Investing for equity, access, and sustainability
In September 2019, we started a comprehensive and ambitious community engagement effort to gather feedback from our teachers, parents, students, staff, and community members to help inform our work to redesign our budget for the 2020-2021 school year.
- The first phase of that community engagement effort included 24 meetings where we engaged with nearly 1,500 Tulsans. We also launched a web-based survey and heard from 5,700 Tulsans about the programs, services, and supports that matter most to them.
- In our second phase of community engagement, we invited about 300 community members - including teachers, students, school leaders, parents, and community members - to a series of budget redesign worksessions. Those community members participated in two worksessions in late October.
- We also created the Budget Advisory Group - a group of 38 community members including civic leaders; community partners; business, community, and faith leaders; parents, and teacher leaders - to work with us throughout the budget redesign process to provide feedback as we developed potential options for reductions.
Alongside of our community engagement efforts, we continued our extensive internal analysis of all district initiatives and expenses to identify any other possible savings opportunities.
Based on our community feedback, continued internal analysis, and our experience with and research on the programs, practices, and supports that we know work for our children, we identified approximately $18-$20 million in potential budget reductions which were presented to the Board on January 6, 2020.
Reduction/changes in district office services (approx. $13-14 million)
These reductions include both operational efficiencies as well as the creation and deletion of certain positions. Of the approximately $13 to $14 million in proposed district office reductions, a little over half are from non-personnel expenses. Nonetheless, these changes - if approved by our Board of Education - could directly affect members of our team. We have engaged in conversations with those team members. By March, we expect to be able to provide more information about changes to services to teachers, school leaders, staff, and families.
The non-personnel related reductions include changes in services, increased efficiencies, charging expenses to eligible fund sources, increase in revenue, reductions in tech services, reduction and consolidation of applications, and inventory management.
School closures and consolidations (approx. $2-$3 million)
Superintendent Gist recommended the closures of Grimes, Jones, and Wright elementary schools as well as the consolidation of Mark Twain Elementary School into Wayman Tisdale Fine Arts Academy. These are extraordinarily difficult decisions to make, and we put a great deal of thought and care into our analysis of all district schools. We considered a number of factors as we developed these recommendations, including historical, current, and projected enrollment; current programmatic offerings; building utilization rates; building condition and design; needs of the surrounding community; and access to other district schools.
If approved by the board, students from Grimes Elementary would go to Memorial Junior High, Carnegie Elementary, or Key Elementary; students from Jones Elementary would attend MacArthur Elementary, Lindbergh Elementary, or Bell Elementary; and students from Wright Elementary would go to Eliot Elementary or Patrick Henry Elementary.
Change to elementary staffing plan (approx. $3 million)
Superintendent Gist recommended changes to the elementary staffing plan. These changes would shift the staffing plan from allocating teachers based on grade-level ranges to allocating general education teachers based on school-wide enrollment. It was recommended that the staffing ratio be 24:1. This will result in class size changes, with an average class size of 24 at elementary -- an average increase of one student. There will be no changes to the middle school or high school staffing plans. It is important to note that these numbers reflect what the staffing plan provides, but not what school leaders may choose to do in their buildings.
If the Board approves the recommendations, we will hold additional meetings with affected families and staff and begin planning for implementation.
The Board will consider specific personnel-related items (proposed district office reductions) at a board meeting in February 2020.
- What would happen if the recommended schools were to close?
- Why are Jones, Wright, and Grimes recommended for closure? Why is Mark Twain recommended for consolidation?
- What will happen to the deaf education program at Wright if the board approves the school closure?
- How is the district supporting students and teachers in the schools that may close or consolidate?
- Where will the students go if the Board approves the recommended closures and consolidations?
- What is going to happen to the empty buildings if the board approves the recommendations?
- Will the buildings be leased to charter schools?
- How does the district plan to increase enrollment?
- When will you share more information about district office reductions?
- What teams comprise the district office?
- When will we know what types of district services may be affected and reduced?
- Where can we find the district budget?
- How could the proposed staffing plan affect elementary schools?
- Are the grade reconfigurations part of the budget redesign?
- Will you have a different enrollment period for families affected by the potential school closures and consolidation?
- What can community members do to help advocate for continued increases in state funding?
- What will happen if it doesn’t get board approval?
Our plan to shape a future with strong schools in every neighborhood:
- Create consistent grade configurations;
- Reduce the number of unsustainably small schools;
- Grow specialized programs in neighborhood schools such as dual language immersion and Montessori; and
- Improve the enrollment system to ensure an accessible, fair, and easy process.