Tulsa Talks

Thursday, January 20th 2005, 9:43 am
By: News On 6

Educators across Tulsa County are joining a massive effort to get Tulsa talking about education. They're looking for 10,000 volunteers from all over the county to come up with some ideas to make education better.

News on 6 reporter Ashli Sims says Tulsa Talks is unprecedented in its size and scope. And the nation is watching. If you have an opinion about how area schools are run, Tulsa Talks wants you. "We ask our fellow citizens to get involved." Carol McGowen with Tulsa Talks says the project is basically a conversation about education. It's based on a national model called study circles.

The idea is folks from every corner of the city will meet in groups of ten to twelve led by an impartial facillitator. Over a series of five weeks they are supposed to talk about issues in education and develop a plan for action.

McGowen: "we hope this will be a process that unites the community that lets everyone feel that they have a voice that they are being listened to and that their voice matters." Study Circles have been organized in more than 300 communities across the country, but never in a city the size of Tulsa.

Advocates say all the talk can lead to change. In Winston-Salem, North Carolina study circles inspired a community-sponsored scholarship program that pays for continuing education for teachers. In Kansas City, Kansas study circles came up with the idea of a tutoring program to help Spanish-speaking children get ready for kindergarten. Study Circle participants in Inglewood, California wanted better facilities, so they campaigned for a bond issue that passed with 88% approval. And in Maryland, study circles led to a $250,000 pilot program to beef up staffing.

The goal to close the achievement gap between black and white students. And it seems like Tulsa Talks is already getting people talking. Community activist Julius Pegues: "I think Tulsa Talks is a step in the right direction, if we get full participation from citizens all over the city of Tulsa.”

Mary Hull, Tulsa Union Parent: "I'm interested in seeing the community work together. The Tulsa community and I am very excited I think it could be a really positive thing for Tulsa.”

So far, Tulsa Talks has a lot of folks behind it from OSU-Tulsa to TCC to OU Tulsa, as well as both Union and Tulsa Public Schools. The religious community is also giving the project a boost, with representatives from Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths.
Mayor Bill LaFortune calls this a historic day for Tulsa and he's also lending his support.

If you would like to get involved, please call the new Tulsa Talks office at 594-8189.