TULSA, Okla. (KFOR) – With just days to go before the first day of classes, accreditation for Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) still hangs in the balance.
Superintendent Ryan Walters met with media Monday afternoon to address what he calls a “rigorous needs for intervention” and a change of leadership for the largest school district in the state, going as far as to call Tulsa Superintendent Deborah Gist a “failure”.
“We want Tulsa Public Schools to have the best school system possible [but] what we’ve seen over the last five years is a terrible trajectory for this district,” said Walters Monday afternoon as he singled out what he cites are failing academic standards in Tulsa.
While school districts across the state continue to struggle with school performance,Walters has repeatedly called TPS’s accreditation into question, most recently due to financial mismanagement, per-pupil funding, reading proficiency and failing schools across the district, as reasons to downgrade academic standards in the largest district in the state.
TPS is comprised of nearly 34,000 students and 3,000 teachers.
“In the last seven years we’ve continued to see failed leadership from Superintendent Gist here in Tulsa,” said Walters.
“Tulsa Public Schools is a bus being driven by Superintendent Deborah Gist. That bus has veered off the road, that bus has gone into a ditch, and now that bus has crashed right into a tree,” he added.
The Oklahoma State Board of Education postponed a vote on accreditation until the August meeting, which is scheduled to occur after the first day of classes.
KFOR is working to independently fact check Walters’s claims as well as data provided by the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
As of now, TPS’s status remains “Accredited without Warning”.
TPS superintendent continues to say the district has corrected documented deficiencies.
“The facts are that are accreditation process concluded in May [and] when that process concluded, the recommendation from the office was for Tulsa public schools to have one deficincy. That was for one report that was one week late,” countered Gist during a regularly scheduled meeting of Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education Monday night.
“Unfortunately… accreditation has become something else, and something that has been used for political posturing,” she added.
KFOR contacted TPS Monday afternoon for a comment or statement directly related to Superintendent Ryan Walters’s comment but did not hear back.
However, in a previous statement addressing their accreditation, the district said they are “fully focused” on welcoming students and teachers back to class on August 17.