This article originally appeared in Tulsa World. View that version here.
At her first regular school board meeting as Tulsa Public Schools superintendent, Deborah Gist secured approval for a shift in philosophy about community schools and a high-dollar consulting contract to examine how more funding and human resources could be directed to classroom instruction.
The board also approved two new hires for the superintendent’s office.
Monday night’s adoption of the Tulsa Public Schools Student and Family Supports Strategic Plan marks a significant shift from the school district’s approach to the “community schools” model. Previously, about 20 of the district’s 80-plus school sites were identified as “community schools,” which have student and family support services. Under the new plan, the concept will be expanded districtwide over the next five years.
Board member Gary Percefull said although he and many of his constituents previously had a lot of questions about the change, he is confident in the new approach.
“I’m proud of the district for taking this on in a universal scenario. We are saying there aren’t just a few schools we are going to consecrate as community schools; we’re going to make all of our schools community schools.
“I think as we move forward how we customize this philosophy to our kids and our schools is up to us. So I fully support this, and I urge the people who are anxious about it to come along with us on this journey.”
Board President Lana Turner-Addison said she, too, supports the shift, which will take effect with the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year.
“I look forward to that day when all schools are recognized as community schools,” Turner-Addison said.
In a separate vote, the board approved the creation of an administrative position to support the new centralized approach to providing student and family supports.
The position, executive director of student and family supports, will report to the deputy superintendent. The salary range was set between $99,100 and $148,700, depending on qualifications and experience.
The school board also approved a $694,000 consulting contract with an outside firm called Education Resource Strategies to identify possible ways to redirect more funding and human resources to classroom support and instruction.
Education Resource Strategies, or ERS, is a suburban Boston-based nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming how urban school systems organize people, time, technology and money that has already helped 16 of the nation’s 100 largest urban school districts.
Trish Williams, chief financial officer, has said the idea came from local donors who have supported other Tulsa Public Schools initiatives.
They have offered to pick up half of the cost.
Gist’s newly hired chief of staff is Paula Shannon, who worked for the last year as chief academic officer at Syracuse City School District in New York. Shannon worked previously for many years as an educator and then administrator in Providence Public Schools in Rhode Island, where Gist was state education commissioner. The chief of staff’s salary will be $165,000.
And in the newly created position of special assistant to the superintendent, the board approved the hiring of Amanda Morrall, whose Linkedin resume shows she worked most recently as family engagement project manager at Tulsa Educare.
The pay for that position is an hourly rate of $18.19, which works out to a base pay of $37,835 annually.
In other business, the school board renewed a $500,000 contract with the Boston-based City Year organization to provide 50 full-time staffers to provide intervention services for at-risk students at six school sites.
The board also increased the district’s number of new teacher recruits from Teach for America from 75 to 90 at an increased cost of $52,000 to help address a shortage in teaching applicants.