With less than a week before an election for two seats, the Tulsa Public School board approved a two-year extension to the contract for Superintendent Deborah Gist.
Renewing the contract was the right decision but the timing was flawed.
Two board members — Jennettie Marshall and Stacey Woolley — voted against the extension citing the need for a postponement until after Tuesday’s election. Protesters outside the meeting last week also sought a delay.
Gist’s contract, with a base salary of $241,000, was set to expire in June 2021. The TPS board set an agenda to consider the extension before July 1.
Then, a pandemic closed schools and moved the April board election by two months. Everyone has learned to be flexible during this national emergency, including altered timetables.
The previous contract extension for Gist was approved in October 2017, showing a precedent for a fall discussion. Now Gist is left to deal with a board that includes two members who didn’t get a chance to participate in her evaluation.
We don’t find fault in the board retaining Gist, though we encourage the board to be more transparent about results of evaluations. Having insight into the board’s view of her job performance would go far in understanding contract and bonus decisions.
While we have had disagreements with Gist, those don’t rise to the level of replacing her. We prefer to see improvement and consistency.
This obviously would be a bad moment to consider a leadership change or launch a superintendent search.
However, the vote should have been until after the election brought a new board into office.
Moving forward with the contract vote opens the door to conspiracy theories and public distrust.
No harm would have been done if the vote had been held four weeks later, giving newly elected board members a say in district leadership.