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We believe in local control until we don’t


We believe in local control until we don’t

By Roger L. Thompson

I have heard for generations that the best government is local government because it is closet to the people.  We extol the virtues of local control and affirm that we believe in local control.  Government should be a servant to the people and not people becoming servants to the government. I still believe strongly in the concept that government must be “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

This last week in Oklahoma, the state and the nation witnessed the State School Board of Education’s action against the Tulsa Public Schools.  The conversation, at least in the early stages, was about the children and their education and whether Tulsa would be accredited for another year. The focus became more honest when the conversation focused upon Superintendent Debra Gist and her removal as Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools. One will note after her resignation, the accreditation for this next year was an upgrade from the previous year. 

What really concerns me and I believe should concern us all is the authoritarian overreach of the state over a local school board in removing a Superintendent. There were no criminal charges levied against the superintendent only an obvious dislike of her from state authorities. The authorities that held the key to the future of Tulsa Public Schools.  

One can only take a few moments and examine state report cards from other Oklahoma Schools and see that Tulsa is not alone in its need to improve.

I am not addressing the practices of Tulsa School Board and their pathway forward. What I am addressing is the unique time in Oklahoma when the pathway forward for a school to operate was removing a superintendent, and claiming victory for the removal by state authorities. This should concern us all. 

I also find it interesting that some who call for the elimination of the national Department of Education, celebrate the State Department of Education taking authoritarian action against a superintendent.

I believe parents should be involved. They should be heard. When a school board does not listen, then remove the school board and democratically elect new members. When the community desires a new superintendent, then the community should speak. This is how a democracy works. This should not be done by heavy handiness of the state. 

Once again, we believe in local control until we don’t.

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