A Tulsa Public Schools board meeting on Monday slid into chaos when three board members voted against a number of routine agenda items like teacher contracts and paying utility bills, according to news reports.
Twelve agenda items didn’t receive enough votes to pass, leaving some district functions in limbo. Then, the three board members walked out, eliminating the quorum needed to continue the meeting.
Community members are concerned. In a letter made public Wednesday, more than a dozen former Tulsa Public Schools board members pleaded with the current board to set aside their differences and “get back on the road of the hard, but invaluable and rewarding work of serving students and not personal disputes or politics.”
They said they could not ever recall a meeting as chaotic as Monday’s. They described it as “public servants seated at a board table, members of a collective body who by its very nature must put politics aside to assure that Tulsa’s students succeed – shouting at one another and voting down items whose sole purpose is to serve our children – some of the city’s most beloved programs, a bond sale yielding hundreds of thousands of tax payer approved dollars needed to prepare for the new school year, teacher and employee contracts, all of it and more – shut down.”
The Tulsa district has been a frequent target of criticism by Gov. Kevin Stitt throughout the pandemic. Last week, he called for a special audit of Tulsa Public Schools after the district found about $20,000 in contract irregularities with a vendor. The district is cooperating with the district attorney’s office and its chief talent and equity officer has resigned.
Stitt’s audit request tacked on two unrelated issues: the federal COVID-19 relief dollars received by the district, and a complaint that the district violated the state’s ban on critical race theory at a staff training.
Some are calling it a political stunt at taxpayers’ expense.
Superintendent Deb Gist responded in Facebook post, accusing Stitt and his supporters of going after her personally, her family and the school district and saying he’s likely to “go down in history as the most corrupt governor in 47 years.” She said the two school board members who requested the audit are “acting in collaboration with Ryan Walters.”
Tulsa Public Schools has called a special meeting for 1 p.m. Thursday and the agenda includes the routine items that weren’t approved Monday. The meeting will be live streamed for anyone who’s interested.
- A clerical error is causing property taxes to rise 15% in the Cache Public Schools district. The district’s superintendent called the situation “unfathomable.” [NonDoc]
- Graduates of Oklahoma’s teacher preparation programs have declined 25% in the past decade. [KOSU]
The Latest from Oklahoma Watch
Paul Monies reports that $10 million of independent expenditures poured into Oklahoma’s primary election campaigns in June alone. Listen here.
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland visited Anadarko on Saturday, the first stop on a tour of listening sessions to document the painful history of Native American boarding schools. Read the story.
Help Us Make a Difference
During times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, Oklahoma needs high-quality investigative journalism. That is our mission at Oklahoma Watch. We produce stories that hold government and public officials accountable and that make transparent what some prefer to keep secret. We depend on financial support from readers like you to sustain our coverage. Help us make a difference.
Thank you to our principal organizational sponsors and funders
for their generous support.