TULSA, Okla. (KFOR) — One day after Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced an audit of Tulsa Public Schools, the district’s superintendent has responded to the claims made against the school system.

In his request, the Governor accused Tulsa schools of violating state law on the teaching of critical race theory. Tulsa Superintendent Deborah Gist calls Stitt’s attacks “a strange obsession” and “political theater.”

“It’s a manufactured crisis,” said Gist, speaking to KFOR Friday. “What we’re focused on is what I believe that Oklahoma families want. They want their children to be loved and respected and taught well.”

In Governor Stitt’s audit request letter, sent to state auditor Cindy Byrd, he accused the school district of violating House Bill 1775 during a district training. Gist said the complaint came after routine training required by the state about race and ethnic education and had nothing to do with in-class education.

“There’s nothing in place that prevents us from teaching a full and complete history of our community, our state, our country, the world. There’s nothing that prevents us from doing that. And we are proceeding with doing that,” said Gist.

In a news conference Friday morning, two members of the Tulsa school board spoke about the accusations. E’Lena Ashley and Dr. Jennettie Marshall requested the Governor look into the school system, expressing their concerns of misused funds. That led to the special audit.

In the audit request, the Governor’s office also asked for a review of funds received through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief. That was funding the district received during the pandemic to minimize disruptions. However, Stitt’s office claimed the school district shut down for 300 days.

Also, the request asked to look at $20,000 to a vendor contract for “misused funds.” Superintendent Gist said when she became aware of the “isolated situation” with the funding she requested an internal investigation. Days later the TPS Chief Talent and Equity Officer, Devin Fletcher, resigned. When KFOR asked if the two were related, Gist would not comment on the matter saying it was a personnel issue.


“I acted upon it immediately,” said Gist. “Upon getting the results from a review, an independent review that I had done, immediately brought that to the proper authorities.”

Board members Ashley and Marshall said it was that investigation that left them feeling “in the dark” about that was going on, which led to their calls to the governor’s office.

Gist said she felt the entire situation was a campaign tactic and she will welcome any review or special audit of the district. “I’m confident in our policies and practices and the way in which we manage money.”