OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – During the Oklahoma State School Board of Education’s monthly meeting on Thursday, the accreditation status of many schools came into question, including Tulsa Public Schools.
The State School Board downgraded Tulsa Public Schools to accreditation with warning for allegedly violating the state’s anti-critical race theory law in 2022.
State Superintendent Ryan Walters is looking to review Tulsa’s accreditation status again.
“Tulsa Public Schools has been plagued with scandal. They are one of the worst performing schools in Oklahoma,” he said. “What we have seen is a district that has failed the students. They failed the parents and they failed the teachers there. We are looking at all possible actions with this district to ensure that all state laws, all rules are being upheld by that district in a way that benefits those kids. The performance of the school speaks for itself. We are going to take a serious look at the board, and I will take this very seriously because we are acting on behalf of those students to ensure that they have a great education so all options will be on the table.”
Several people involved with Tulsa Public Schools spoke out at the Board meeting on Thursday and begged for the State Superintendent to not downgrade their district’s status.
“I just can’t believe you won’t talk to us about this. This is not how you treat parents or their 33,000 kids,” said Ashley Daly as she cried.
“I ask that Tulsa’s accreditation remain untouched because the reality is we are all in this together. What you do or don’t do for Tulsa affects all Oklahomans,” added Sandra Valentine.
Supt. Walters said he intended on looking into the misuse of school funds and allegedly misleading reports of finances in Tulsa.
“We want to do a deep dive on some other issues we’ve had with their reporting to the State Department of Education, which has given us issues and being able to actually see with clarity how money is spent in the district. We also have the issues of some other things that we’ll be bringing up as well that our team has found. And again, this is one of the things that when you’re looking at a board that we take accreditation very seriously. We want to ensure that we have turned over every stone. We’ve done a deep dive into it. When you’re looking at this kind of money, when you’re looking at this kind of misreporting and it looks like there could be intentionality around it. That’s something we take very seriously,” explained Supt. Walters.
Currently, there are 376 school districts accredited without a deficiency. There are 143 school districts accredited with one deficiency and 65 accredited with several deficiencies.
Several schools received accreditation warnings on Thursday, including Little Axe High School in Norman.
Half a dozen schools were recommended for probation, including:
- Western Heights
- Kipp Tulsa
- Deborah Brown Charter
- Sanfoka Charter
Two private Oklahoma City schools, Sovereign Community School and Infinity Generations Preparatory School were recommended as losing their accreditation status.
A private school can still operate without accreditation, according to the State Board of Education Executive Director of Accreditation, Ryan Pieper.
In regards to Sovereign Community School, Pieper said it was “no longer an option.”
Under Oklahoma law, if one or more school sites fail to receive accreditation, the State Board of Education shall close the school and reassign the students to accredited schools within the district or shall annex the district to one or more other districts in which the students can be educated in accredited schools.
Infinity Generations Preparatory School’s accreditation status was tabled after the co-founder, Gina Darby made her case and asked the Board give her attorney a chance to appear and present evidence.
“They are still babies that look just like me that deserve a chance,” stated Darby.
The fate of Tulsa Public Schools has also been tabled at least until next month’s State Board of Education meeting on August 24.
“Tulsa public Schools intentionally did not talk to us about their programs that would have fall into that [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] category. That was the reason for the specificity around look, you’ve heard my concerns. We’ve seen diversity, equity and inclusion programs that have been used to bring indoctrination into schools, to bring critical race theory, things like that. And so what we want is to have an open look at what those programs are and taxpayer dollars being used for those programs, because we want an emphasis on academics, not indoctrination,” stated Supt. Walters.
The State Board of Education made clear until a decision is made regarding Tulsa’s accreditation status that funding would still roll through the district and schools would still open for this upcoming school year.
Several people who spoke during public comment also asked the Board to review Shawnee Public Schools’ and Key Elementary School’s accreditation.
Maria Seidler, an attorney with an organization called Legal Overwatch spoke during public comment in which she claimed there were over 300 complaints filed against Shawnee Public Schools.
However, the Shawnee Public Schools District Communications and Library Services Coordinator, Cherity Pennington told KFOR the accreditation office at the Oklahoma State Department of Education confirmed with their district that no recent complaints have been made with their office nor through the Awareity Reporting System.
“Our district has not received any recent complaints either,” stated Seidler.
The State School Board of Education said if complaints were filed against either school and their investigation into the school/school district came back credible, they would move to review the accreditation statuses of Shawnee Public Schools and Keys Elementary in the coming months.
Typically, accreditation renewals and downgrades are presented in July.