TPS Superintendent Keith Ballard to stay at least one more year
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
11/06/12 at 7:26 AM
Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard has agreed to remain in his position through at least June 2014.
At a special meeting Monday evening, the school board voted unanimously to authorize a one-year contract renewal with Ballard, who was expected to leave at the end of June.
Ballard thanked the school board for sticking to a strategic plan it developed almost three years ago but said "unfinished business" also factored into his own decision about whether to stay.
"They went through an extensive process to establish a strategic plan about three years ago. That's what has led to this," he said at a press conference after the special meeting where the board voted unanimously for his contract renewal.
"This is a thoughtful board, and they have thought about what the succession plan should look like. They're just not looking for a sudden change of course."
For the last five months, the school board has been engaged in a search for Ballard's successor because he was expected to leave June 30, the end of his current contract. But a series of exits by other top administrators raised concerns about "leadership development and sustainability" in Tulsa Public Schools, according to board president Gary Percefull.
The recruitment of so many top officials "served to validate the achievements of TPS under the leadership of Dr. Keith Ballard," Percefull said, but "we came to realize it would be in the best interest of our district to rebuild our leadership team."
He said the contract renewal with Ballard "to at least" June 30, 2014, "will allow TPS to reload its executive leadership team."
The "unfinished business" Ballard said he wants to tend to includes the district's poor results on the most recent state tests and a continual decline in reading proficiency among Tulsa's students.
He also said Oklahoma "is at a crossroads with the decline of state funding of public education. It is not acceptable that Oklahoma is ranked No. 3 among states with the largest decline in state funding" for schools.
"I am pleased to stay while we work on the business at hand and while we also work on leadership development," he added.
Since the summer, the school district has seen its deputy superintendent, associate superintendent for secondary schools, chief of staff, assistant superintendent for accountability and executive director of alternative education programs recruited to other school districts or organizations.
Percefull said the board could not ignore that vacuum of leadership and institutional knowledge and needs to learn strategies for avoiding a repeat of the situation in the future.
Assisting the board in the development of a leadership-sustainability plan will be an additional duty specified in Ballard's new contract, Percefull said.
The deal includes no salary increase or retention bonus, but Ballard still will be able to earn his annual performance bonus depending on the results of his evaluation.
His new contract will include some additional days that can be used for vacation or personal leave.
Ballard was hired amid great controversy in the school system in September 2008. The school board had just spent $400,000 to buy out the remaining two years of its superintendent employment contract with Michael Zolkoski.
Ballard oversaw the overhaul of the district's alternative-education system and the passage of the largest bond issue in the history of the state to that point, totaling $354 million. He also spearheaded the creation of a five-year strategic plan and helped the district become a participant in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Teacher Effectiveness Initiative.
In the fall of 2010, he undertook a consolidation effort known as Project Schoolhouse, which over the course of the next two years resulted in the closing of about 15 schools and the realignment of grade levels at most others.
In other business, the school board on Monday declared two more vacant school buildings surplus in an effort to sell them. They are the former Bunche school building, 2703 N. Yorktown Place, and the now-closed Alcott Elementary School, 525 E. 46th St. North.
Both were vacated as part of Project Schoolhouse.
Original Print Headline: Ballard agrees to stay at TPS
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470
Keith Ballard: The superintendent says "unfinished business" helped lead to a decision to stay until at least June 2014.
Superintendent Keith Ballard (right) shakes TPS Board President Gary Percefull's hand after the announcement of authorizing Ballard's one-year contract extension. Board members Lois Jacobs (back left), Wilbert Collins, Ruth Ann Fate and Leigh Goodson look on. BRETT ROJO / for the Tulsa World