TPS closings recommended
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
3/29/11 at 7:58 AM
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Three proposals generated from Tulsa Public Schools’ months-long efficiency study call for as many as 17 school buildings to be shuttered and grade configurations in dozens of remaining schools to be shaken up.
Through closures and consolidation, the proposals would eliminate anywhere from 5,900 to 7,900 empty seats and save TPS $6.1 million to $9.5 million annually. And grade reconfigurations would reduce the number of transitions many students have to make from one building to another.
“This will become known as a turning point in the history of Tulsa Public Schools,” Superintendent Keith Ballard told the Tulsa World. “A study of data has clearly shown huge disparities across the district. Some schools are just too small to be academically or financially efficient, and today we have more than 10,000 empty seats. This process is long overdue.”
Jim McCarthy, the management consultant hired to lead the TPS Project Schoolhouse initiative, said the three proposals were designed as “potential solutions to concerns raised by the data.”
“The goal is to create discussion. Through that ripple effect, we hope to coalesce all ideas, all feedback — from teachers, principals, parents and even students — to come up with the best plan. The idea is you don’t necessarily pick just one,” McCarthy said.
Both Proposals A and B call for Rogers High School to close for all current students and be reopened as an “early college” high school that would give future students the opportunity to earn a diploma and an associate’s degree in four years.
Despite significant variation among the three proposals, some schools were universally targeted for closure — Addams, Barnard, Burroughs, Cherokee, Phillips, Sandburg and Whitman elementary schools and Nimitz Middle School.
Proposal A includes 16 facility closures and calls for Central, McLain and Webster high schools to begin serving students in grades 7-12, five feeder schools to become fifth- and sixth-grade centers and the remaining feeder schools to offer pre-kindergarten through fourth grade.
It also calls for Mayo and Thoreau demonstration academies to relocate so the popular programs with lottery-based admissions can expand their student capacities. They would be housed at Grimes Elementary School and Nimitz Middle School, respectively, which are on adjacent properties near 56th Street and Harvard Avenue. Grimes and Nimitz students would be consolidated into other schools’ feeder patterns.
Proposal B includes 14 facility closures and the least number of other school changes.
Under that plan, Central and McLain high schools would become seventh- through 12th-grade schools.
All of Central’s feeder schools and many of McLain’s would serve students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. McLain’s feeder pattern would also include six schools formerly assigned to Rogers. The former Monroe Middle School facility would be reopened to serve students in grades 1-8, as would Hamilton, which is currently a middle school.
Proposal C calls for the closure of 17 facilities, including Central High School, and a total makeover of the grade configurations of all but three elementary schools and three middle schools.
Under the plan, the remaining eight high schools would continue to serve grades 9-12. Central’s students would be reassigned to McLain and Webster high schools.
All high schools except Booker T. Washington would have feeder schools that serve students in grades 1-8, and prekindergarten and kindergarten would be co-located in early childhood education centers.
‘Not final plans:’ The three proposals were developed by a think tank called the “Blue Sky Group,” which comprised TPS district administrators, principals and teachers, as well as community leaders.
Tuesday’s release of the three proposals is accompanied by the Blue Sky Group’s ideas for “trade-ups,” or educational and extracurricular enhancements, which a portion of the savings from the closures and consolidation could fund.
In the coming weeks, TPS will hold a series of public forums so parents, employees and other patrons can provide feedback about the proposals and trade-ups.
Ballard said input will be crucial to his deliberations about which proposal — or some combination of the three — to recommend to the school board on May 2.
“There is no one perfect solution. These are not final plans. That’s why they need to be out there for public discussion,” Ballard said.
Sparking discussion: McCarthy said the plans have already sparked significant discussion among top administrators at TPS.
For example, Proposal C includes reconfiguring elementary and middle schools as sites that serve students all the way from grades 1-8. But officials have questions about whether enough teachers could meet the state’s requirements for certification at schools with that configuration and how feasible it would be to provide athletic programs and an adequate variety of electives.
McCarthy also added that most attendees at an initial round of community forums about Project Schoolhouse were not parents of current or future TPS students, but he hopes that won’t be the case in the coming month.
“Attendance was relatively light, particularly from actual parents who have the biggest stake in this,” he said.
About Project Schoolhouse
Superintendent Keith Ballard launched Project Schoolhouse in the fall, saying the school district might need to consolidate to reduce inefficiencies because of the likelihood of additional state funding cuts and the fast-approaching expiration date for federal stimulus funds.
Since Tulsa Public Schools’ enrollment peaked at 85,261 students in 1968-69, the district has decreased its number of schools only from 106 to 90. By comparison, the last time TPS had 41,000 students, as it does currently, was 1952, when there were just 56 schools.
An outside firm has projected that the district’s total enrollment will increase by just seven-tenths of 1 percent by 2015.
A school board-appointed advisory council spent months studying reports on everything from current enrollments and, building capacities and conditions, to academic performance and safety track records.
The study revealed that academic inequities have built up across the city’s schools during periods of declining enrollment and more recent enrollment shifts due to parents’ school transfer choices. Those include split classes, or those with mixed groups of students in different grade levels, and a lack of full-time teaching positions for art, music and physical education at the smallest elementary schools and limited elective offerings and class scheduling options at the smallest middle and high schools.
Possible “trade-ups” proposed by Project Schoolhouse think tank:
The educational and extracurricular enhancements could be funded from a portion of the savings achieved through closures and consolidation.
Expansion of Community Schools concept, by which schools partner with community resources for social services and health services to better serve students and their families.
Enhance early childhood education opportunities, including extended-care programs, special-needs teachers and specialists, and child development and parenting classes.
Reduce number of school transitions required over students’ academic career, which has been shown to reduce drop-outs.
Extended learning time.
New enrichment offerings and greater breadth of curriculum through more robust staffing levels.
More electives, spread more equitably across the district.
Extended library media center hours, open to the community.
Increased student opportunities in art, band, orchestra, drama, dance, speech and debate, and physical education, especially among schools currently without these offerings.
Fewer “split section,” or multiple grade-level, classes and part-time teaching positions.
“Back-mapping” or offering preparatory courses at schools that feed into magnet schools.
Before- and after-school tutoring.
Possible Saturday school.
More after-school extracurricular activities.
Expanded athletics availability beginning as early as the fifth grade, with intramural programs.
Expanded accessibility to foreign language education.
Make Advanced Placement course offerings comprehensive.
-- Source: Tulsa Public Schools
Public forum schedule
All forums will be held at 6 p.m. in the library media center
April 5, Thoreau Demonstration Academy, 7370 E. 71st St.
April 7, Foster Middle School, 12121 E. 21st Place
April 11, Eugene Field Elementary, 2249 S. Phoenix Ave.
April 14, Hawthorne Elementary School, 1105 E. 33rd St. North
Rogers High School could see dramatic changes under Project Schoolhouse proposals
Two out of three proposals in the Project Schoolhouse initiative call for the reinvention of one of Tulsa’s most historic high schools.
Rogers High School would become an “early college” high school, putting future students on the fast track by allowing them to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.
But first, the doors to the Art Deco architectural icon would be closed to about 600 would-be 10th through 12th-graders.
“Part of the genesis for this proposal includes an honest admission, and that is that the school is on its sixth year of being on the School Improvement List, and school improvement efforts have not been successful at changing the performance,” said Kevin Burr, associate superintendent for secondary schools and Rogers’ former principal.
“We believe that changing the culture and expectations of the schools will make remarkable gains immediately. It’s important for us to create an opportunity for that to happen.”
The plan for Rogers’ reinvention included in Proposals A and B of the Tulsa Public Schools efficiency study call for the school to eventually serve 1,700 students in grades 7-12 by 2014.
If the plan is approved, the “new” Rogers would open in the fall for grades 7-9.
About 50 ninth-graders currently enrolled in the TPS Early College program at Tulsa Community College’s Northeast campus would move to Rogers, as would students who are willing to commit to the program from Cleveland and Wilson middle schools. Those schools would be closed under the same proposals.
Nearby Kendall-Whittier and Sequoyah elementary schools would become Rogers’ only feeder schools, and even then, only students willing to commit to the early college program would be admitted, Burr said.
Any remaining seats would be awarded to other TPS students by lottery.
“We are seeking to make Rogers as sought-after as the magnet programs at Booker T. Washington (High School) and Edison (Preparatory School) and Thoreau Demonstration Academy,” he said. “They know everybody who joins that school is committing to a certain set of expectations. We would like to have that same kind of commitment from the students and parents who opt in.”
Wilson’s Middle Years Program, which is a precursor to the International Baccalaureate program at Booker T. Washington, would be transferred to Rogers. Burr said students who successfully complete the program and who meet admissions standards at the end of eighth grade would still be given preferential treatment for admission at Booker T. Washington, or they could choose to remain at Rogers.
At Rogers, students in grades 7-10 would complete coursework designed to prepare them to begin college courses in the 11th grade.
“TCC (Tulsa Community College) is aware of the proposal and have indicated that they are very excited about the opportunity for expansion,” Burr said.
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470
Junior Princeton Littlejohn walks to a waiting car after school Monday at Rogers High School. Under two Project Schoolhouse proposals, the school would be closed to all current students and reopen as a new early college high school. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World