A new middle school would serve students in the feeder pattern for McLain High School. Tulsa World file

Tulsa Public School officials are working hard to get out the word about changes to north Tulsa schools.

The North Tulsa Community Education Task Force was convened last year to address a shrinking McLain 7th Grade Academy. Its members were selected by Superintendent Deborah Gist and board member Jennettie Marshall.

The group developed a comprehensive design that combined school populations, re-configured elementary grades and created a single neighborhood middle school to serve 950 students. Other recommendations included limiting charter schools expansion in the area and creation of a parent resource center in the area.

As Tulsa World reporter Kyle Hinchey reported last week, the district has sent out fliers, hosted multiple open houses and, recently, had volunteers canvassing Apache Manor apartment complex to verify enrollment with parents and invite them to a school preparation event.

The success of the changes largely depends on buy-in from parents and students the schools serve, which makes the information effort critical. It also makes decisions by district leaders to conduct much of the process behind closed doors puzzling.

The public — parents, concerned taxpayers and the media — didn’t have a full chance to follow what was happening at the task force meetings, stopping an important means of communicating coming changes.

The reason given — the task force needed to be able to brainstorm ideas and not have them considered as final plans — is patronizing. TPS patrons are sophisticated enough to distinguish between ideas under consideration and adopted strategies. They deserve the ability to observe and critique school policy as it is formed.

People disgruntled with the results have a lot less to complain about when you practice transparency.

We don’t question the district’s motives. Everyone involved wants the same thing: the best education possible for the children of the McLain area. Somewhere along the line, however, TPS let its desire to control the message override its greater obligation to involve the public.

Improving Tulsa’s schools will require community buy-in. That starts with an open process.

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