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From agricultural ed to band and sports, here's how Proposition 4 in upcoming bond election would support TPS progams

From agricultural ed to band and sports, here's how Proposition 4 in upcoming bond election would support TPS progams

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Will Rogers Stadium Dedication

Among the components of proposition 4 of Tulsa Public Schools’ $414 million, five-year bond proposal is $25 million for physical education, athletics and wellness. Along with equipment, the bond would include expanding the stadium at Will Rogers Early College Middle and High School.

Erica Goodson and Penny Davis need some space.

The pair teach at Webster Middle and High School, which would receive $7.7 million in investments through Proposition 4 of Tulsa Public Schools’ five-year, $414 million bond that is scheduled to go before voters on June 8.

Proposition 4 provides $139.3 million for learning materials and support for programs across the district, including $3.5 million for teachers’ professional development, $8.8 million for library materials, $12.1 million to provide annual additional per-pupil funds to support site-specific programs, $2.7 million for new outdoor classrooms and playgrounds and $29.9 million for textbooks and curricula.

Goodson teaches in the district’s only agriculture education program. In a normal year, she says almost 150 westside students in eighth grade and up take at least one class through her department.

“We get the majority of Webster’s kids coming through this department in some way at some point,” Goodson said. “I was honestly shocked by the number of kids who say they want to take an ag ed class.”

Along with exposure to welding, shop and animal science, Goodson’s students are also introduced to horticulture and soil science in the school’s aging greenhouse, which has room for maybe a dozen people at a time.

If passed, Proposition 4 would replace it with a new, larger facility equipped for hydroponics and aquaponics that would allow access for more students and more crops.

“We would be able to diversify what the kids can grow and we’d be able to grow more plants period,” Goodson said. “We’re hoping to be able to grow more to be able to share with the community and school. West Tulsa is kind of a food desert, so being able to show the kids how to grow their own food is huge.”

Goodson’s colleague, Davis, is the middle school band director. Because of COVID-19, her largest ensembles have had to move to the school’s auditorium in order to maintain social distancing.

However, even before the pandemic, fitting everyone in her classroom — plus their stands and instruments — was a tight squeeze, she said. Proposition 4 would allocate $9.6 million for fine arts programs across the district, including building a new addition for Webster’s instrumental music department.

“We have no storage in the room,” Davis said. “We’re having to store music, instruments and everything else at the other end of the building in the basement. When we need timpani for concert band season, we have to haul them up two flights of stairs.”

To the north, Jason Gilley’s students would also benefit from the additional program funding included in Proposition 4.

The principal at Central Middle and High School, Gilley said his faculty has had to get creative in recent years in order to properly fund not just their arts programs, but athletics and academics as well.

Along with seeking out grants and philanthropic donations, Central’s faculty has had to work out instrument swaps with other schools in an effort accommodate student demand. Even with those efforts, not all of Central’s band students are able to take an instrument home every day to practice.

“We’ve had to be creative the last few years because we all know that money hasn’t been something that’s too widely invested in education in Oklahoma, so we’ve had to find ways to make ends meet,” Gilley said. “However, all that time takes time away from kids and instruction.

“That’s a lot of manpower that could be used in other areas if this bond were to pass.”

The proposition also includes $19.9 million to support expansion of some of the district’s existing programs, including early childhood, dual language instruction and Montessori.

Brent Rowland is the principal at Grissom Elementary School, which is slated to house TPS’ second Montessori program starting in August. He said enrollment in the younger grades for the ’21-’22 school year has already started ticking upward and additional transfer inquiries have come in about the south Tulsa neighborhood school.

Funding has been secured to launch the program, but Rowland said an alternative source would be necessary to continue it beyond the initial year should Proposition 4 fail.

“Montessori might seem like a small thing,” he said. “But when the district listened to parents and implemented it at Emerson, their enrollment grew. I want to see that for Grissom.”

Proposition 4 also includes $25 million for wellness, physical education and athletics. Part of that will be used to provide supplemental funding for gym teachers’ supply budgets at every campus, renovation costs for the district’s pools and equipment for TPS’ middle school and high school teams.

The funding would also cover construction for two facilities that TPS athletic director Gil Cloud said he sees as both potential revenue sources for the district and a way to keep students engaged.

Citing the continued growth of the district’s soccer programs and demand citywide for such a space, Proposition 4 would fund the construction of an indoor soccer facility at Nathan Hale High School. The building would be accessible no only to Hale students, but also to other TPS teams and, for a rental fee, to members of the public.

Additionally, in partnership with the Tulsa Parks Department, the bond would pay for an all-weather turf softball field on the west side of Rogers High School adjacent to Turner Park. The facility will be available to all of the district’s softball teams.

“There is no question that when you provide quality facilities for your patrons, students and people who come into your community, you send a message that you have a welcoming environment,” he said. “When I look at the Rogers stadium, I see that area being revitalized. I’m seeing people there for soccer and football who weren’t coming there before.

“When you have those facilities, it’s a way to keep hope alive.”

Absentee ballot requests must be received by 5 p.m. on June 1. Early voting is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on June 3-4. If approved, the proposal would keep property tax rates level and replace the district’s 2015 bond package, which is slated to be retired in August.

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My primary beat is public education. I am a third-generation graduate of Oklahoma State University, a board member for Oklahoma SPJ and an active member of the Native American Journalists Association.

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