The New York Times reported this week that the school superintendent in "one of Oklahoma’s rare Democratic footholds" is resigning.
According to the paper, Deborah A. Gist announced on Tuesday that she will step down. That move is said to be "an 11th-hour attempt to stop the state from taking over the largest school district in Oklahoma."
Gist is locked in a long-running feud with Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters, a conservative Republican who has voiced serious complaints about schools in Tulsa.
The Tulsa World reported earlier this month that Walters accused Gist of exhibiting "negligence" and "leadership failures."
"I will do whatever it takes to make sure that every student in Oklahoma has the opportunity to be successful. Unfortunately, many kids in Tulsa don’t get this opportunity in a district plagued with financial mismanagement and failing schools," the World quoted Walters as saying.
"The students of Tulsa and the City of Tulsa deserve one of the best school districts in the nation, and I fully believe TPS is capable of becoming that district, but we need immediate accountability and immediate improvement," he added.
The Times noted how in addition to criticizing the poor performance seen among Tulsa students, Walters has also taken issue with teacher training on implicit bias.
He has "threatened to take over the school district, which would include appointing a new superintendent, and even said he would not rule out revoking accreditation entirely."
That led Gist to release a letter on Tuesday in which she would attempt to stave off a state takeover by leaving her position.
"It is no secret that our state superintendent has had an unrelenting focus on our district and specifically on me, and I am confident that my departure will help to keep our democratically elected leadership and our team in charge of our schools," she wrote.
For his part, the state superintendent put out a statement in which he welcomed Gist's offer to step down, saying that "Tulsa Public Schools needs a dramatic change in leadership."
Failing kids is not an option. This is the right step to put Tulsa kids first! pic.twitter.com/vOfKmzGHKQ
— Superintendent Ryan Walters (@RyanWaltersSupt) August 22, 2023
"From day one, I called for the removal of Gist in order to get the district on a path to success. I am optimistic that this is a step in the right direction, that TPS and the community takes their situation seriously," he insisted.
Walters concluded by saying, "Financial transparency and academic outcomes must come next. I will always put Tulsa kids first."