Superintendent Keith Ballard
Tulsa Public Schools will be able to save an additional 30 teaching positions because of the donation of $1.2 million from an anonymous local donor, officials announced Monday.
The school board also approved a contract with the Oklahoma State School Boards Association to assist in an “abbreviated” search for internal and other local candidates to succeed Superintendent Keith Ballard in 2013.
Earlier this month, another anonymous donor stepped forward with $620,000 to fund 15 teaching positions. Another 19 teaching positions will be funded because of vacant administrative positions being held open.
Ballard has said he hopes to identify new savings and raise private funds to save all 75 teaching positions that otherwise would have been eliminated because of the end of federal Jobs Bill funding.
At a Monday evening meeting, board member Ruth Ann Fate thanked the unnamed donors, saying, “They have literally saved our life for a brief period.”
Ballard noted that the donations will provide relief for just one year.
“You can see that allocations have been a priority for us. It’s too bad that we have to go to the public and ask for teacher allocations, particularly when you see how flush the state is with revenue,” he said. “It is regrettable that these are largely one-time monies. We will be facing this situation again if the Legislature fails to increase funding.”
Trish Williams, chief financial officer for Tulsa Public Schools, told the board that administrators are being “very judicious” in distributing saved teaching allocations to schools with the greatest needs.
The preliminary budget for 2012-13, which she presented to the board, includes flat funding from the state and a sharp decrease in federal funding for Tulsa Public Schools.
The school system will see nearly $14.9 million less in federal funding because of the end of various stimulus programs and $2 million less to support students with special education needs and those from low socio-economic backgrounds.
“We are regretful that we are recommending a budget tonight that is essentially taking a step backward,” Williams said. “Unfortunately, those monies are going away, and the state revenues simply have not been appropriated to schools to replace those funds.”
Board member Leigh Goodson said: “These are really difficult decisions we are having to make right now. It is unfun to listen to the sacrifices we are having to make to balance this budget.”
In other business, the board decided to move forward with the search for someone to succeed Ballard, who will be leaving when his contract expires June 30, 2013.
Board President Gary Percefull said the job of superintendent, effective July 1, 2013, will be posted Tuesday and will remain open for applications for two weeks.
“OSSBA is going to assist us in the recruitment, but this particular application process will be open to anyone and everyone,” Percefull said. “Then the board would consider what applications could be received and decide whether we want to continue with this process or enter into another process.”
Vice President Anna America said she wanted to refute any rumors that the board has “preselected” a successor.
“That is not the case,” America said. “We are eager to get multiple applications. Secondly, we have an aggressive timeline for a couple of reasons, … but everyone on the board is committed to taking whatever steps are necessary.”
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