Name: Kelsey Royce
Lived in District 5 for: About three years as adult
Education: Bachelor's degree in studio art
Campaign website: facebook.com//TPSDistrict5
Why are you running for the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education District 5 seat?
Something’s not right with Tulsa Public Schools. We all know this. Listen to parents and they’ll tell you something’s not right. Listen to our teachers and our support staff and our children — they’ll tell you the same. For me, when something’s not right, a moral imperative exists to stand up for what is. This is why I’m running: to stand up for our schools and our communities.
As a legacy graduate of Tulsa Public Schools with our family’s fourth generation currently attending school in the district, I recognize we are at a crossroads here in Tulsa. What happens now will determine if there will even be a TPS intact for a fifth generation to attend.
What are your primary goals and objectives as a board member if elected?
Currently, there is an inversion of authority between district administration and our board of education. We see recommendations made by administrators being rubberstamped into policy by board members whose authority supersedes that of the former.
It is the function of the board to represent the rights of all our children and the interests of constituents. Our district must be reset and the authority of the board restored.
As a member of the board, I will honor the duty of the office by holding administrators accountable for their failures and oppose unnecessary encumbrances, expensive annual “restructurings”/“redesigns.” I oppose policies which do not support our children’s education and support those that do — with the input of parents, teachers, staff and communities.
How has your background/experience prepared you to succeed in this role?
As a former public servant who dedicated years of my professional life to promoting literacy, I know the value of public resources and the role education plays in our communities.
Working alongside patrons and educators in neighborhood libraries for 14 years, I came to understand the importance and value of public resources. Like public libraries, our public schools are important democratizing forces. We need them. We need them in our communities.
After weeks of collecting public input, Tulsa Public Schools is preparing to slash $20 million from its 2020-21 budget as a result of declining enrollment and a decade of state funding cuts to education. Part of Superintendent Deborah Gist’s proposal to the school board involves shutting down four elementary schools. One of those is Wright Elementary, which is located in District 5.
The proposal has drawn the ire of many families and community members, but TPS officials insist the closures are necessary for the district to operate within its continued fiscal restraints. How do you think TPS has handled the situation, and do you believe the recommendation is the right move?
The whole situation is embarrassingly unprofessional and demonstrates how ill-equipped the district’s leadership is to make decisions appropriate for our children. After having spent nearly $20 million on administrative and consulting fees in FY2019, it is completely inappropriate now for our children to be asked to bear the burden of administrative incompetence.
We must also understand the superintendent’s recommendation to close Wright Elementary for what it is: a pattern of reckless disregard for children with special needs and their families beginning in Rhode Island with support for unreasonable sanctions against the R.I. School for the Deaf and continuing here in Tulsa with the recommendation to close Wright, a site known across Oklahoma for its deaf education program. Not right.
Enrollment at TPS has declined by about 5,000 students in the past decade. State data shows most students who left ended up in surrounding school districts and a variety of charter schools. What steps should TPS take to reverse its enrollment decline?
Parents with whom I’ve spoken say the same things: Classrooms are too crowded, the teacher turn-over too great, our children’s needs aren’t being met, our children aren’t learning, the current admin don’t listen.
Our board must stop approving policies that damage our children. School closures are not the answer to fiscal irresponsibility — eliminating extravagant organizational schemes, expensive consultants and cutting out inefficient portfolio models is the way to go.
More site autonomy and teacher-chosen curricula, appropriately compensated support personnel, smaller class sizes will begin to remedy the problem of families fleeing TPS. There are so many fantastic directions we can go — for the sake of brevity — I leave it here and encourage anyone and everyone to reach out.