‘BARRELING TOWARD DRASTIC ACTION BEING TAKEN’: WALTERS RELEASES STATEMENT TO TULSA PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Ch. 6 - December 17, 2023 1:49 pm

Doctor Ebony Johnson was approved by the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education to be the permanent superintendent for the district on Monday.

Doctor Ebony Johnson was approved by the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education to be the permanent superintendent for the district on Monday.

“I’m looking forward to re-writing the narrative right now that Tulsa Public Schools has associated. And I look forward to making sure the great things happening in our schools, that those things are known on a more consistent basis. And in addition, acknowledging the challenges that we have before us and ways we are tackling those challenges,” Dr. Johnson said.

State Superintendent Ryan Walters released the following statement on Tuesday regarding Tulsa Public Schools:

“Despite months of assurances from TPS that it would take seriously the profoundly troubling issues in the district, the TPS board showed the exact opposite last night,” said Walters. “While I welcome a close partnership with Dr. Johnson moving forward, TPS is barreling toward drastic action being taken because the district has been unable to make the tough decisions necessary to turn the district around. The State Board of Education and I expect TPS to make decisions that prioritize student outcomes and not simply be a continued rubber stamp for the unions.”

Walters said TPS has been given the following goals:

  1. At least 50% of TPS students must score basic or above on the 2024 OSTP ELA assessment or increase the amount of students who score basic or above by 5%.
  2. All teachers and school administrators will be trained in an OSDE-approved Science of Reading model
  3. 12 of the 18 current MRI-designated sites will not be redesignated

“The financial issues that have plagued the district demand immediate attention. Excessive spending on external vendors has led to a lack of fiscal controls and questionable purchasing quality. The Board has expressed these concerns to TPS for months, yet substantive efforts to address the district’s finances remain lacking. A clear strategy is essential and student outcomes must be prioritized in the budget.”

Related Story: Tulsa School Board Approves Dr. Ebony Johnson As Superintendent; Walters Responds

Dr. Johnson joined News On 6 Tuesday morning to share more about her appointment as superintendent and what comes next.

What was your experience as interim? What will change moving forward?

“I’ve continuously stated that we are truly the constant. All the things that are happening around us are the variables. And so then therefore, you know, we continue to move forward. And I say ‘we’ because it’s all of us; it’s our staff, our teachers, our leaders, our counselors, you know, our community, our families. And so it’s been quite a bit, but we’re up for it. We’re excited about the direction in which we’re going. And so in that vein, I will say it’s going good. I’m looking forward to the future. I’m very, very appreciative and honored to be named as the permanent superintendent. I know that it was a decision that the board made. And so I’m grateful for our elected officials. And I’m grateful for the communities that support them. Lots of folks came out last night. So I’m super appreciative of that. And so as it relates to future, I see great things. I believe that with time, space and opportunity, we’ll be the exemplar. And so I’m looking forward to working out that blueprint, along with our teams,” Dr. Johnson said.

You sent a letter in response to State Supt. Walters suggestion for a nationwide search for a new TPS superintendent. Why did you feel that letter was important?

“I think it was important because whenever the information that he sent went live, or it became formal, and the community was aware of it, I wanted to make sure that there was clarity that was brought. And, you know, just to explain that it’s not at all that anyone would be against ensuring that we have a variety of candidates that’s looked at and that we pick the best person and the best leader for Tulsa, because Tulsa deserves the best leader. It’s more so, ‘how do you define the best leader?’ And you know, I’m born, bred, and raised here. I have attended schools here. I have credentials. I have a large experience, and I have a heart to be in Tulsa. In addition to that, we’re in a very difficult time in education. I anticipate as of January, I’ll have about five chief level vacancies. And so I’ll have to be able to stand up an executive team that can carry out this work, so that we can actually meet our outcomes,” Dr. Johnson explained.

How do you as the new superintendent mend bridges, mend relationships, and be transparent?

“I have so much respect for our board. Our elected officials, they show up. They are very dedicated to the work of our young people. And so I’m going to continue what I’ve started, which is to really cultivate board relations. It’s critically important that they know that they can communicate with me, that I’m going to reach out to them on a regular basis, giving them updates, reminding them of the things that are happening in their schools, reminding them of our challenges, making sure I take them on what’s called ‘boardwalks,’ where we walk into buildings together. We see the information. We talk to leaders. We better understand our goals. We know what we’re doing with the pathways to opportunity, which is our strategic plan. And just to continue to work in that vein and just making sure that they know that they’ve elected me. They’ve selected me and I’m here to do the work. I want to collaborate. I want to work through all of the things that we need to work through, so that our young people can be be successful, so that we can remain in local control, so that we can continue to go towards the goals that we’ve set for our students,” Dr. Johnson said.

Dr. Johnson’s clarification on her letter to Ryan Walters:

“In the letter, I just want to make sure it’s highlighted that I have every intention of continuing to collaborate with our state. We need our State Department of Education. It’s our State Department and Tulsa Public Schools working together and collaboratively that’s going to get us to where we need to go. And so I continue to welcome that collaboration. We’re going to continue to foster that collaboration with our state superintendent and our board,” Dr. Johnson added.

 

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