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Tulsa school board to consider nearly million-dollar consulting contract

Tulsa school board to consider nearly million-dollar consulting contract

Funded by donors, the contract would help put a strategic plan in place.

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Tulsa Public Schools may award a contract approaching $920,000 to a consulting firm that would help the district take its new five-year strategic plan from a vision into reality, officials say.

The contract would be fully funded by donors.

The school board heard details of the partnership during a special meeting Wednesday evening and will vote on the contract at its regular meeting next week.

The contract would be with the Boston Consulting Group — or BCG — whose education experts “can help establish better governance and accountability, streamline processes, and integrate and leverage technology for maximum improvement in teaching and student learning,” its website says.

The consulting group has numerous offices across the country and around the world.

Superintendent Deborah Gist told board members that because of the significance of the budget reductions school districts are experiencing, many schools will have to “pull back and hunker down and say, ‘We’re going to have to hold steady with what we have or make do.’” But she said BCG’s work would allow the district to avoid that.

“We are saying we are going to boldy expand what we’re doing, how we’re serving students, how we’re supporting our teachers, despite the fact that we have these reductions,” Gist said. “In doing that, we’re saying, ‘We will be doing more with less.’”

If approved, the contract would take effect in mid-February and extend through early summer, said TPS Chief of Staff Paula Shannon.

She told the Tulsa World that BCG will help the district take its strategic plan through its next stage, translating its vision into an “actionable plan.”

BCG’s work would be divided into three phases.

The first phase would focus on developing a “sequence of priorities,” Shannon said.

BCG and the district would think of the strategic plan in its entirety and what must be accomplished in order to understand what needs to happen first and determine the priorities.

The first phase of work would also include identifying the people, time and money required to accomplish the plan.

Shannon referred to Phase II of the work as “intensive action planning,” when everything would be fleshed out in detail.

According to the board agenda item, this phase would include the “development of implementation-ready action plans and a refined district plan containing a master timeline, human resource needs, as well as capability and financial requirements.”

The third phase of the work would focus on developing and implementing a structure, process, and set of tools and skills that will be needed, as well as a way to annually evaluate priorities.

A communication and “stakeholder engagement plan” would also be designed to keep board members and the community up to date on priorities and progress.

Shannon said the firm would also help the district set up an innovation team.

Patti Ferguson-Palmer, president of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association, told the Tulsa World that Gist spoke to her about the contract.

Ferguson-Palmer said she does not oppose the contract because it will be donor-funded, although she said she could “pick other things that I would want for them to do with their money.”

But she said if the money were coming out of the district’s general fund, she’d have “a real problem with it.”

Last month, TPS announced $2.1 million in budget cuts for this year because of the state’s revenue failure. Another round of cuts is expected from the state this month, and additional cuts are expected next school year. The district instituted a limited hiring freeze through June.

Shannon acknowledged that in the current climate of budget difficulties, it might seem “counterintuitive” to make such a big investment in the consulting contract. But she said this work would provide the district with a blueprint for the future it wants.

“We need to keep a focus on long-term sustainability,” she said.

Board member Suzanne Schreiber said the district is fortunate to have the generous support of philanthropists, which allows it to move forward with such work.

The district settled on BCG after a multiweek selection process. Shannon said the firm, which was founded in the 1960s, has had a dedicated education team for more than a decade. It has worked extensively with Atlanta Public Schools during its school turnaround process, as well as with schools in New Orleans and Florida.

A group of three to five people from BCG would be at the TPS Education Service Center four to five days a week throughout the course of the contract, Shannon said.

The contract is set for a vote by the school board at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the center, at 3027 S. New Haven Ave.

Nour Habib 918-581-8369

nour.habib@tulsaworld.com

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