Community College of Rhode Island who needed remedial courses is down 66%, an 8% improvement and the lowest percentage since 2009.
Before the meeting, teachers and community members rallied outside asking the board to “reboot and reconsider.” They said they were upset with the lack of transparency through the entire search process.

When asked about the concerns, current Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard said he had no role in the process, but trusted the board.

"I do believe that these board members care deeply and I do believe in the superintendent search process, that they have been very diligent and have worked very hard at this. And I know they car deeply about that person who is going to be selected as superintendent, so I have a lot of confidence in this board."

At 6:30, the board began its regularly scheduled meeting to discuss agenda items that included things like the school calendar. The board then voted to enter executive session. The board eventually returned to open session and announced it had hired Gist.

The position will be open once Ballard retires this summer.

Last week, the only other finalist, Millard House, withdrew his name saying the timing wasn't right for him. House previously served as Deputy Superintendent at TPS.

The board had originally planned to decide on its new superintendent last Monday.

After the announcement Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister released the following statement:

"I congratulate Dr. Gist in being selected by the Board of Education for the Tulsa Public School district to be the next superintendent. I am pleased to see a graduate of the Tulsa Public Schools return home to lead the district where her notable education career was launched. She is fully invested in public education and I am looking forward to working with Dr. Gist."

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