Tulsa Teachers, Students Meet Next Superintendent

Wednesday, February 4th 2015, 7:14 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Tulsa teachers and students got their first chance to meet the district's next superintendent, Dr. Deborah Gist.

She visited two schools Wednesday and plans to tour more Thursday.

While she's not on the job yet, it looked like she was, as she visited schools and spoke with teachers and students.

Her job change would give her a more direct role in education on the district level, and she started out Wednesday with those who will be most affected by her leadership.

Gist started with visits to two Tulsa elementary schools, the first in east Tulsa where overcrowding and reading ability are the key issues at Disney Elementary.

2/4/2015 Related Story: New Superintendent Visits Tulsa Public Schools

She did a lot more listening than talking on her school visits and spent most of the time in the classroom with students.

Gist said while she's talked extensively with the school board and a few local leaders, she's eager to reach out to students, parents and teachers.

"I hope that people will give me an opportunity, not just to listen and hear, but to watch, because it's only through my actions that people can realize who I am, what I'm about, what my values are and how I intend to lead," she said.

Gist will become Superintendent July 1, but there's certain to be some transition time before them where she and outgoing Superintendent Keith Ballard are both at work.

Gist said she's just beginning to look at the numbers on student performance in Tulsa, and isn't ready to offer solutions.

"I have some questions about student achievement, when I've seen some dips in performance and I need to understand that better before I draw any conclusions," she said.

The future superintendent said she chose to visit a school that's making notable progress, Burroughs Elementary, where scores are improving.

Gist gave credit to the students working hard, with the guidance of the staff.

"I'm excited to finally to be here. They've made tremendous progress. They have a great team and great leadership and it's good to see it in action and it's been great getting to visit with teachers and students," she said.

Gist said she's going to review a perceived overload of testing in Tulsa because so many people have concerns about it; she said she's just started a similar review in Rhode Island.

Thursday at 12:30 p.m., Gist will visit the school she graduated high school, Memorial High School.