Deborah A. Gist is the superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools and a proud graduate of Memorial High School. She holds a bachelor of science in early-childhood education from the University of Oklahoma, a master of arts in elementary education and curriculum from the University of South Florida, a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, and a doctoral degree in education leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.
Prior to returning home to lead Tulsa Public Schools, Deborah served as commissioner of education for the State of Rhode Island where student achievement reached historical highs, and graduation rates increased significantly.
Deborah started her career in education in 1988 as an elementary school teacher in Fort Worth, Texas. She moved from the classroom to education administration in 1996, designing and implementing a literacy program serving families in 108 elementary schools in the Hillsborough County School District in Tampa, Florida. Deborah continued her work to advance student achievement through access to education as a Senior Policy Analyst for the U.S. Department of Education and as the Washington, DC State Education Officer. In 2007, she became the first State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia; overseeing early childhood, elementary, secondary, adult, and higher education.
Deborah is a member of the 2008 cohort of Broad Superintendents Academy Fellows and a 2013 Pahara-Aspen Fellow through the Aspen Institute. In 2010, she was one of Time Magazine’s "100 Most Influential People in the World” and one of The Atlantic's Brave Thinkers, whom the magazine recognizes for “the year’s most intrepid and original thinking.”
Deborah is a founding board member of Chiefs for Change and serves on the boards of TPI-US, the Tulsa Area United Way, Junior Achievement of Oklahoma, and the Boy Scouts of America Indian Nations Council. She and her husband, Jock, along with their dogs Rosalita and Diamond, are enthusiastic T-Town residents and big fans of the OU Sooners.