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Tulsa school board tensions leave district functions in jeopardy

A school board meeting in Tulsa ended with three members walking out and ending a quorum Monday night.

The chaotic meeting’s results throw what is normally routine school district business into jeopardy.

“At this time, we cannot pay our electric bills,” Superintendent Deborah Gist said in a Facebook Live video late Monday following the meeting.

The Tulsa World reports the board ultimately didn’t approve 12 items on the consent agenda. Those items include officially hiring teachers, the district’s partnership with non-profit organization Reading Partners and many other items.

This comes amid escalating tensions between Gist and Gov. Kevin Stitt. Stitt has called for an audit of Tulsa Public Schools following a letter sent by two board members to his office.

Gist had posted a Facebook status Sunday criticizing the governor and members of the board, including making a reference to board member E’Lena Ashley, calling her "blatantly bigoted,” and confirming to the World that was the result of Ashley sharing homophobic Facebook memes.

But Gist called for unity from the board and people in Tulsa late Monday in her Facebook Live.

“I'm going to take responsibility for whatever part I played in the results of tonight's meeting with the board,” Gist said. “In doing this, I hope to be modeling what adults do and what we need to do as adults when our students need us the most. We cannot have our students left in the aftermath of adults not being able to work effectively together.”

The board has a previously scheduled special meeting slated for Thursday. Members could rectify the situation then.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Robby Korth grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a journalism degree.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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