Mayor, Board President React To Tulsa Public Schools' Consolidation Proposals

Tuesday, March 29th 2011, 12:20 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Reactions are coming in to the release Tuesday morning of Tulsa Public Schools' proposals to consolidate the school district.  

The district released three scenarios to the public that will shake up the district, eliminate schools and save millions of dollars.

Under the three proposals, elementary schools will be hit the hardest with ten to fifteen of them slated to close. The Tulsa Public School district also could shutter up to four middle schools.

3/28/2011 Related Story: Tulsa Public Schools Could Close Up To 17 Schools

Tulsa School Board president Brian Hunt issued a statement saying the board will be looking at the proposals with the best interest of the students in mind.

"I would like to thank the Project Schoolhouse Advisory Committee, the Blue Sky Group, Dr. Ballard and the TPS staff for all of their hard work over the past several months.  The data and facts are out there for everyone to review. No one should be surprised that when we started this process last Fall that the recommendation would be made to close some schools.  While the concept makes sense at the macro level, at the micro level it is very emotional.  We have to work through these emotions and make decisions that are in the best interest of students. 

The Tulsa Public Schools Strategic Plan approved by the Board has a focus on students and it is time we do just that.   We all understand we face a challenge.  We have asked Dr. Ballard and his staff to develop a pragmatic solution and we look forward to public input and honest feedback about the three proposals and a final recommendation for consideration. 

Most importantly schools that will be closed should not be labeled as either failures or as victims.  Buildings are closing, not programs or staffs or student bodies. This is about recognizing that Tulsa Public Schools is no longer in the post World War II baby boom.  We have to make business decisions that align our resources to where our customers are and embrace Education Secretary Duncan's "sense of urgency" to improve public education.  It is my sincere hope that the best way to view this challenge is not which schools will close, but what will TPS offer at all our schools next Fall so that we can fulfill our mission to provide a quality learning experience for every student, every day, without exception."

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett also issued a statement saying the district needs to do what is best for the students in the district.

"My friend Keith Ballard and his team at the Education Service Center and of course the Tulsa Public School board of directors are doing the work that my staff and I had to do just over a year ago. They find themselves with serious budgetary deficiencies and a shrinking student base very similar to our finding the city in serious financial trouble when I took office.

I want to offer Superintendent Ballard my support for his courage, his attention and focus on the details that are so vital to making the right decisions for the future of Tulsa's students.

I have stayed in close contact during his team's process and Keith has kept me up-to-speed on the data that supports the thinking about the changes that are coming.

Sometimes our greatest thinking comes in times when we have no choice but to act. I am hopeful that today will mark a return to greatness for TPS as they offer up these three plans for public consideration. By becoming more efficient, they have the opportunity to create an educational experience that is worthy of the 21st century. We need to do our best for Tulsa's children.

As with the city, the determining factors leading to these changes are too many and too vast to discuss here. I believe that the decisions the district is making now are the right decisions. As we learn more and more about them, I urge all of us to keep an open mind and listen for the opportunities."