School Put On Suspension

Tuesday, March 25th 2008, 11:20 pm
By: News On 6

The school charged with serving suspended students finds itself on suspension.  TPS won't send any new students to the Tulsa Academic Center or TAC, except in extreme circumstances.  The News On 6's Ashli Sims reports the district doesn't even have an accurate count of how many students are attending the school.

Dr. Michael Zolkoski told the school board Monday night that 203 students were in the TAC program.  District officials reported Tuesday that more than 400 students are enrolled.  That means TPS can't account for more than 200 students.

Parents and students say the Tulsa Academic Center is out of control.

"There's no real PE class. There's no real any physical activity. It's just.  It's horrible. It takes about an hour just to get the kids to eat," said student Lauren Doyle.

"Even the administrators at the school over there do not believe in what they're doing," added parent Kenna Hawkins.

The Tulsa Academic Center was the centerpiece in Superintendent Dr. Michael Zolkoski's bid to overhaul alternative education at TPS.  The two-tiered program was supposed to give students on 30-day suspensions a second chance.  And, students on long-term suspension a dose of discipline in a boot camp environment.

Dr. Zolkoski is now scaling back the program, amid allegations of constant fighting and overcrowding.

"No further assignments will occur without the approval of the superintendent or my designee which will be Dr. Guinn," said Dr. Zolkoski.

No more students will be transferred, but it's not clear if the district has an accurate count of just how many TAC students there are.  Dr. Zolkoski told the school board Monday night he counted 200 students in the program.       District officials tell The News On 6 about 430 students are actually enrolled.

Why the big difference?  TPS says some may have returned to their home schools, some could be in the process of being sent to TAC, and might never have shown up at all.

Then there's the question of who is being sent to TAC?

TPS reports of the 185 middle schoolers who were transferred to the boot camp, one in four were there for non-violent offenses like drug and alcohol possession.

"Everything carries the same weight:  the kid that brings the knife to school, the kid that brings a gun to school, the kid that drank a beer before a football game. Yes, they're all wrong. But, there are differing degrees," said parent Kenna Hawkins.

Dr. Zolkoski wants to hire an attendance clerk and a registrar to keep better track of TAC students.


Another concern parents have is the mixing of middle and high school students.  Students as young as 12 are in the same environments as seniors, some of them sent there for gang violence and bringing weapons to school.