August 20, 2008

Potential TPS Head Shares His Opinions


Keith Ballard could be introduced as Tulsa's new superintendent at a Monday school board meeting.

The executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association and former superintendent at Claremore and Oologah would begin as a part-time consultant for Tulsa Public Schools and then take over as superintendent when Michael Zolkoski leaves in October, if the school board approves Ballard's employment and consulting contracts.

The board meeting is set for 7 p.m. at the Education Service Center, 3027 S. New Haven Ave.

Ballard, who met with community leaders, teachers, union officials and other district patrons in several private sessions last week, shared his thoughts on a number of issues with the Tulsa World.

On his leadership style:

"I am a highly collaborative person. Leadership is required, but you don't go anywhere without other people. I will have processes for getting a lot of input because I really believe that public schools are the closest thing in government to most people. The schools belong to the community."

On his lack of experience in a large, urban district:

"First, you go find people who have that experience (to seek their expertise). There was a very fast-growing Hispanic population in Claremore. I worked very diligently to see the work through their view. Is it like what it is in TPS, with a 35 percent African- American student population? No, it's not, but I'm not without experience in working with minorities. I have also studied urban issues, and at the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, I worked very closely with urban superintendents and did several training sessions with the school boards. That experience has done a lot to prepare me for an urban superintendency."

On his first priorities for TPS:

"Cabinet positions and the (administrative) structure. Then, we will focus on our strategic plan. It's up to the board to set those goals, and they already have three goals right now that I think are very worthwhile (safety/discipline management, instructional excellence, and leadership). . . . Attracting and retaining quality educators is another priority the board has given me. The suburbs are permeated with teachers who used to work in Tulsa, but who left. I want TPS to be a place where people would come and stay."

On the failings at Tulsa Academic Center:

"TAC will be at the forefront of our agenda. The superintendent lost his position over this, so we will be looking at the (school board attorney's investigative) report and whether anybody else needs to answer for TAC. Also, do we have the rules in place and the leadership we need to make it work? I already know the new principal (Candas Bullock) because she was in one of my classes (in the educational leadership graduate program at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa)."

On discipline management:

"By my nature, I am a disciplinarian. There will be clear expectations for order and discipline. One of the most effective ways of establishing consistency and order is making sure every classroom teacher is prepared to engage kids. . . . I am also a big supporter of alternative education, either at the school site, or at the district level."

On Tulsa's pending legal challenge of the Oklahoma Charter Schools law:

"The Tulsa's superintendent's relationship with the Capitol is important. Now we're talking about one of my strengths. I have a close working relationship with the governor, the treasurer, the lieutenant governor and legislators. The charter lawsuit has been poorly received in the Legislature, but I do understand the basis of the lawsuit. We need help from the Legislature, and perhaps with my ability as a unifier I can bring groups together to work on this (issue). I will say that I think charters can play a useful purpose; I think we need to make the charters more our friend."

On the new career magnet programs at Hale and Webster high schools:

"The programs look exciting and enticing for kids, but my first question is: Are we tied to measurable outcomes? Do we have instructional excellence and high expectations in the programs?"

On performance incentives for teachers:

"I was asked (at last week's community meetings) about incentives for (teachers at) north side schools. I am absolutely willing to incentivize, but I am also a big root cause person. I would want to look at the root cause of why teachers didn't want to go there."

On Tulsa's pursuit of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award:

"I love Baldrige. You know, when Jenks (Public Schools) won, I think they were only the fourth public school district to win. Everything about Jenks speaks to excellence and quality. What's so great about Baldrige is not to win the medal, but to walk that journey, because it's all about collaboration and people giving input."

On the effects of the No Child Left Behind Act:

"There were some good philosophical points made by No Child Left Behind -- teaching to outcomes, having high expectations -- but to a certain extent, the interpretation of NCLB by some states and districts has taken some of the joys out of classroom teaching. I would like to bring some of the joy back for our teachers."

Andrea Eger 581-8470

[email protected]

Originally published by ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer.

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