TPS Votes To Cut Staff, Consolidate West Side Schools

Monday, May 15th 2017, 11:07 pm
By: News On 6

From cutting staff to consolidating schools, Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist called it a difficult night.

At an emotional meeting, the school board voted 5-to-2 to shrink next year's budget by nearly $12 million.

4/5/2017 Related Story: TPS Superintendent Makes Recommendations On What To Cut

Kids spoke to the board Monday night, asking them not to close and consolidate west side schools, but, in the end, to save money, the board thought that was the best choice.

“This is a difficult night for us and for many of you,” Gist said.

To prepare for a projected $12 million budget shortfall from the state, TPS's school board voted to cut services, staff and close schools.

4/24/2017 Related Story: TPS Holds Final Meeting For Feedback On Plans To Consolidate Schools

“My wish is that this consolidation proposal would have happened in a different, more organized and thoughtful way. And with more warning,” said Gary Percefull, with the TPS school board.

It's a vote that will reorganize district office staff, decrease high school athletic programs, reduce school staffing and instructional support, cut some custodial services, implement two district-wide furlough days, and close and consolidate three elementary schools as well as a middle and high school on Tulsa's west side.

3/24/2017 Related Story: TPS Superintendent Left With ‘No Tolerable Options’ Amid More Budget Cuts

The vote has some community members questioning the dependability of TPS.

“People don’t know whether to count on you. You’re not dependable. That is a credibility crisis,” said consolidation opponent Matt Crain.

All the speakers at Monday night's meeting spoke against the west side school consolidation plan, wanting the district to find more administrators to cut first.

“And I will be doubling my efforts to volunteer at the other schools because I obviously can’t trust your judgment with our children,” Nicole Nixon said.

Because of the vote, speakers and board members spoke about difficult conversations and choices they'll encounter in the coming year because of the vote.

“The devastating effects of consolidation are long lasting, it leaves emotional scars,” sad TPS board member Jennettie Marshall.

While the board stressed the importance of quality education going forward, some parents just don't think with the district’s model that it's possible for the west side community.

“And why is the school continuing to operate under one of the most expensive models when the money simply is not there,” one parent asked.

The school board president said she promises the west side buildings will be ready for kids this coming fall and the empty buildings will be well maintained.

We'll have more on what the changes will look like in the coming weeks.