Zolkoski Committed To Troubled School

Tuesday, April 15th 2008, 10:29 pm
By: News On 6

After weeks on hold, a troubled alternative school might soon start taking new students.  Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Zolkoski brought the Tulsa Academic Center to the district.  And, The News On 6's Ashli Sims reports, despite its problems, he says he stands behind it.

There have been no new students transferred to the Tulsa Academic Center or TAC for three weeks.  That's when reports of overcrowding and constant fighting at the school first surfaced.  Now, TPS's top leader says it may be time to start sending kids back to TAC.

At the end of the day, the stream of students leaving the Tulsa Academic Center is now down to a trickle.  Once home to more than 200 suspended students, it now sees only about 80.

"I was over there the other day and I felt, if you've been over there lately, it was calm and organized," said Dr. Michael Zolkoski.

Dr. Zolkoski says order has been restored.

That comes three weeks after parents and students painted a picture of a school that had spiraled into chaos.

"I've seen everything from kids being jumped into gangs to kids popping locks.  I've seen teachers assaulted," said Lauren Doyle.

Dr. Zolkoski says he knew of overcrowding concerns and he'd added staff in the fall.  But, he says he didn't learn of the problems with violence until March.

March 24th, he put a hold on any new transfers to the school and started phasing out the short term 45-day program.

But, the district still seems to be having trouble keeping track of TAC students.  On Monday, there were 150 more students enrolled than showed up.

"So what we're doing currently is trying to reduce that disparity that you're talking about, because it concerns me. I don't want any students on the street. I want them in some type of school or in some type of educational environment," said Dr. Michael Zolkoski.

He says TAC has graduated more than 160 students, who are back in their original schools and doing well.  He says that's reason enough to keep the program going.

"I can only base my experiences on what I know works with children. I've been in the business 38 years and some children just need discipline," said Dr. Michael Zolkoski.

Dr. Zolkoski says more changes for TAC will be announced this summer.  And, he says his other alternative program; the Tulsa Learning Academy is seeing great success, with about 100 graduates.