Students Discuss TPS Accreditation Status At University Of Tulsa Town Hall

Students from Tulsa Public Schools are concerned about their education this year due to the uncertainty of the district's accreditation status.

Saturday, August 19th 2023, 9:48 pm

By: News On 6, Jayden Brannon


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Students from Tulsa Public Schools are concerned about their education this year due to the uncertainty of the district's accreditation status.

It was packed on Saturday as students, teachers, and other Tulsa community members gathered at the University of Tulsa to voice their concerns about the future of Tulsa Public Schools.

"We wanted to give students an opportunity to share how this impacts them and have their voice heard in this discussion as well," said Lance Brightmire.

Brightmire is a recent graduate of Booker T. Washington and helped organize this event. He said conversations like this one shouldn't just be left to the adults.

"Oftentimes the debates that are being had are being had among adults, who, while important to them, aren't the ultimate stakeholders of these decisions, which is the students," said Brightmire.

Several students took to the podium to share the ways TPS has had an impact on their lives, both in and out of the classroom.

"In the four years that I have been at TPS, I have been a part of over 23 clubs, four non-profits, and have learned life-long skills such as how to run an event, build a fundraiser and lead a team," said Rachel Hamby, a student at Booker T. Washington High School.

Others said the school district is a reflection of the city and that is why it needs to be cared for.

"As a city, we are only as strong as our public school education. Our goal should be to build it up, not tear it down," said Ananya Sundaram, also a Booker T. Washington student.

Nobody knows what the outcome will be for the district, but what students do know is that they won't stop fighting for their schools.

"What I do know is that TPS is full of an incredible amount of teaching, and faculty and other staff that will take whatever comes their way and try to make the best of it," Brightmire said.

Members of the Oklahoma State Board of Education were invited to the event, but did not attend. The board will meet on Aug. 24th to vote on the district's accreditation status. Another Protect TPS rally is happening on Aug. 21st at the TPS Education Service Center at 5:30 pm.

WATCH: Ryan Walters Press Conference About Tulsa Public Schools

What Did Ryan Walters Say About Tulsa Public Schools?

State Superintendent Ryan Walters laid down a list of guidelines and benchmarks for the Tulsa Public Schools this upcoming year and called for new leadership while a vote on the district's accreditation status looms. Walters, under his TPS Improvement Plan, said he wants to see the district re-orient finances to serve students, increase reading proficiency scores to the state average, and get TPS schools off the F-List.

This comes after a slew of meetings over the past several weeks with the State Board of Education regarding that district's accreditation status. The State School Board plans to vote on the accreditation issue one week after school starts. The district's accreditation is currently in the warning status. 

The TPS district was found to have been in violation of House Bill 1775 last year, which regulates how sex and gender are taught in classrooms. 

Have other school districts been impacted by accreditation in Oklahoma?

News On 6 Political Analyst Scott Mitchell said he hasn’t seen anything like this before.

He said in the past, issues between the schools and the state were mostly financial, but this one appears to be more personal.

Related Story: Political Analyst Breaks Down Tulsa Public Schools' Accreditation Battle

The state's Executive Director of Accreditation, Ryan Pieper, outlined some of the most aggressive actions the state has taken against schools in recent history when it comes to accreditation, saying students are in a better place today because of it. 

The former charter school SeeWorth Academy lost its accreditation for the 2019-2020 school year, after the state said it wasn't complying with federal programs, and it impacted graduation credits.

Another situation involved the Western Heights School District in OKC, which was accredited with probation in for the 2021-2022 school year, after the state said the district had issues with financial audits, its nutrition program, and the district disabled the fire suppression system. It's the only district "takeover" Ryan Pieper can recall in state history. 

Related: State Accreditation Director Outlines Past Sanctions Against Troubled School Districts

Is the City of Tulsa or Mayor Bynum involved in TPS' Accreditation?

In a letter to the State Board of Education on Friday, Mayor GT Bynum asked members to accredit Tulsa Public Schools and said the City of Tulsa does not seek, want or need a state-mandated takeover.

Mayor Bynum made the two-page letter available on social media Friday afternoon.

Related Story: Mayor G.T. Bynum Calls For State Board Of Education To Accredit Tulsa Public Schools

This morning I hosted a meeting between Tulsa Public Schools Board President Stacey Woolley, Vice President John Croisant, State Superintendent of Education Ryan Walters, and Oklahoma State School Board Member Don Burdick. I appreciate the time and candor each participant brought to the discussion, and believe there is a sincere desire to work together to deliver a great education for students in Tulsa Public Schools.
Following that meeting, I sent this letter to members of the State Board of Education in advance of their meeting next Thursday.

You can visit these links for more information about the State Department of Education and Tulsa Public Schools:

State Dept of Education website

Lookup of Schools/Districts and their information provided by OSDE

Tulsa Public Schools website

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