Tulsa schools may seek bond issue for technology needs
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Thursday, December 13, 2012
3/05/13 at 2:23 PM
A Tulsa Public Schools bond issue focused specifically on school technology needs could be in the offing.
Speaking at the Rotary Club of Tulsa, Superintendent Keith Ballard said the district has fallen behind surrounding districts in the technological tools it provides for teachers and students.
"One of our areas of focus is going to be technology - not as a cure-all, not as a panacea - but how can it be a tool for greater student achievement?" Ballard said.
It has been nearly three years since Tulsa voters overwhelmingly approved a $354 million bond package for the school district, most of which is being spent on facility renovations and repairs, including windows, roofs and heating and air conditioning.
The district is surveying its teachers and principals about what technology is available to them, how they use it and what additional resources or training they need.
Any bond proposal would be crafted by the district's citizens bond advisory committee and based on the needs of principals and teachers, Ballard said.
"We could be coming back to the public to say, 'We need your help specific to technology,'" he said. "I'm not afraid to take something like that on if that could help our teachers. We have to be accountable if we decide to pursue something like that and we will be."
He noted the success of Tulsa Public Schools' Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Initiative, which drew the support and resources of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It included the development of a teacher evaluation for the district that ended up being adopted as the model evaluation by about 500 of Oklahoma's public school districts.
Improving learning tools is tied to the school district's current focus on improving student achievement rates, which are lagging, particularly in the area of reading proficiency. Ballard told the Rotary Club that study groups are still examining the possible academic benefits of more Tulsa schools, including those in other Tulsa County school districts, moving to a continuous learning calendar.
That model spreads the same number of instructional days out so that students have several shorter breaks instead of one long summer break between academic years.
Ballard mentioned state funding levels and the safety and security of schools as the other two greatest challenges the district is still facing.
Karen Keith, a Rotarian and Tulsa County commissioner, thanked Ballard for agreeing to remain in the position for one more year, referring to his recent contract extension.
"It's not about me," Ballard responded. "It's about my recognition that you cannot do it without the community. Because we have been so successful, we lost a lot of people from our executive team. It just didn't seem like the right time to leave."
Original Print Headline: TPS may request bond issue for technology, Ballard says
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470