District 3 School Board Election April 6, 2021
The District 3 Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education election is Tues., April 6, 2021. District 3 schools include Greenwood Leadership Academy, Anderson, Burroughs, Celia Clinton, Hamilton, John Hope Franklin, Unity Learning Academy, Dual Language Academy, Whitman Elementary, Monroe Demonstration Academy, Central Middle School and McLain High School. (Note: Charter schools may be authorized by the district, but have their own boards and superintendents/directors.)
Incumbent Jennettie Marshall is being challenged by David Harris.
We emailed questions to both candidates. Jennettie Marshall’s answers are below. Mr. Harris has not yet responded.
The Tulsa Public Schools policy book states:
State law provides public schools will be maintained and operated by local boards of education. They have responsibilities to the local citizenry they serve, and by whom they are elected. Members of the Board will exercise and retain full legislative authority and control over the schools. The Superintendent carries out the policies of the Board.
Responses from Jennettie Marshall
Marshall: I’m running for re-election to continue the work started in 2017. I ran on the platform of Accountability, Collaboration and Transparency in 2017. This platform was birthed from the voices of the community not only demanding a change in these areas of concern, it was birthed because they deserved a change, and an opportunity to become collaborative partners in the educational system that serves the community where they pay taxes and approve large bond packages.
My vision is for the creation of a world-class educational district that is steeped in the resolve to educate all children equitably by incorporating the voices of all stakeholders. The McLain Feeder Pattern is an example of hearing the voice of the community and collaboratively incorporating the community’s voice.
During my term on the board, District 3 was once again faced with proposed school closings and the premature placement of our younger scholars in the high school environment. In the face of adversity as board member, I called for a collaborative effort from the community, high school foundations, alumni associations, PTA Partners, the religious community, elected officials, retired educators, wrap-around service providers and others, to express to Superintendent Gist a need for a change in her plan because it was not in line with the best interest of the community. As a result, the community’s voice was heard, and I recommended the development of the North Tulsa Community Education Taskforce. This effort subsequently resulted in the creation of a state-of-the-art middle school, Monroe Demonstration Academy, in North Tulsa, The Parent Resource Center, the relocation of Tulsa Learning Academy to North Tulsa and the purposed effort to start collaborative conversations between teachers and site leaders across the feeder pattern to enhance the educational success of all scholars as the move from school to school.
Although there have been a few gains in this work, there’s still so much to be done to fulfill the recommendations proposed by the Taskforce and approved unanimously by the Tulsa Board of Education to complete the McLain Feeder Pattern Project and eventually see some of the same efforts implemented in the Central Feeder Pattern as promised by the superintendent.
A major component of my vision is to see even greater participation from district parents through their attendance and presentations at board meetings, the growth of the PTA and other school-based organizations. I would like to see our teachers and support personnel actively involved in TCTA (Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association) and AFT (American Federation of Teachers) to ensure their needs are articulated to the district by those elected to serve on their behalf, which will not only benefit the employees but the children we serve.
Q: In general, what do you see as the role of the school board?
Marshall: The role of the school board is to hire, supervise and retain or fire the superintendent through the evaluative process. The board members are the policy makers, and fiduciaries of the district. They review the proposed budget, and evaluate the effectiveness of the budget in conjunction with its impact upon the district goals. The board reviews financial requests made by the superintendent and staff; collaborates with the superintendent to identify methods for improving educational programs and district operations and works with city, county and state elected officials as well as community organizations to perform meaningful projects through effective partnerships.
Q: You would be joining the school board at a difficult time with unusual problems. Tulsa Public Schools has lost many students. Many students will be coming back to school with a wide range of abilities and deficits. What do you see as the top problems the district will face, and what would you do about those problems as a school board member? (NOTE: Please include what you see as the top issues that your particular district faces.)
Marshall: The largest educational challenges facing Tulsa Public Schools include: obtaining sufficient educational funding from the State Legislature, becoming compliant with State and Federal regulations for exceptional student services, excessive decline in student enrollment, low graduation rates, low community perception, teacher shortages, substitute shortages, custodial and bus driver shortages, safely providing effective in-person educational opportunities to all students with enhanced safety precautions during times of COVID-19, and the development and implementation of a strategic plan which provides an excellent educational experience addressing the needs of every community and student through the paradigm of equity.
As a school board member, I will continue to review the data, ask the hard questions and push for the changes needed to improve the quality of education in Tulsa Public Schools. Although school board members are not involved in the day-to-day operations of the school district, it is extremely important that every board member interact with the public and press to enhance the work environment of the district to make it more attractive to those seeking employment. Additionally, I will continue to connect with the families of our district, past, present and future, to seek solutions to student retention and reclamation.
Q: Tulsa Public Schools has been criticized by teachers and personnel for hiring highly paid consultants. What decision-making process would you use as a board member when asked to vote on outside consultants?
Marshall: As a board member, I will continue to ask the probing questions to gain a thorough understanding of each individual or corporate consultant seeking to gain a contract through Tulsa Public Schools. It’s imperative to ascertain a working knowledge of the outcomes based history, the comparative contracts previously administered by the proposed consultant(s), and the qualifications of the applicant prior to making decisions as a board member. Additionally, I will continue to inquire if teachers and/or support personnel were made a part of the selection process when considering proposed consultants and the products they bring to the district. It is important to include frontline personnel in our decision making because they ultimately implement recommendations brought to the district by the consultants. The school board members are charged to serve as fiduciaries’ over the financial wealth and health of the district, and it can only be done through informed decision-making strategies.
Q: How would you seek “systematic communications between the Board and students, employees, and all elements of the community” as the TPS policy book requires, especially regarding the schools in your district?
Marshall: As a TPS Board Member I will continue to hold District 3 Quarterly Town Hall meetings, participate in the monthly District 73 meeting convened by Representative Regina Goodwin as well as other community platforms to afford the community, employees and students the opportunity as ask questions and receive information concerning the progress and status of the district. I will continue to maintain an open line of communication through social media, telephone, zoom or email with the members of the Tulsa community. Community members and employees will be encouraged to solicit resolution to issues through contacting site leaders, department leaders and the Superintendent’s office. Last but not least, I will continue to encourage community and staff participation at the monthly school board meetings to voice their concerns, inform the board and seek resolution to unresolved issues.
Q: The children in the district (approximately 73 percent are children of color) are not performing well – some schools had students with 0 proficiency or single-digit proficiency in math and reading. What do you think can be done to turn this around and to break the cycle of low performance?
Marshall: The district’s problem in meeting the needs of underperforming students is a result of problematic curriculum, lack of understanding cultural competency and responsiveness, lack of consistency in teacher and support retention and the failure to form positive collaborative relationships with parents.
Additionally, the district must move from seeing everything through rose-colored glasses and admit the deficits in our education delivery systems. A greater effort must be made to attract traditionally certified educators and our educators must be afforded the opportunity to teach. I hear complaints from our educators because they’ve become disillusioned with our system and feel they could be doing so much more if they were allowed to teach as they were taught while earning degrees in education. I’ve spoken with educators who elected to leave the district and surprisingly, many left not because of low pay but because of a lack of empowerment to teach and respect.
We must evaluate the learning experience of every student early because we’re losing them early and as a district we find ourselves playing catch up, and the vicious cycle is created because the students never catch up; they eventually drop out academically, emotionally and physically. As we evaluate the needs and progress of each student, the district must also enhance its efforts to assist parents in their efforts to provide assistance and guidance to their students.
As a district we must create an empowering environment for our educators, so that they can create an environment of education excellence for our scholars. When reading Dr. Maya Angelo’s book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” she writes about how her Uncle Willie made her really “love to learn,” and considering the situation and available resources, I would surmise that Uncle Willie created an environment that encouraged his young student, Maya, to succeed.
Q: Often, Teach for America students and inexperienced, emergency-certified teachers are placed in the most at-risk schools. Teacher retention is a problem. As a school board member, is there anything you would or could do to address this?
Marshall: Since being elected to the board in 2017, I have been very intentional about requesting periodic placement reports for Teach for America teachers, emergency-certified teachers and Tulsa Teacher Corp to track the numbers and question such placements. If re-elected I would continue to monitor this practice as well as proficiency and growth levels of the students in the schools within the district.
School Board members don’t get involved with the day-to-day operations of the district, but it is imperative that they monitor the outcomes and productivity of the students to ensure accountability and transparency.
Q: What is your view of closing regular public schools and opening charter schools?
Marshall: As an elected official, duly elected to be a good steward over the students, finances and district property, I believe it is unacceptable to continue to close public schools to open charters. It’s the duty of the board to track the data, evaluate the outcomes and hold the superintendent responsible for the failure of the public schools which has led to a decrease in student population ultimately causing the request to close the schools. The duty of the district, inclusive of the board should be to concentrate on academic excellence, student performance, parent participation, community partnerships and other components that lead to strong public schools.
Q: What impact do you see charter schools having on teaching and learning? Would you be willing to close underperforming charter schools?
Marshall: The immediate impact is felt when public school students leave and enroll in charter schools. For every student that leaves, the allocated per pupil dollars leaves the district and follows the student to the charter school. Many students return; however, the dollars are left within the charter system, which leaves the public system operating at a greater deficit when we consider teaching and learning in a district already underfunded.
According to the last available State Department of Education data, charter schools are performing equal to or slightly above or below the Public Schools. I believe every student should have the ability to choose where he/she would like to attend school. However, I don’t feel it is either appropriate or responsible of a school district to continue as an “Authorizer” just for the sake of choice when a school is underperforming. As an “Authorizer” the public school system has no voice in the curriculum presented or the methodology of presentation given by the charter school. The charter has its own board of education that determines accountability for performance measures. Therefore, it would be incumbent upon the public school district to issue recommendations to the charter as well as set a one-year review date giving the school the opportunity to enhance student performance and providing addition insight for TPS board to make an informed decision as to the continuation as an “Authorizer.” A public school district’s withdrawal as “Authorizer” does not mean the school will close; it means the charter has the ability to seek a new “Authorizer.”
Q: What are your thoughts about providing wrap-around services in schools in your district?
Marshall: Wrap-around services are relative to the success of every student. Today we are faced with the fact that many of our students are recipients of trauma from various sources. That trauma has left them participating in high-risk behaviors, scared, depressed, closed, seeking love, needing affirmation, longing for reassurance and filled with emotional impediments that will serve as barriers to their success. The district serves students that are homeless and on any given day they come to school dirty and in need of a decent meal. There are families that need the extra help to sustain the family unit, which removes stress from the student and the family. If student trauma and family trauma is not addressed through the provision of therapeutic services and other wrap-around services, our children will fail and our future as a community will become as bleak as theirs because they are our future. What we are coming to realize is that the trauma being exposed from elementary to high school is the result of generational trauma, which was never addressed. We need healthy children and healthy families. I believe wrap-around services serve as the key to change the trajectory for our young scholars.
Q: Many students in your district may be on IEPs. What can and should the board members do to help those families with information or understanding resources?
Marshall: The board should ensure that the district has printed materials fully outlining the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and 504 processes. Additionally, this material should serve as an introduction to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), The Oklahoma Parent Center and staff or community members that serve as advocates for children with special education needs. The printed materials should go beyond the Individualized Education Plan (IEP); it should be a thorough descriptive and informative navigational document which takes the parents through every step of the process, which should include parent and students rights of appeal and demand for services. I have spent quality time with parents trying to navigate the system and the main complaint has been that they are told everything is contained within the IEP. This is not acceptable. Parents have expressed they need more, and as a public school district receiving state and federal funding we owe it to our families to provide more.
Advocates such as the Oklahoma Parent Center, Supporters of Families with Sickle Cell, CUBES, Parent Teacher Student Associations, and Parent Teacher Organization all need to be invited to serve as partners in educating our families. With the development and opening of the Tulsa Public Schools Parent Resource Center, attention should be given to inviting these community partners in to conduct workshop, seminars and other events to enhance the working knowledge of every parent providing for the needs of their special education student. These resources should be made accessible virtually or in person.
Although the board is not directly involved in day-to-day operations, the board is involved in the oversight of the district and the ultimate responsibility falls on the shoulders of every board member to ensure Independent School District #1, Tulsa Public Schools is in compliance with IDEA.
Tulsa Public Schools has been out of compliance for several years and it does not appear that the district is by any measure gaining ground with compliance. If students’ IEP’s and 504’s fail to match the students’ needs with educational and staff accommodations, the district has created an insurmountable barrier to academic success. This must change and parents must have the necessary tools and understanding of the requirements placed upon the district, parent and student to meet all needs. Parents should be able to see the progress made through the IEP’s, therefore, measurable benchmarks should be a part of this process.
In summation, it is the board’s duty to hold the superintendent accountable for continued non-compliance of IDEA and unacceptable provision of special education services. Our families are consumers that pay taxes for services; they deserve to receive those services with positive results.
Q: What else would you like voters to know?
Marshall: Serving on the Tulsa Public School Board has been a cherished honor that I hold dear to my heart. I have made every effort to serve with integrity keeping vigilant the effort to be the voice of the community. Recently the YWCA honored my efforts by awarding me the Pinnacle Award in Education, and I can only hope that the testimony of my service will encourage the voters to allow me to collaboratively continue the work we started four years ago. I am asking for your continued support by marking my name of the ballot on April 6, 2021.
Together, we will “Rise Up” a district second to none in academic excellence.
Vote on April 6, 2021. To find your polling place, go to https://okvoterportal.okelections.us.