Posted Friday, March 14, 2014
There are some big things happening around Tulsa Public Schools lately. First off, big congratulations are due to the finalists for this year's Support Employee and Teacher of the Year awards. The days I spend surprising the finalists is one my absolute favorite days each year. The people who do the work and make a difference are those of you in the schools, and going out to recognize 10 outstanding individuals on the front lines is always a tremendous day full of emotion. Without further ado, our finalists for Support Employee of the Year are:
Our Teacher of the Year finalists are:
Friday, March 7, was a busy day for me. In the morning I spent some time at Mayo Demonstration School as they joined nine other schools across the state to attempt to set the record for the most students wearing a "Cat in the Hat" hat at the same time. Many thanks to the Memorial drama students who presented a live version of "The Cat in the Hat" before the record attempt. I was very happy to don a hat myself during the 15 minute attempt, while reading "Green Eggs and Ham" to the students.
On Friday afternoon, I attended the ground breaking for a library and classroom addition at Mitchell Elementary. The new library is being built to FEMA standards for a "hardened" facility, which means it will be able to serve as a storm shelter for the entire school in case of a tornado. Lindberg Elementary is also receiving a similar addition, and any significant additions to schools in the future will consider storm shelter facilities that can house as much of the school's population as possible. This is a great step forward for the safety of our students, and staff as well.
And congratulations to three Tulsa Public Schools basketball teams for making the state tournaments! Memorial's boys team is looking to defend their title in Class 5A. The Chargers beat Piedmont last night 65-55 and won again today over El Reno 80-49. They defend the title against Bishop Kelley or Bishop McGuinness tomorrow, Saturday, March 15, at 6 p.m. at the Mabee Center. Also in 5A East Central's girls beat Chickasha last night and play Carl Albert at 4:30 this afternoon in the semifinal. In Class 4A McLain's boys made it to the tournaments, was unfortunately defeated in the quarter final by OKC's Douglass High School, 75-66.
I thought I'd give you another update on our managed print services as well. As of last Friday, 10 schools have had their printers installed (Chouteau, ECDC Porter, Edison Preparatory middle and high schools, Gilcrease, Kendall-Whittier, Marshall, Mark Twain, Mayo and Memorial High School). The implementation schedule has been posted on the TPS website at tulsaschools.org/8_Employees/print_services.asp so you can check when your site will be upgraded. The print center at the ESC is also available for any large jobs you may have, just give them a call at 918-746-6369. The new managed print services have some great benefits. You will have access to newer, faster and more cost effective devices with copying, scanning and faxing capabilities in addition to basic printing, which can be done double-sided and securely (the device won't print a document until you physically input your number). The new devices also give teachers with access to interactive whiteboards the ability to go more digital using the scanning system. These devices will also send a notification to the vendor, Ricoh, when there is a problem but you can still call the IT Service Desk (918-746-6300) in case of a problem as well. Ricoh averages less than 4-working-hour response time. Toner is also automatically shipped to the site when it runs low. The new multifunction devices represent a large reduction in energy consumption, toner and paper costs, so we can redirect that money to the classroom where it belongs.
There has been a lot of talk and media coverage about the Reading Sufficiency Act lately. One of our local representatives, Katie Henke, pushed a bill through the state house that would keep the question of retention in local hands. This is a great step, but it's uncertain whether the Senate will even hear the bill, let alone pass it. Holding a student back is something that a team should decide -- a team that includes the parents, teacher, reading specialists and principal -- not the state. Years ago, I think TPS was as much of a culprit as other factors. Today, I don't believe we are a culprit at all. I do believe we will eradicate the reading problems that we have.
With state testing right around the corner, we all need to keep up the hard work; we're in this together. And finally, I hope everyone has a safe and pleasant Spring Break.
Dr. Keith Ballard