'There Will Be A Plan': Possible Outcomes For Tulsa Public Schools’ Accreditation Vote

Accredited with warning is one of the five accreditation levels, which is also district's current reality, but that could all change Thursday.  

Wednesday, August 23rd 2023, 5:42 pm



Tulsa Public Schools is just one day away from learning their new accreditation status. The question now is what happens after the vote and how will it affect TPS? 

According to the State Department of Education’s website, there are five possible levels of accreditation.  

"Right now, Tulsa is sitting here with a warning status," said State Superintendent Ryan Walters. "That's where they're at until we decide to move them to a different accreditation status." 

Accredited with warning is one of the five accreditation levels, which is also district's current reality, but that could all change Thursday.  

The other statuses are “accredited with deficiencies” (a step up from Tulsa’s status), “accredited with probation” (a step down from Tulsa’s status), and the lowest, “nonaccredited”. 

It should be noted that nonaccredited is the only scenario where a district loses its funding. The fifth and final level for a school is “accredited with no deficiencies,” which is the long-term goal for TPS. 

"Whatever the case may be there will be a plan to how do you get off of this status?” Walters explained. “How do you get back to fully accredited with no deficiencies?"  

If the district’s accreditation status is dropped to “with probation,” it could be subject to a district takeover. This happened once before at the Western Heights School District in Oklahoma during the 2021-22 school year. 

Complete loss of accreditation could result in the district closing its doors, similar to Seeworth Academy. The metro charter school lost its accreditation in 2019, and its students were absorbed by Oklahoma City Public Schools. 

These precedents set the scene for Thursday's vote. "What we've got to decide with Tulsa Public Schools is how far have they let things slip, what are the deficiencies they have, what are the issues and what are the corrective actions that have been taken?" Walters said. 

The State Board of Education is set to meet Thursday morning at 9:30, and the district’s accreditation is one of the first items on the agenda.

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Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist said she's planning to step down from her position as the State Board of Education is set to vote on the district's accreditation.

In her letter, Gist said she's confident her departure will help keep the state from taking over.

Related Story: TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist Announces Plan To Resign

The strained relationship between Tulsa Public Schools and state leaders doesn't have a clear origin point, but tensions rose in 2021 when Governor Kevin Stitt criticized the district for its response to COVID-19 in his State of the State Address that February.

Related Story: Gov. Stitt Issues Statement On TPS Supt. Deborah Gist's Resignation

"It's now been 325 days since Tulsa students in 4th through 12th have been allowed to be in their classrooms," said Stitt.

Superintendent Gist took those statements as an attack on TPS, calling the Governor a bully on social media. A year later, issues continued when school board members asked Governor Stitt to audit the district "and the potential mishandling of public funds."

The Governor also said the district might have violated House Bill 1775, which prohibits schools from teaching Critical Race Theory.

Shortly after that, the state school board voted to lower TPS's accreditation to Accreditation with Warning, despite objections from Dr. Gist.

"When House Bill 1775 was signed into law, we reviewed our curriculum for compliance and determined with confidence that we are," said Gist.

Their accreditation was brought up again this July, during a rally held by State Superintendent Ryan Walters, defending a TPS school board member's right to pray at graduation.

Related Story: Ryan Walters On Dr. Gist's Resignation As TPS Superintendent

"What you see is a continued assault against religious beliefs in our public school system," said Walters.

At the end of that meeting, Walters suggested TPS's accreditation will be looked at again. Since that time, Walters has stepped up his calls for Gist to resign.

She eventually announced her resignation Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 22, just two days before the state makes its decision on the district's accreditation.

Gist said stepping down is the hardest thing she's ever done.

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