Tulsa Superintendent Met With Cheers, Jeers At Consolidation Forum


Tuesday, April 19th 2011, 9:38 pm
By: News On 6


Emily Baucum, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Communities continue to speak out about the historic overhaul at Tulsa Public Schools.

Parents and teachers took their concerns straight to the superintendent.

Read all three Project Schoolhouse Proposals

Superintendent Keith Ballard is used to jeers lately, but he got some cheers at Thoreau Demonstration School when he promised he wouldn't relocate the school to Nimitz. Still, the crowd threw tough questions at the man in charge of change.

"This needed to be done for a long time. I personally wanted to give you a little love and thank you,"one parent said.

Strong support for a tough task: eliminating the district's 10,000 empty seats through consolidation, which means doing something no one wants to do: close neighborhood schools.

"These kids need a voice and I am their voice. I am their advocate. Someone needs to stand up for them," one woman said.

Superintendent Ballard threw his support behind replicating the Thoreau Demonstration model at other schools, drawing praise from the home team.

"Replicate it. This program is awesome," one man said.

But plenty of parents and teachers from other schools that might close say their school is awesome, too.

One staff member from Jones Elementary touted the students' test scores.

"We're the only school in our area that has made AYP and we made it with great progress this year," she said.

A Phillips Elementary teacher raised concerns about how much it will cost to bus students across town.

"They shouldn't have to walk across 31st Street or 41st Street, or walk all the way down 41st Street when they have a neighborhood school," she said.

The district's promising trade-ups at the schools that remains open through electives. But that's not good enough for some.

"Can you guarantee my kids will have the same opportunities that they have now at Phillips at whatever school you're putting them at," she said.

Dr. Ballard admitted many of the questions don't have answers but is glad the three Project Schoolhouse plans generated so much community interest.

"I felt like we needed to start with something other than a blank sheet of paper," he said.

They're doing the homework with these forums, knowing the school board faces a final exam May 2, 2011.

Many communities are bracing themselves for the end of Project Schoolhouse, but Superintendent Ballard says this process must happen annually to prevent the district from repeating its mistakes.

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