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May 2, 2013

Tulsa Public Schools board OKs mentoring program for at-risk students

Students at nearly a dozen Tulsa schools will have new academic support systems in place this fall.

The school board approved agreements with two national nonprofit organizations on Monday to increase mentoring in the schools where students need it most.

Reading Partners will recruit and train local volunteers to provide literacy-intervention tutoring twice a week at Anderson, Cooper, Eugene Field, Jackson, Kendall-Whittier, Mark Twain, McClure, Mitchell and Sequoyah elementary schools.

The board approved using as much as $135,000 in federal funding for program expenses. Member Lana Turner-Addison recused herself from the vote without giving a reason.

Meanwhile, Tulsa has been selected as the 25th city in the nation for a partnership with City Year, an AmeriCorps program. Two yet-to-be-named sites will share 20 City Year corps members in 2013-14, with 30 more slated to arrive for 2014-15.

City Year corps members are considered “near peers” in that they are 17-24 years old but they receive intensive training to be full-time tutors, mentors and role models.

Their work is designed to help prevent dropouts by focusing on three risk factors – poor attendance, behavior, and academic performance in math and English.

There is no cost for the program during the pilot year, but if Tulsa Public Schools continues with the partnership, it would have to fund 25 percent of the annual cost – estimated at about $500,000 – in subsequent years.

Superintendent Keith Ballard said the school district could “reprioritize” its use of federal funds to cover costs.

“This is all part of an intense effort to improve reading achievement in our schools, and the sites will be very carefully selected,” he said. “We are also working on districtwide initiatives, but I am so excited about these partnerships.”

Leadership resolution: In other business, the board voted 5-1 to approve a resolution to show its support for a “leadership sustainability” plan for Tulsa Public Schools. Board member Lois Jacobs voted no, and President Ruth Ann Fate was absent.

Plans include an administrative restructuring and salary adjustments to bring the district into alignment with other urban school systems.

Vice President Leigh Goodson said the plans are based on analysis by an independent firm. They are designed to improve support services to schools and to keep the district competitive in recruiting and retaining top academic leaders, she said.

“If we can’t support principals and teachers out in the district, they can’t do their job,” Goodson said. “This exercise isn’t for the central office; it is to better support principals and teachers in their work.”

–Andrea Eger, Tulsa World / Source

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