Emory Bryan, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- When it comes to understanding the overhaul at Tulsa Public Schools, one common thread is too many classrooms for the number of students in the district.
"I have come to the belief that we are just spread too thin to be effective," Dr. Keith Ballard, Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent, said.
Dr. Ballard said a shifting population of students, coupled with a financial crunch, is driving most of what's in Project Schoolhouse.
He says moving students saves money by reducing capacity and even though it involves closing schools, he believes everyone recognizes there's a problem.
"We've had a lot of feedback, that's good, that's not so good, I've had very little feedback that we don't need to do something," he said.
Ballard says TPS has 10,000 empty seats. The proposals call for eliminating from 6,000 to 8,000 seats, saving between $6 to $9.5 million dollars per year.
The savings would come through building utilities, maintenance, and in personnel, which Ballard says could happen through normal attrition.
The recommendations for change, according to Project Schoolhouse leaders, come purely from the numbers.
"It's a very emotional issue so it's as important to base as much of your decision on hard data as possible because people respond to hard data differently than they do to an emotional decision, because that's very personal," Jim McCarthy, TPS Project Schoolhouse, said.
The leadership team says it will take a massive overhaul to balance out differences between schools that have built up over the years.
"Right now the district is stretched so thin that half of our elementary schools don't have PE every day," Karen Gilbert, Tulsa Council of PTA, said. "They don't offer art and don't offer music."
Dr. Ballard referred several times to political courage and said all of these changes could have been made over the years, but were not, and even with this level of change, it's something that needs to be reevaluated every couple of years.