Posted Wednesday, September 10, 2014
I hope your school year is off to a good start. I know we're a few weeks into the school year already but I haven't addressed you since Convocation. It is my intention this year to send a message once a week. I believe it is critical that I communicate with all of you on a regular basis. After all, it's you, the employees of this wonderful school district that make it run, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts and informing you about the workings of the district.
But more importantly, I need to hear your thoughts, and that's where my advisory groups come in. They are vital for me to understand the day-to-day issues you face in the classroom and around your buildings. I meet monthly with my elementary and secondary E4 Councils to make sure I hear these issues. Anytime you have a concern or question, please talk to the E4 representative at your school so they can bring these questions to me and other executive staff. Soon, I will be initiating those meetings as E4 Councils are being formed with representatives from each building. Also of great importance are the Principal Advisories. The Elementary Principal's executive staff met last week and the Secondary are scheduled in the near future. I also welcome messages sent directly to me.
I have other advisory groups from the community. They include a Faith Based, Community and Hispanic Advisory. Last week, I met with my Hispanic Advisory committee for the first time this school year I was pleased to introduce one of our new Instructional Leadership Directors to them -- Julio Contreras. As you may recall from convocation, Mr. Contreras joined TPS from Chicago Public Schools, where he most recently served as deputy chief of schools. He also has extensive knowledge and experience with bilingual education. At the meeting we discussed the probable upcoming bond issue, STEM education, alternative programs and early childhood education and how they all relate to the Hispanic community.
Also last week, representatives from Cross & Joftus Consulting were in town to gather information for a district-wide analysis of community schools and wrap-around services. This analysis will help the district develop a refined Community Schools Strategy aimed at better and more completely meeting the needs of our students in and out of the classroom. The representatives met with many community members, as well as staff and Board members, and there will be more meetings to come. Hopefully everyone will have the opportunity to share their opinion about what our community schools need and how we can successfully implement any changes.
On Thursday, I had the pleasure of sitting on two separate education panels. The first was the "Teachers Matter" panel sponsored by Stand for Children which also featured Oklahoma 2014 Teacher of the Year Peter Markes, New York Times bestselling author Amanda Ripley and Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Rob Neu. Each of us made a presentation with Ms. Ripley's being the main event. My talk was on Teacher Quality in Tulsa Public Schools and I emphasized that the difference maker in education is always the teacher. I also talked about our Teacher Leader Effectiveness model, and the importance of the building leader. That evening I spoke at "Are Tulsa Schools Re-segregating?"put on by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice Community Discussion. Also on the panel were Dr. David Blatt, Oklahoma Policy Institute; Ed Martinez, Jr., Tulsa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Jocelyn Payne, John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation; and Ms. Laura Ross White, Community Service Council of Greater Tulsa. My comments at the panel focused on the need for quality schools in every neighborhood and the importance of magnet schools and schools of choice. Diversity makes our schools stronger, and I believe having choices in education will bring diversity. Again, I emphasized the importance of the classroom teacher and building leadership.
On Friday, Oklahoma City Superintendent Robert Neu visited Tulsa Public Schools. The executive staff and I shared many of the great things we are doing in Tulsa with him so he could look at implementing them in Oklahoma City. He was briefed on our ILD structure, given an overview of our TLE initiative and our charter school programs, as well as our recruitment methods. Afterward, I took Mr. Neu on a tour of Will Rogers College Junior High and High School to show off the successful turnaround that has happened there after Project Schoolhouse.
I am concerned about temperatures in your classrooms. It was hot yesterday, but should be cooler the rest of the week. Earlier, I informed Maintenance that they had my permission to turn down thermostats. That said, that is not always the easy answer as it can be an equipment problem. If you have temperature issues in your room, talk to your principal, and we will address it as soon as possible. Thank you and have a good week.