Business Leaders Back Tulsa Public Schools Consolidation Plan

Wednesday, April 27th 2011, 8:57 pm
By: News On 6

Ashli Sims, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- It's not just parents that are sounding off about Tulsa Public Schools historic overhaul. Some of Tulsa's key business leaders are supporting the district's efforts to downsize.

Read Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard's final recommendation

Some major Tulsa employers lent a little business sense to the consolidation conversation. They say it's not just about dollars and cents, but the next generation of workers.

Mike Neal, President and CEO of the Tulsa Metro Chamber, Jeff Dunn, President and CEO of Mill Creek Lumber, and Hans Helmerich, CEO and President of Helmerich and Payne, all have the same message.

"Nothing is really more important to economic development, nothing at all, then the quality of our public schools," Neal said.

From their boardrooms they see the need for change in Tulsa classrooms.

"I've read only six of our nine high schools currently offer Physics. What a shame," Dana Weber, Webco Vice Chairman, said.

News On 6 education reporter Ashli Sims checked the Project Schoolhouse data and the high schools' websites. It looks like only Hale doesn't offer Physics.

"Jobs requiring physics are expected to be the fastest growing over the next several decades. We're not serving our kids well if we do not offer these courses to all of them," Weber said.

"Our rigs have a lot more technology, automation. We cannot make the same hire today as we made 20 years ago, 30 years ago," Helmerich said.

Hans Helmerich says that means Tulsa Public Schools needs to produce a better brand of student.

"From my perspective as a businessman, we need Tulsa public schools to be excellent," he said.

While the business leaders sympathized with parents facing losing schools and board members facing a tough decision, they urged them to shrink to succeed.

"When you go through the consolidation the course offerings and the quality of product for the student will go up, it will be enhanced," Jeff Dunn said.

"I think the business community stands behind the proposal in that we're going to have our kids more prepared and ready, when they leave high school, when they leave Tulsa Public Schools," Andrea Murrell, with Williams, said.

Superintendent Dr Keith Ballard says he believes consolidation will address some of the business leaders concerns.

He says with fewer schools with bigger student bodies they will be able to add more course offerings and the early college program at Rogers' goal is to make more students career and college ready.

Related Stories:

4/26/2011 Community Praises, Criticizes Tulsa Public Schools Consolidation Proposal
4/26/2011 Tulsa Public School's Advisory Council Approves Final Schoolhouse Recommendation

4/25/2011 District Consolidation To Reshape Tulsa School Boundaries

4/22/2011 How Will District Consolidation Affect Tulsa Public Schools' Transfer Policy?

4/22/2011 14 Tulsa Public Schools To Close Under Superintendent's Final Proposal