In September of 2019, Tulsa Public Schools launched an ambitious community engagement effort to gather feedback from our teachers, students, staff, school leaders, parents, and community partners to help inform our work to redesign our district budget for the 2020-2021 school year.
Through this campaign, more than 6,600 people filled out our online budget survey and/or attended one of our 11 community meetings to let us know what they valued, and we want to say thank you. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to tell us what you value most about teaching and learning in Tulsa. We know these conversations were difficult, but they were difficult because we are passionate about providing the best quality education for our students, and your voices matter.
"We believe that our community is essential, and community voices will be integral as we narrow in on a core set of priorities to improve student experiences while re-growing student enrollment," Superintendent Deborah A. Gist said. "This feedback, along with continued community conversations, will help inform our work to identify strategic investments and resource reallocations that will have the greatest positive impact on students within our continued fiscal constraints."
During this phase one process, we asked our community to complete three different tasks: 1) To identify their five most valued programs and services; 2) To create a $20 savings plan; 3) To identify hopes and concerns.
Based on the feedback from both the community meetings and survey, Tulsans consistently named teacher compensation, class sizes, and social emotional learning and behavioral supports as their most valued areas to invest in. Community members indicated that they were most willing to make budget reductions related to student transportation and bell times, teacher leadership opportunities, building utilization, and central office services.
We also asked to hear about the hopes and concerns our community had. The most common themes that emerged about hopes surrounded around having student-focused schools with high academic standards, improved services for students and families, supports for teachers, and special programs, enrichments, and extracurricular activities. What our community expressed concerns about included losing services for students, increasing class sizes, declining enrollment, negative impacts on teacher retention and morale, and academic success for students.
So, where do we go from here? The next phase of the budget redesign process will run through mid-December and include community workshops with representatives from the core constituencies Tulsa Public Schools serves - school leaders, teachers, students, and parents. The district will hold three meetings with the Budget Advisory Committee - a diverse group of 39 community and business leaders who will support the budget redesign by providing input and feedback on potential strategic investments and resource reallocations.
We will also hold a second series of community-wide meetings in December. We are still finalizing locations, the dates for the community-wide meetings are below:
- Monday, December 9 from 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.
- Tuesday, December 10 from 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.
- Wednesday, December 11 from 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.
- Thursday, December 12 from 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.