By BETH TURNER
NEW UNIFORMS: Dressed in the varying uniforms now required by Tulsa Public Schools from left on the front row are Lauren Pack, Central; Katelyn Benson, Rogers; Tucker Houghton, Generic Uniform; Katie Crotwell, McLain; Keely-Shaye Lopez, BTW; Vicky Cortes, Edison; Katie Ortiz, BTW and Memorial. On the back row are: Victoria Som DeCerff, Memorial; Mayra Garcia, Hale; Lota Ezrhwa, BTW and Memorial. The photo was taken at C&J School Uniforms.
SHARON CAMERON for GTR Newspapers
Summer temperatures can drown thoughts of heading back to school, yet students return to Tulsa Public Schools classrooms Aug. 20. Beginning this year, every student in every school will be required to wear uniforms. “I’m sure there are some schools that won’t benefit as much as others from regulated school wear,” says Dr. Keith Ballard, superintendent for Tulsa Schools. “But how do you single out one or two schools? So, we made uniforms mandatory for everyone, and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback towards the safety and security of our students.”
Ballard heads into his fifth and final year with . He announced in June that he will step down as superintendent June 2013.
“I hope to help the school board find someone who believes in what we’ve started here at and wants to stay the course. We don’t need anyone willy nilly in here,” says Ballard. “So, we’ll be looking for a highly qualified individual who shares in the educational focus we’ve gotten underway.”
Ballard says the school board knew at his hiring he only wanted to serve for up to five years. “I think this job is sort of like a government role. I thought it best to make myself term-limited so to speak.”
Ballard says the course to follow includes several primary focuses such as the continuing implementation of common core curriculum. The goal is to allow students zero lag time when entering any school system due to a common curriculum taught in all core classes.
Ballard says that another focus is performance-based reviews for faculty and staff. “We are a performance-based society. We need to reward our excellent teachers, and uncover those who aren’t as motivated and help them grow as an educator.”
Ballard says he intends to make sure he leaves with an organized office focused on the Teacher Leader Initiative () in Professional Leadership Education (). “We’ve made huge strides in having effective teachers and effective leadership in place at every building. We are also creating time in the schedule for teachers and administrators to collaborate.” To learn more about changes to school hours such as early release Fridays, visit www.tulsaschools.org. Find the calendar under the tab, “About the District.”
Structural changes are still underway in school properties closing, reopening as charter schools, or being sold altogether. Ballard says what he sees with these moves is potential. “Booker T. Washington is one of the top high schools in the nation. We’re so proud of this. And I think we’re creating a similar situation with what is now Will Rogers College Prep,” says Ballard. “Just wait. Will Rogers will be right up there with Washington in no time.”
Ballard says Oklahoma’s second largest school system continues to move through major transitions in organizational and educational structure, but that the result should be the advancement of talent and educational processes. “Look at what has been accomplished. This is a different place than it was four years ago. That’s through the efforts of the marvelous people and the surprising talent of faculty and staff.”