Plan expected to save TPS $5 million
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Thursday, November 17, 2011
11/17/11 at 8:32 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - A reorganization initiative by Tulsa Public Schools is expected to save the district $5 million annually, Superintendent Keith Ballard told a legislative panel Wednesday.
Ballard spoke to a task force studying ways to reduce spending on school administration and put more money in classrooms.
Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, said he is convinced that the state's school districts can reduce costs by sharing services and improving efficiency.
Stanislawski, a former Jenks school board member, said the task force will work for two years before making recommendations.
The focus, he said, is not consolidation.
Ballard said the Tulsa district lost $20 million in the last three years as a result of budget cuts, "which presented some serious challenges."
He said the district's reorganization initiative, called Project Schoolhouse, resulted in the closure of 14 schools.
"It was the most difficult undertaking of my career," said Ballard, who is in his fourth year at the helm of Tulsa Public Schools and who has worked in education for 40 years.
Patricia Williams, Tulsa Public Schools' chief financial officer, said the savings will be reinvested in classrooms to create more equity in educational opportunities.
The reorganization resulted in nearly 6,000 empty seats being taken out of the school system and the reassignment of students, she said.
"We had some schools that were tremendously underenrolled," said W. James McCarthy, an attorney who was the project manager.
Before Project Schoolhouse, Tulsa Public Schools' Education Service Center was reorganized, which resulted in the elimination of 140 positions, many of which were administrative jobs, Ballard said. That reorganization also produced about $5 million in savings.
"We did come to the realization that we were inefficient," Ballard said, adding that it wasn't just about economics.
Project Schoolhouse involved a lot of emotion and countless public forums, he said. It will go on in perpetuity with the district evaluating it every year.
"The only way true change comes is from within," Ballard said.
Original Print Headline: Restructuring savings touted
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465
Superintendent Keith Ballard: He spoke to a task force studying ways to reduce spending on school administration.