Tulsa Public Schools is considering moving Thoreau Demonstration School, a middle school with a popular program, from its current location near Memorial & 71st Street, to the now empty Wilson Middle School at 11th & Delaware (near TU and across from Bama Pie). Some parents and students are naturally upset about the potential move, but I don’t really understand why. Thoreau would still be the same type of school, just in a different location. But change is hard.
My son went to Thoreau the first year it was open. He rode the bus most of the time, but when I picked him up, I didn’t like driving out there. I’m sure, though, that there were many parents who lived close-by who loved the location. When a school draws students from across the district, that’s just the way it is.
I was surprised to read in the Tulsa World this morning that some parents supposedly threatened to move to the suburbs or send their kids to private schools if Thoreau were moved to the Wilson location. Why? The program would still be the same. What is their fear?
Personally, I love the Wilson building and was sad to see the school close. I used to teach there. I never did like the sterile, office-like Thoreau building, but that’s just me. They’re both just buildings. The program wouldn’t change.
With all the upheaval going on in the past year with Tulsa Public Schools — school closings, reconfigurations, new programs — I wasn’t surprised to see that Dr. Ballard was testing the waters to see if there might be a buyer for the Thoreau building. Of all the schools, it’s probably in the most desired location and would be the easiest to convert into office or retail space.
I admire Dr. Ballard and the school board for the difficult decisions they’ve had to make in the face of draconian budget cuts. Our legislature, governor and state superintendent of schools seem hell-bent on squeezing the life out of public schools. Maybe we parents should look at the big picture of what’s going on in Oklahoma City rather than worry about the inconvenience of moving a very successful program from one location to another. (It’s not that far away, people.) At least Dr. Ballard is still supporting all of Tulsa Public School’s successful programs. But what happens if more money goes away?
The next time you vote, ask your legislator, your governor, your state superintendent of schools, what they’re going to do to support public schools in Oklahoma. And that means dollars, not more testing, not vouchers to send a few kids to private schools, not more legislative strangleholds placed on teachers and school administrators. Let’s vote for people who actually LIKE public schools and believe in the mission of educating all children. And let’s vote for people who put their money where their mouth is.