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EXCLUSIVE: Interview with TPS District 1 board member Stacey Woolley

Campaign photo

KWGS News interviewed District 1 candidates Stacey Woolley and Jared Buswell ahead of the April 4 election.

On April fourth, voters in Tulsa Public Schools District 1 will choose between current school board president Stacey Woolley and challenger Jared Buswell. We sat down with both candidates to talk to them about the school board, their priorities and their views.

When we interviewed Woolley, she discussed the role of a school board, managing chaos and how she views her job in light of state superintendent Ryan Walters’ flagrant rhetoric.

For more information about the election and to see if you live in Tulsa Public Schools District 1, visit the Oklahoma voter portal.

MAX BRYAN (HOST): What made you decide to want to run for the school board again?

STACEY WOOLLEY: We are doing lots of good work, we have made a lot of changes as a school board. As far as with regard to how our how our meetings run and the accountability for the superintendent, we have changed to a student outcomes-focused governance team. And that also means that our superintendent's evaluation has changed to be reflective of student outcomes, solely. It feels like we still have a lot more work to do to refine that and get it where I'd love for it to be.

MB: What I hear from the community is, they might not see that, so what what would be your response to that?

SW: Serving on a governance board is very different than what people believe that the job of a school board is. A school board's responsibility is to make sure that finances are appropriately spent in a way that will, we'll get the results that we'd like. And that's actually part of the work we're doing for being a student outcomes-focused governance is that we're making sure that we're tying all of our finances to those goals that we came up with when we visited with the community a couple of years ago. Our goal is to spend half of each month talking about the data related to those outcomes to make sure that we are actually seeing improvement toward those goals. The job of the board is also to oversee the superintendent.

MB: What are your goals in this next term?

SW: My goals aligned with the goals of the strategic plan that we have in place, that we have more students reading at the appropriate level. We're still seeing and we will continue to see repercussions from the pandemic in that it's very hard to staff, and it is very hard to retain teachers. We aren't paying our teachers very well as a state, and we're also not showing any level of respect for our teachers at the state level. So it's going to be a huge challenge to move the dial as long as we are constantly having a churn within our buildings with regard to teachers. So one of the things we absolutely have to do is work on figuring out how to retain teachers.

MB: What is your current view of the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education?

SW: I am super excited. We are now a seven person board again, we have been doing a lot of work towards becoming that student outcomes focused governance team. And I do believe that we will get back on track with the work that is involved around doing that. And I think it will be very helpful for our students.

MB: How do you plan to keep the board on track and focused on what you say are goals that y'all should be be striving toward?

SW: We all observed, this past Monday, a very different looking board. And I'm very hopeful for what that could mean for our future.

MB: Why haven't you been able to manage chaos, as well as you might like on the board?

SW: There's a culture war, quite frankly, going on that has come into our boardroom. And it's also particularly challenging when there are policies and regulations and expectations, but there isn't really any level of repercussion if people don't actually follow those policies. We have a board that very much cares about students, and we all have different opinions about how to get where we need to go with those students. Sometimes we see some pretty strong disagreements that maybe aren't as respectful as we'd like for them to be. Even though the board meeting itself may look a little chaotic at times, I think that we are also still able to engage in real conversation. We all know that we're each in it for for the students.

MB: Do you have any concerns about Ryan Walters going after TPS more than he already has if you continue to manage the way that you have?

SW: We are one of two urban districts in this state. That means that our kids have different needs, that means we have a lot of diversity, that means we have a lot of different thoughts and ideas, and it just makes us really easy to be targeted with the propaganda, quite frankly. When the superintendent of Oklahoma schools says particularly ugly things about some of our student populations —in particular the 2SLGBTQIA community — it is my job to make sure those students continue to feel safe and loved and valued for who they are.

MB: Stacey, thank you so much for coming in and doing this interview.

SW: Thank you so much for having me.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS. A Tulsa native, Bryan worked at newspapers throughout Arkansas and in Norman before coming home to "the most underrated city in America." Several of Bryan's news stories have either led to or been cited in changes both in the public and private sectors.