By Eagle Staff
Sometimes, what looks to be a routine, even a yawning event is vastly more important than it seems. Next week’s Tulsa School Board contest is firmly in this category – this Tuesday, Feb 12 election merits much more attention than it’s getting.
Last year, Ben Jealous, the former NAACP chief, opined that that fighting for superior educations for kids of color, actually all children of modest means is core to the next civil rights revolution in America.
And a passel of folks, have told this writer, that it’s time for Tulsa Public School administrators to share the reins more fully with a wider public: past time, they said, to re-spark the spirit that animated Tulsa’s early experiments with magnets schools and the miracle that is now BTW; way past time for T-Towner’s who believe that the future of Tulsa public schools will be crafted by imagination, profound inclusiveness and extraordinary hard work.
Can Tulsa voters somehow spawn higher salaries for our under-compensated teachers and our overburdened school staffers- in a state that doesn’t seem to want to do so?
Can a school board actually pull its weigh when staff and the “Super”, have all the levers and paid talent – it’s a bound to be a weird play, someone told me, when unpaid board members are supposed to oversee a nearly half billion dollar venture – one charged -incredibly with the futures, the living destinies of tens of thousands of children at that?
Is the time for magnet schools over- or in need of radical redefinition? Where do charter schools fit in the Tulsa school ecology? Is the charter “adventure” in need of tighter scrutiny given the continuing tumult at Langston Hughes Academy- a project overseen by Langston University, not Tulsa Public Schools, but one that nonetheless is emblematic of the raft of challenges that characterize the entire charter “movement”- here and nationally?
Can T-Town school patrons re-empower parents and school principals – especially in Tulsa North’s still struggling elementary sites?
How can we effectively help Tulsa teachers- most of whom come from small town and rural places- craft the tight, nearly magical chemistry needed to energize their largely black and Hispanic student charges?
Can Tulsa schools forge superior performances in a state saddled with an anti-public education legislature and a new, wholly inexperienced governor?
Tulsa is blessed with lots of philanthropic dollars for public education- these funds have been employed mightily to elevate early childhood development in Green Country and in a raft of other projects; are there more robust ways of exploiting these private dollars while achieving traditional public accountability and transparency goals in school projects where they are big factors?
Is securing dramatically better support worker performance in Tulsa schools – via real wage improvements, better benefits and honest listening practices- an ignored dynamic? Is turbo-charging support staff a lean, but underappreciated strategy -one that could fuel better student outcomes- and one Tulsa schools should explore?
Next Tuesday, February 12 – is your prime opportunity to vote in one of the most competitive school board contests in recent memory- a chance to elect a person or two who might actively attend to these issues.
And for folks who reside in school board District 1, which covers a big part of the area serve by The Oklahoma Eagle, it’s a grand opportunity to provide more robust oversight to Superintendent Deborah Gist and the entire array of administrators, principals and teachers who run the system.
Come To A Discussion & Candidate Talk
People interested in Tulsa school futures can come to a school board candidate forum jointly organized by The Oklahoma Eagle and the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame on Sunday, February 10 at 2 o’clock at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame-at 5 South Boston Avenue in downtown Tulsa.
Currently seven people are actively running for the District 1 seat long held by Gary Perceful, a Tulsa media, political consulting and Democratic Party activist. Perceful, a committed if sometimes controversy board member, is not seeking another term. The replacement line-up includes Brenda Barre, Scott Carter, Stacey Woolley, Kyle R. Wagner, DeAnna Cooper, Niki Grauberger and Nicole Nixon.
Dr. Bruce Niemi, a local educational pro, former school teacher and Tulsa anti-poverty champion told the Eagle that Brenda Barre, a long time Tulsa educator, northside realtor and veteran school activist and Scott Carter, a TU economist, new ideas guru and stout workers rights advocate are arguably the most compelling candidates. Niemi is a former Oklahoma State Rep. and a veteran observer of Tulsa school politics and issues.
Also, District 2 incumbent Jania M. Wester will face Gary Copper in this Feb. 12 election.
The TPS board named Wester in September to fill the seat vacated by broad member Amy Shelton. The District 2 winner will serve the remaining two years of Shelton’s term.