Deborah Gist Bids Farewell To Tulsa Public Schools In Same Place She Started, Reflects On Her Role

On Deborah Gist's final day, she read to kindergartners and went on Facebook to talk about how proud she is of her team's work and her love for the district.

Friday, September 15th 2023, 6:39 pm


Her time in Tulsa Public Schools ended the same way it started.

Deborah Gist gave her farewell speech as superintendent from the very same classroom she went to kindergarten in at Salk Elementary.

"I am sitting in Ms. Barnes' class, her kindergarten class,” she said.

Deborah Gist served as the Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent for eight years and was the first woman to serve in that role at TPS.

Related Story: Dr. Gist Interview On Resignation As TPS Superintendent

In her livestream, she talked about many of the district’s achievements, like expanding Pre-K into all elementary schools and increasing literacy and graduation rates. But she doesn't know what her next steps will look like.

"Serving as superintendent has been my entire focus, and so I haven't put thought into that to the extent that I need to to be able to make any decisions, and it's hard to imagine, quite frankly, because this work is so important to me."

She told viewers the $200,000 of recovered funds that the FBI accused a former administrator of misusing would go right back into the district.

"We need to and have done everything we can to make sure that we're restoring those dollars and that justice prevails in that investigation," she said.

Related Story: Timeline Of Tensions Between TPS And State Leaders

Although she talked about many highs and lows of her time as superintendent, the thing that made her tear up was a letter from somebody who knew her grandparents.

"He said your grandparents would be in awe of your responsibilities. And he said they would be proud of me," Gist said.

Before leaving the position, she had some words of encouragement for her team and the rest of her city.

"Thank you, I love you, stay strong, be kind, love boldly, serve joyfully, and live gratefully."

Ebony Johnson will step into the role tomorrow as the new interim superintendent.

Gist said she’s confident in the new leadership and believes Tulsa's autonomy as a district will stay in place.

Related Story: Board Of Education Places TPS On Accreditation With Deficiencies


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