Posted Friday, November 15, 2013
The last few weeks have been tough for TPS, as we have dealt with the A-F report cards the state handed down to us. No one in Tulsa Public Schools believes we have failing schools and that's largely because of you -- the tremendous teachers who make a difference in students' lives every day and the principals who lead those schools. It was our job at the ESC to inform the public about the inadequacies of the formula and point out the results that are flawed. Some of our most improved schools, particularly at the elementary level, actually went down in grades! I want to make it clear that in this argument we do not lose sight of those schools who have had excellent results. We are proud of those schools. As I said in the press conference, the problems with the flawed formula are primarily on not allowing for growth on the bottom end. All of that said, it's back to work. Don't dwell on your school's grade; keep doing your job teaching your students and communicating with parents. The executive staff and I are here to support the work that you do, and it's time we all move forward.
I firmly believe that at difficult times, I am given strength and the opportunity to keep things in perspective. All I need to do is keep my senses open and look for those signs. Everything came back to very clear perspective for me this past Saturday morning. I was invited to participate with the Edison Preparatory School foreign language department's Polyglot Trot. The Polyglot Trot is an "Amazing Race" type of walk/trot/run along the Yellow Trail at Turkey Mountain. Teams of four students proceeded along the trail and answered questions in or about their target language to progress to the finish line. I was teamed up with three wonderful French students -- two 8th graders, Kayleigh Jackson and Kyndall Harrell, and senior Nathan Buckendorf -- and we ran the three miles together.
When we stopped at a station, they translated for me we came up with an answer together. It was really a fantastic experience running with these three kids. It was a gorgeous morning out there Saturday, especially on the back side of the trail along the river. The kids and I kept commenting on how beautiful it was. Running those three miles with those three students , after a difficult week was emotionally uplifting to me. The whole event reiterated to me what I already knew and have already mentioned -- we have fabulous teachers in Tulsa Public Schools. When I arrived at 8:30 that morning, it was wonderful seeing all the foreign language teachers already there, giving up their time on a Saturday morning for a fun, physical and educational outing.
Finally, it is with extreme sadness that I am writing this on the day of the memorial service of Dr. Perry Inhofe. The entire Inhofe family have been tremendous supporters of public education over the years. Dr. Inhofe was a 1980 graduate of Edison and he and his wife Nancy put both of their sons through Tulsa Public Schools. Dr. Inhofe embraced all that is good about public education. As anyone at Booker T. Washington could tell you, he was a great father to his sons, Glade and Cole. Dr. Perry Inhofe will surely be missed in Tulsa.
Dr. Keith Ballard