Tulsa Public Schools' Superintendent Responds To Concerns About Accreditation

Gist’s news conference comes less than a week after Walters held one of his own, outside the TPS headquarters, criticizing Gist for reprimanding a school board member who prayed at a graduation.

Thursday, July 27th 2023, 6:42 am



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Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist and State Superintendent Ryan Walters are at odds again.

This time, it’s because the State Department of Education brought up concerns over the district’s accreditation.

Walters said the concerns are over violations of religious freedom and an embezzlement investigation.

Gist said all of the drama surrounding TPS’s accreditation has only done one thing: distract kids and parents from getting ready for the upcoming school year.

Gist’s news conference comes less than a week after Walters held one of his own, outside the TPS headquarters, criticizing Gist for reprimanding a school board member who prayed at a graduation.

"We've seen exactly what Superintendent Gist and Tulsa Public Schools' reaction to this was,” said Walters. “Is to attack a board member, send an email that fundamentally misunderstands religious liberty and religious freedom, and targeting a duly elected board member for saying a prayer. It's outrageous."

Gist believes instead of the state board focusing on the district’s accreditation, it should improve the state’s test scores which are some of the lowest in the country.

"I feel worried, as well, about our state,” said Gist. “Because the focus we need to have, and especially from leadership, ought to be on, how are we going to support, how are we going to improve, how are we going to look at the whole state?"

Gist said she was notified earlier this month about a second deficiency against the district, involving the embezzlement of $500,000 from the district and its nonprofit.

“We are going to move fast on this, in the next board meeting that we have next month. We are going to be looking at Tulsa Public Schools accreditation, for all their violations, fiscal mismanagement, in this district,” said Walters.

Gist said that was an isolated incident that has already been taken care of by the district.

She believes the issue is much larger than TPS’s accreditation.

"What we're also seeing is a process that is being politicized, with a very specific political agenda,” said Gist. “And this kind of single-minded agenda and this focus on these inflammatory threats are really the opposite of what I know Tulsa families want."

The meeting to discuss the district’s accreditation will happen on August 24, a week after students go back to school.

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