Achieving big dreams of reptiles and amphibians

In my visits to schools and classrooms throughout our district, I get to spend a lot of time talking with school leaders and teachers. But some of my favorite conversations are the ones I have with students. I think of these conversations as “mission moments” – experiences that remind me of why I love working in public education.

During one of my school visits last year, I met a student named Tairahn. I will probably never forget meeting Tairahn because in our conversation, he shared that his dream in life is become a herpetologist. A herpetologist – from the Greek “herpien” meaning “to creep” – is a person who studies reptiles and amphibians, and Tairahn is fascinated by them.

Let’s think for a moment about what it takes to achieve this dream.

  • He’ll need to graduate from high school and be accepted into a 4-year university.
  • He’ll need to major in something like biology, ecology, or zoology.
  • He’ll need to be sure that his course of study includes mathematics – so he can do things like project population growth and decline.
  • He’ll probably also need to study genetics to help with species classification.
  • And then once he graduates, he’ll need to stay on top of new developments in the field. He’d probably attend conferences and workshops. He might even work one on one with a mentor. Of course, he’d also be doing a lot of research on a regular basis, so he’d need a strong background in English composition.

I have no doubt that Tairahn has the drive to achieve his dream, and a strong education – provided by our amazing school teams – will be the vehicle to get him there. Education opens up countless pathways for opportunity, and those pathways start in Tulsa schools and classrooms.

 

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A reminder about who we are at Tulsa Public Schools

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At  Tulsa Public Schools, we live by our values: equity, character, excellence, team, and joy. We believe that our diversity is a community treasure, and that we must foster an inclusive environment by examining biases and resolving unfair practices. We are honest, trustworthy and have high standards of behavior, and while we do not always agree, we treat one another with kindness and respect. We do the right thing even when it is hard. We face difficulty with courage and have the moral fortitude to act in accordance with our beliefs. We care for one another, support one another, and work together to improve our community. We ensure that our schools and classrooms are places where children feel safe, supported, affirmed, and appreciated.

In the wake of the results of our presidential election, our children may have questions, concerns, and fears about the future of our country and the safety and security of their families and friends. Our children hear and see the same things on television that we do, and they are looking to us for answers, reassurance, and support. As educators, we have to do our best to assuage their fears and address their concerns, but we must also acknowledge the kernels of truth in what they may be hearing and give them the support and tools they need to process the information they’re receiving. We also need to make sure our kids know that no matter what, they are safe with us – that their homes, schools, classrooms, and communities are still safe spaces, that we are watching out for them, and that we will do all that we can to keep them safe.

As a city, we mirror the country in diversity of opinion and political leanings, but I know that we are united in our commitment to the best interests of our children. We must be vigilant in preventing and addressing bullying and harassment in our learning communities – both real and virtual. Equity, character, excellence, team, and joy are the values and intentions that guide how we live, work, and interact with each other and with our community. Regardless of what’s happening in our larger world, Tulsa Public Schools is still a place where everyone is valued, celebrated, appreciated, and affirmed, and that has not changed. We must continue to model these values for our children and set the expectation that they strive to live these values with us.

A message to the dedicated team at Tulsa Public Schools

Dear team,

It has certainly been an eventful week both here in Oklahoma and throughout our country. On Tuesday, we went to the polls and exercised the fundamental right and responsibility of voting. While our state ballot included questions on a number of important issues, the penny sales tax proposed by state question 779 had the potential to benefit every teacher and student in Oklahoma. This tax would have created a new permanent revenue stream to give each of our teachers a $5,000 pay increase and generate an estimated $25 million for education in Tulsa. The proposal was an opportunity to begin to lessen the financial difficulties that Oklahoma teachers face every day. Unfortunately, as you know, by late Tuesday evening it became clear that the majority of Oklahomans voted against the proposed sales tax.

On Wednesday morning, thousands of educators woke up well before dawn to start another day of great teaching and learning in Tulsa and throughout the state. Many of these teachers were heartbroken, devastated, frustrated, angry, and feeling like Oklahomans just didn’t care about them – but nonetheless, they returned to their classrooms ready to make magic happen for their students.

I am fortunate to have many opportunities to talk to community members about public education, and time and time again, I hear stories of transformational teachers and school communities that feel like families. Oklahomans value educators – they know that great teachers change lives.

In a state where it is common for professional educators to work second and third jobs and still struggle to make ends meet, it is well past time to fix the ongoing problem of Oklahoma’s teacher salaries. The conversation about doing right by our teachers did not end with state question 779. This fight is not over, and I will do everything I can to keep this critical issue in front of our legislators. I hope you will join me in calling on our state leaders to find a sustainable solution to improve public education funding and pay our teachers the salaries they deserve.

As a district, we mirror the country in diversity of opinion and political leanings, but I know that we are united in our commitment to serving the best interests of Tulsa students and families. I am so grateful for all that you do, and I am proud that we are on this bold journey to Destination Excellence together.

Your fan,
Deborah