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Education and Economy in North Tulsa

By Catherine Roberts

Tulsa, Okla. – North Tulsa has long borne the stigma of being one of Tulsa's most underdeveloped areas. The North Tulsa Economic Development Initiative, established three years ago, seeks to change both that stigma and the underlying problems in the area that contribute to its bad reputation.

Dr. Lana Turner-Addison chairs NTEDi's Education Sub-Committee.

"Investors are having a hard time getting information about what is available in North Tulsa," she said. NTEDi is working on launching a new Web site for easy access to information and resources in the area. "It's not as bad as may have been portrayed in the media. That's one of the challenges."

The Education Sub-Committee hosted a retreat today at TCC's Northeast Campus. Guests heard from numerous speakers about the current state of education in North Tulsa, and how it might be improved.

State Representative Jabar Shumate attended. He appreciated hearing from parents about their experiences with the education system in North Tulsa.

"The community has to step up, and really listen to parents and hear what they need to make their students better students," he said. "Today was the first time I've heard a parent-centered-directed approach to solving our problems, and I am just almost moved to tears."

One of the parents who spoke is Lakia Risby, whose son is a 15-year-old at Booker T. Washington High School. She said she was frustrated with the treatment she and her son received at "one of the more premier public education sites in Tulsa."

Her son was struggling in Chinese, and felt he had been demeaned by his art teacher.

"When I went to the table with my hands open looking for a resolution and a way that we could solve the issues that my son was having in the classroom," she said, "it wasn't well-received, and I felt like I was treated very coldly."

She's considering transferring her son to their home school, Central High School.

Regarding changes to the school system, she said, "I would like to see more compassionate understanding from the teachers . Unless you connect with a kid, unless you connect with them and they feel like you really care about them, then there's really nothing you can teach them."

Addison and Shumate both emphasized the importance of invested, experienced, qualified teachers.

"If we can get our teachers the support they need, the places our students will go is beyond our imagination," Shumate said.