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Deborah Gist's contract renewed; Tulsa Public Schools superintendent remains highest-paid common ed official in Oklahoma

Deborah Gist's contract renewed; Tulsa Public Schools superintendent remains highest-paid common ed official in Oklahoma

TPS superintendent remains state’s highestpaid common ed official

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Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist received a three-year contract extension Monday night that keeps her the highest-paid common education official in the state.

The Tulsa School Board amended Gist’s current three-year contract, which expires in June 2018. The board then renewed the amended contract for three more years. It will begin the day after the current contract expires.

Only one member of the school board, Jennettie Marshall, voted against renewing Gist’s contract.

Marshall cited the condition of the state’s education funding, the state’s teacher shortage, the number of teachers leaving the state — and the district — in droves, and teachers’ low pay as the reasons for her no vote.

“When do they (teachers) receive a monetary accolade?” she asked after the meeting.

Gist acknowledged Marshall’s remarks after the meeting.

“I think she’s right,” said Gist. “I think the point that she was making about the fact that we are not investing in our futures is something that I talk about every day. We need to do more for our teachers.”

Gist’s base salary formula remains unchanged. She made $238,408 in the last fiscal year. This year, she will earn about $241,000.

Each year, her base salary increases by the same percentage by which teachers and support staff represented by bargaining units see their salaries rise. She will also continue to receive a $1,500 per month stipend for a cellphone and automobile.

By the terms of her contract, Gist can never earn less than $235,000 per year.

Her base salary alone, not including any performance bonus or her auto and cellphone stipend, makes Gist the highest-paid common education official in the state, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s salary database.

Gist, in charge of the second-largest school district in the state, makes more than Aurora Lora, superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, the state’s largest district. Lora has a base salary of $220,000.

Much of Gist’s contract remains unchanged. One exception is her annual performance bonus of $25,000, which she has received and donated to the Foundation for Tulsa Schools each of the past two years. She won’t receive one in the final year of her current contract.

Instead, she’ll receive an additional $25,000 in a district-paid tax-sheltered annuity in the current fiscal year. In following years, the amended contract says, if she earns the $25,000 performance bonus, it will also be paid to the tax-sheltered annuity.

Gist also will receive a slightly smaller retention bonus than her original contract authorized. The amended contract reduces the retention bonus — originally to be paid if Gist were still continuously employed as superintendent in June 2018 — from $75,000 to $68,000, which would be paid by the end of 2018.

If Gist stays on continuously through the end of June 2021, she will receive a retention bonus of $54,000.

Gist said her retention bonuses decreased because members of her Cabinet don’t receive the same base pay increases she does and, understanding the sacrifices they’ve made, she wanted to follow suit.

The approval of Gist’s contract extension came on the same night Tulsa Public Schools, in the form of a 25-minute video, provided an update on its progress and where it still has to go after the first year of Destination Excellence, the district’s strategic plan. The State of the District report touted the improvements made in the high school graduation rate and acknowledged that the district “didn’t move the needle” on overall attendance.

After the meeting, Gist said her primary focus would be to implement Destination Excellence, and she noted the work the district still has to do to accomplish the strategic plan’s mission.

When asked by the World if she planned to retire as TPS superintendent, Gist said, “I am deeply committed to Tulsa Public Schools. I know how much work we have to do, and I want to be here to see it through.”

During and after the meeting, board members praised Gist.

Without her, school board President Suzanne Schreiber said, the district would be back at “square one.”

Samuel Hardiman


Twitter: @samhardiman

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