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TPS Board Extends Superintendent's Contract Through 2024

Chris Polansky
Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist speaks at an Aug. 13 press conference at Tulsa Police headquarters.

In a 6-1 decision, the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education voted at a special meeting Monday evening to extend Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist's contract by one year, from 2023 to 2024.

The vote followed a lengthy executive session, and no remarks regarding the decision were made by board members during the public portion of the meeting. Board member Jennettie Marshall was the sole vote against the extension.

The board previously voted in June to extend Gist's contract by two years, with Shawna Keller, the board's president, saying then that it was important to have consistent leadership through the pandemic.

Gist is expected to present her administration's recommendations for how the school year should proceed in the second quarter and beyond at a scheduled board meeting on Monday. At the special meeting, Gist said there was no truth to rumors she said were circulating that she and her executive team have already predetermined the district will remain completely remote for the remainder of the year.

"There's a lot of emotion, so there are also a lot of things that get shared," Gist said.

"It's so important for the board and the public to know that we absolutely are not making decisions like that. We desperately want our students back in school," she said.

Gist blamed a lack of guidance on the state and federal levels for putting TPS in a position to have to make "unpleasant, unwelcome and very difficult decisions."

"We are not the public health professionals, but yet we've been put in a position because we don't have the kind of leadership that we need that says, 'Here are the guidelines for what schools should be using,' either at a national level or a state level," Gist said.

Gist also rejected the argument that schools should be immediately and fully reopened because very few children become severely ill or are killed by COVID-19.

"We understand the difference in the severity of the likelihood of having a negative experience with COVID with young people, that is not true for the adults in our system, and there are thousands of them," Gist said.

"It is not as straightforward as a lot of people would like for it to be. It's not as straightforward, honestly, as I would like for it to be," Gist said.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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