TPS Welcomes Incoming Superintendent
FUTURE LEADER: Dr. Deborah Gist stands with Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard during Gist’s February visit to Tulsa. Gist will replace Ballard as superintendent July 1.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
On Feb. 2, Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved the naming of Dr. Deborah Gist as the school district’s next superintendent and the first woman to lead the school district, to replace Dr. Keith Ballard on July 1.
Following the announcement, Gist visited Tulsa and various sites.
Gist, currently commissioner of education for Rhode Island, grew up in Tulsa and attended Tulsa Public Schools, graduating in 1986 from Memorial High School. Gist also received a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from the University of Oklahoma.
Gist has served as an educator, school system leader, public sector manager and a public policy analyst for more than 26 years. In 2009, she was appointed Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education for Rhode Island, leading a staff of 135 employees and managing a $1.2 billion budget. Under her tenure Rhode Island schools surpassed the national average on the “Nation’s Report Card” for all four assessments in mathematics and reading and outpaced the country in grade 8 improvements. The four-year graduation rate climbed from 76 to 81 percent, and the dropout rate decreased by nearly half. The percentage of recent high school graduates needing remediation at the community college is down from 74 percent in 2009 to 66 percent currently. The number of Rhode Island public school students taking advanced placement exams increased by 67 percent over the past five years with particularly dramatic gains in performance for black and Hispanic students. In the last school year administration of the New England Common Assessment Program, Rhode Island high school students were the highest among the states in reading and writing and matched the performance of other states in mathematics.
Gist also helped in the formation of Educators in Action, a group of award-winning teachers and principals, who met regularly to discuss policy goals and areas for growth around teaching and learning. In addition, she created an advisory group on classroom autonomy and insisted all stakeholders be at the table to learn how to unshackle teachers from requirements that were holding back their ability to lead and inspire their students.
During her eight years as a classroom teacher, Gist was recognized twice as Teacher of the Year for her school site, designed and initiated the award-winning program, Hillsborough Reads, a literacy program for students and families in the 11th largest school district in the U.S., and was one of the founding teachers of the Alice Carlson Applied Learning Center.
Dr. Keith Ballard, who became school superintendent in October 2008, has previously served as superintendent at both Oologah and Claremore Public Schools. He also spent eight years as executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.
Among Dr. Ballard’s accomplishments during his tenure are
• Helped to recently receive a $4.42 million Innovative Professional Development grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the next three years, the grant will be used by to implement a new professional development system that will provide high-quality, personalized professional learning to support and empower effective teachers.
• Partnered with -Tulsa, Reading Partners, City Year, Diplomas Now and other partners as part of the Growing Together initiative, with efforts focused on the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood.
• Established the Teach for America () Program in Tulsa Public Schools. was the 33rd School District in America to establish a program.
• Created Project Schoolhouse, an ongoing efficiency program that addresses changing student populations and school building utilization. In the first year of the program, 14 severely underutilized school buildings were closed, and schools consolidated, which resulted in financial savings that were necessary due to substantial state budget cuts.
• Helped to develop the district’s teacher evaluation system, called The Tulsa Model, a system that has been adopted by more than 500 school districts and career tech centers across Oklahoma.
• Reopened historic Will Rogers High School as Will Rogers College High School, helping students to earn college credits with Tulsa Community College while attending high school.
• Increased opportunities in Language Immersion programs by expanding Eisenhower and Zarrow international schools and began a new Immersion School in North Tulsa by creating the Dual Language Immersion () program at Monroe. In the fall of 2015, will move into the newly-renovated Bunche building.