After five years on the job, Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard continues to enjoy strong public support, the latest Oklahoma Poll shows.
Almost two-thirds of the 400 Tulsans surveyed by SoonerPoll either strongly or somewhat approved of Ballard’s job performance, a result almost identical to those from an August 2009 Oklahoma Poll.
Ballard’s support was even stronger among those with students in the TPS system. More than 70 percent of those respondents said they like the job Ballard has done.
“I think he’s got a good direction,” said Connie DeFazio, a part-time TPS music teacher whose six children attended Tulsa schools. “He stands up for what he believes, and I think that counts for something.
“It’s a hard time to be in” as superintendent, DeFazio said. “I can think of some over the last 20 years who haven’t done all that great.”
That said, some think Ballard may have pushed too hard against the A-F school grading system being implemented by the state.
A narrow plurality of those surveyed approved of the grading system, at least in concept.
“You’ve got to have some kind of system,” John Woolman said. “I don’t know that (A-F is) a perfect system. I’m sure there are things that could be done to improve it. But let’s not just turn a blind eye and say we don’t have a problem, because that’s what’s been going on for too long.”
Woolman said he would “never want to blame teachers” for the bigger problems in education.
“I think some of the public school issues are more societal,” he said.
Woolman said he had “a very positive impression” of Ballard until recently, but now thinks the superintendent has been too outspoken in his criticism of the A-F system, which placed nearly half of all TPS schools and the system overall in the “F” category.
“I thought he over-reacted,” Woolman said.
Woolman also said too much money goes into the school “bureaucracy,” and that TPS’ Project Schoolhouse, which has closed and consolidated schools throughout the district, did not go far enough.
“Let’s say you put Edison (High School) with Memorial, sell one site, and give that money to the principal of the one school. They could really rebuild the whole campus. They should do things like that instead of just asking for more money.”
Others, though, criticized Ballard and Project Schoolhouse because they think it went too far.
“I don’t understand where the money goes,” Brenda Hill said. “They shut down these schools a few years ago, and now we have little kids walking to school. The classes are bigger, and now they say we’re running out of teachers.”
Ballard “is getting a bigger salary, (but) it seems to me that ought to be going to teachers,” she said.
About the Oklahoma Poll
The poll of 401 likely voters was conducted November 1-5 by SoonerPoll.com, using a random digit-dialing technique that included cellphone and landline telephone numbers. Results were weighted by gender, age and party. The poll was sponsored by the Tulsa World. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
This poll conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. A complete description of the methodology can be found here.