Time to change TPS

I have received numerous calls from constituents and the media regarding tragic events at McClain High School, which resulted in the killing of a TPS student.

I intended to make this statement at the next board meeting, but since other board members and I are silenced when we try to speak, I feel it is my obligation as an elected board member to make a public statement.

For two years, I have suggested to current and past board members the nature and purpose of Board Members’ Duties, Obligations, and Responsibilities.  In addition, I have warned Board Members of our fiduciary responsibilities and that we can be held accountable for what we do or fail to do.  In other words, actions or non-action put our business, home, and bank accounts at risk.  Today, I am requesting that the Bord Leadership implement the following – IMMEDIATELY.

1.     When a board member request that an item be placed on the agenda for discussion, that request be granted immediately.

2.     We return to our previous practice of having an action and consent agenda.  We waste too much time asking hypothetical questions about student outcomes and discussing a strategic plan that is NOT strategic – this provides further evidence that our Board Leadership knows nothing about Board Governance. 

Board Members did their job setting’ student achievement’ goals – now let the Superintendent do her job meeting those goals.  All the Superintendent needs to do is provide a  report for each meeting with a 5-minute discussion.  With our minuscule goals, it will take 40 years (if ever) to have acceptable student learning rates.

As a Board, by not having an action and consent agenda – we fail in doing our job of managing the entire ‘Tulsa Public School system.  We fail parents, students, and teachers by not accepting our legal obligations.

One such duty is providing for the safety and security of our students.  I know that myself, Board Member Ashley, and other Board Members have requested that a ‘Security and Safety’ discussion be placed on the agenda for board discussion.  Following the school massacre in Uvalde, Texas, these requests were made again.  In fact, one member requested that the Chief of TPS security appear before the board.

Yet, the Board Leadership ignored the requests of duly elected Board members.  It is the leadership practice to ignore board member requests (without comment) and only put on the agenda ‘what they want.  Their action takes away not only the Board members’ rights – but also the rights of their constituents to be represented by their elected school board member.

The question then becomes: “Would a thorough ‘Security and Safety discussion prevented the killing of a TPS student and the wounding of others?

Questions a court might ask: If this Superintendent and each board member were charged in a wrongful death suit is:

“Was the killing of a student at a TPS foreseeable.” “What action did Board Members take to protect students.” and “Who might be civilly negligent?”

A Grand Jury might ask,

“Was anyone criminally negligent in failing to take action that a reasonable person would assume that was similarly situated?”

Those questions are for the District Attorney, a Grand Jury, and the Courts to answer.  However, unless one ignores the realities of managing a school district or does not realize that being an elected Board Member is a   serious job with consequences, the answer is “some type of shooting and killing was foreseeable.”

Deborah Gist, Tulsa Superintendent

I have asked myself:  Am I partially culpable because I failed to push the issue?  Do I share in the responsibility for the death of a TPS student?  Will I be charged with civil or criminal negligence?  How do I tell the family I grieve with them for the loss of their child?

Now in the tragedy of the moment, the Superintendent and each board member must examine their soul –   Do they feel more than sadness at killing one of our students?

As a board, we must ask, How many more students must die before we do our job of managing all of Tulsa Public School and hold this Superintendent responsible for performing all her duties?

Respectfully – with a servant’s heart,

Dr. Jerry Griffin, Ed.D., E,JD., Member, Tulsa Board of Education – District 6

Dr. Jerry Griffin

Est Modus in Rebus “Children are not vases to be filled rather flames to be lit!”(African Proverb)  Igniting the passions that lie within learners involves teachers (and parents) understanding and knowing the relevance of imagination to learning stemming from an understanding of human development. The ability of teachers (and parents) to ask the questions that spark critical thinking in their students (or children) or to build on what students bring is an art form.

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