A Timeline Of Tensions Between TPS And State Leaders

The strained relationship between Tulsa Public Schools and State leaders doesn't have a clear origin point, but tensions rose in 2021 when Governor Kevin Stitt criticized the district for its response to COVID-19 in his State of the State Address that February.

Wednesday, August 23rd 2023, 4:21 pm

By: Matt Rahn


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Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist said she's planning to step down from her position as the State Board of Education is set to vote on the district's accreditation.

In her letter, Gist said she's confident her departure will help keep the state from taking over.

Related Story: TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist Announces Plan To Resign

The strained relationship between Tulsa Public Schools and state leaders doesn't have a clear origin point, but tensions rose in 2021 when Governor Kevin Stitt criticized the district for its response to COVID-19 in his State of the State Address that February.

Related Story: Gov. Stitt Issues Statement On TPS Supt. Deborah Gist's Resignation

"It's now been 325 days since Tulsa students in 4th through 12th have been allowed to be in their classrooms," said Stitt.

Superintendent Gist took those statements as an attack on TPS, calling the Governor a bully on social media. A year later, issues continued when school board members asked Governor Stitt to audit the district "and the potential mishandling of public funds."

The Governor also said the district might have violated House Bill 1775, which prohibits schools from teaching Critical Race Theory.

Shortly after that, the state school board voted to lower TPS's accreditation to Accreditation with Warning, despite objections from Dr. Gist.

"When House Bill 1775 was signed into law, we reviewed our curriculum for compliance and determined with confidence that we are," said Gist.

Their accreditation was brought up again this July, during a rally held by State Superintendent Ryan Walters, defending a TPS school board member's right to pray at graduation.

Related Story: Ryan Walters On Dr. Gist's Resignation As TPS Superintendent

"What you see is a continued assault against religious beliefs in our public school system," said Walters.

At the end of that meeting, Walters suggested TPS's accreditation will be looked at again. Since that time, Walters has stepped up his calls for Gist to resign.

She eventually announced her resignation Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 22, just two days before the state makes its decision on the district's accreditation.

Gist said stepping down is the hardest thing she's ever done.

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