Tulsa Public Schools kicked off a strategy session Monday with what some teachers said is a novel approach – listening to the teachers about how the district can improve.
Several teachers said they felt disconnected from the administration before, and though they don't know if their suggestions will show results, they do feel like, finally, someone is listening.
It was not an extraordinary gathering - 150 teachers in a room with Superintendent Deborah Gist - but it was a change to have teachers giving direct feedback to the superintendent, with her promise to act on it.
“We want to hear from teachers about what's on their minds. Our responsibility is to make sure our teachers have what they need to be successful with their students,” Gist said.
She invited teachers to give input, and so many signed up they had to schedule a second group later.
Gist started by inviting teachers to make a list of wishes on sticky notes and share them with the group, and the teachers - like Rebecca Murdock and Kris Lovely - weren’t shy.
"I'm just concerned as a special ed. teacher about having supplies to get my job done - paper, working computers and printers - things like that," she said.
Lovely said, "There's an awful lot of people at the service center shuffling paper and teachers doing a lot of work in the buildings."
Between the wishes on blue notes - and later the complaints that came in on yellow notes - the school district has plenty to work on from the first day of input.
Many, like Patti Ferguson with the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association, said they are encouraged by how Gist is starting off the work of a new five-year strategy to improve TPS.
"I think that's one of the things that impressed me most about her, is that she listens and then remembers what you talked about before, so I'm excited," Ferguson said.
Rob Lee has worked for the district 16 years and said this was the first time he really felt like someone was listening to him and would make changes based on his experience.
"That's why I'm very excited about this and what she's going to do," he said.
Gist is also inviting teachers to engage with her on Twitter and planning a virtual town hall there August 18.