In The Know: TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist to step down amid accreditation dispute with state superintendent | Expanding broadband in rural areas | More

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Oklahoma News

Deborah Gist out as superintendent in effort to preserve local control of Tulsa Public Schools: Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist announced Tuesday that she is stepping down. Citing a desire to try to prevent a state takeover of the district, Gist emailed TPS employees at the close of business on Tuesday evening to announce that she will be leaving Sept. 15. [Tulsa World]

  • Tulsa Superintendent to Step Down, in a Showdown With State Officials [New York Times]
  • With a State Takeover on the Table, the Leader of Oklahoma’s Largest District Resigns [Education Week]
  • Hoping to rout state takeover of district, TPS superintendent announces resignation [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa superintendent to resign amid battle with Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters [KGOU]
  • With ‘all options’ available and the upcoming exit of its Superintendent, Tulsa awaits fate of its school system [The Frontier]
  • Ahead of state board decision, TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist announces departure [NonDoc]
  • Tulsa Public Schools Supt. Deborah Gist resigns amid dispute with Walters, accreditation [The Oklahoman]
  • Local leaders react to TPS leadership change [Tulsa World]

State Government News

USDA designates more than $60 million to expand high speed internet access in rural areas of Oklahoma tribal nations: An Oklahoma tribal nation and two telephone companies are receiving $67.4 million to expand broadband access in rural Oklahoma. The funds are part of a $667 million investment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand rural high speed internet access in 22 states and the Marshall Islands. [KGOU]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

New city program aims to make inspection of multi-family residential properties routine: Two years after the city shuttered Vista Shadow Mountain Apartments for violating multiple fire prevention and building maintenance codes, the south Tulsa complex remains closed. But it’s opened up a whole new way of thinking for city officials charged with ensuring that residential rental properties in Tulsa are safe and properly maintained. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Stitt, former Boeing CEO break ground on nation’s first cobalt-nickel refinery in Oklahoma; call it matter of national security: Investors see a new refinery headed for Lawton as a matter of national security, if not a mission from God. It’s no oil refinery, but one designed to refine nickel and cobalt, as a pilot plant of the first such refinery in the United States, by Bartlesville-based startup Westwin Elements Inc. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Superintendent’s rants against public schools lead to bomb threat: Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walter’s racist attacks on public education have led to a dangerous new level of retaliation. A bomb threat was reported at a public school in Tulsa a day after the far-right account Libs of Tiktok shared an altered video that Walters shared to his account. [The Black Wall Street Times]

  • Ryan Walters labels Oklahoma librarian’s video an example of ‘woke agenda’ in Twitter firestorm [The Oklahoman]

Woodward coach, athletic director Mark Ward resigns after community objects to new hire: Mark Ward, recently hired as the high school baseball coach and assistant athletic director at Woodward Public Schools, has resigned after a wave of objections from concerned community members on social media. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma City teachers say the school district illegally fired them for not wearing masks: Six teachers who were fired from Oklahoma City Public Schools for not wearing masks in class during part of the COVID-19 pandemic have filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the school system. [The Oklahoman]

University of Tulsa invests $24 million in new cyber education initiative: The University of Tulsa is opening the Oklahoma Cyber Innovation Institute to “deploy new cyber solutions.” [Public Radio Tulsa]

Eight Tulsa-area public school football coaches make more than $100,000 in compensation: Three Tulsa-area high schools — Tulsa Union, Owasso, and Bixby — have head coaches with total-package incomes exceeding those of any coach in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Tulsa Union’s Kirk Fridrich was the highest paid Tulsa-area football coach with a total compensation of $159,614 for the 2022-23 school year. [Tulsa World]

Column: How ensuring each board of regents serves an individual community college is advantageous: Community college education is an aspect of higher education that is evolving through the academic pipeline. Ensuring that the direction of the administrative focus and board of regents remains consistent with the institution’s mission is vital to the growth of a community college. [Laney Tibbs Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Column: It’s a new school year. Become familiar with signs of mental health struggles: Leaving behind the unstructured days of summer to dive into a busy school year triggers various responses from students. As the children in our communities head back to school, parents and guardians need to understand the stress a new school year can bring. [Carrie Slatton-Hodges Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Column: Tulsa Public Schools doing great things for kids: I’m in my 10th year as a Tulsa Public Schools parent. My husband and I have kids in fifth, seventh and ninth grades and volunteer countless hours to serve their schools. TPS serves more than 30,000 students and must balance the struggles of homelessness, hunger, period poverty, learning deficits, dwindling budgets and more. We are not a school district that serves one person’s ideology. We serve all. [Jennifer White Guest Column / Tulsa Public Schools]

General News

Column: Arkansas fears students will see Black people as equals: In 2023, an Oklahoma elected official–who has since resigned–believes Black people have more rights than he does because he can no longer murder us without consequences. While alarming, it’s not the first time I’ve heard a White person say something like this. In some folks’ twisted sense of reality, equality in the U.S. means the dominant status quo of White supremacy, but achieving some measure of civil rights and racial equity for Black Americans is a persecution of White Americans. [Deon Osborne Column / The Black Wall Street Times]

Column: We, too, once were strangers: Nowadays, even though many in our state fall well short of economic security, few Oklahomans are forced to leave our state to seek the basic necessities of life. But how are we treating those who are today walking in the battered shoes that Oklahomans wore not-so-many decades ago? [David Blatt Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“I call upon all of the state’s civic, business and political leadership across this state to recognize the attack on Dr. Gist and Tulsa Public Schools will continue across all of public education unless we continue pushing back and encourage thoughtful ways to improve public education.”

-Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., about the resignation announcement of the Tulsa Public School superintendent as the district remains in a protracted accreditation battle with the state superintendent and State Board of Education. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma has only 39 affordable and available homes for every 100 extremely low-income Oklahoma households. [National Low Income Housing Coalition via OK Policy]

Policy Note

The 30-year clock is running out on affordable housing: America’s shortage of affordable housing, which has been mounting for years, will significantly worsen in the months and years to come unless federal policymakers step in to both reform and expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit — the nation’s largest affordable rental production program. [The Hill]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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