Transfer east Tulsa into the Catoosa school district
This is an area southwest of Admiral and 193rd East Avenue that has been in the City of Tulsa since the massive 1966 annexation and has been in the Tulsa school district since the independent East Central school district was annexed into the Tulsa district in 1964. It is bordered by the City of Catoosa and the Catoosa School District on the north (across I-44 in Rogers County) and east (across 193rd East Ave. in Wagoner County).
Such a transfer would benefit the neighborhood, both school districts, and the City of Tulsa. The neighborhood once had Carl Sandburg Elementary School in the TPS system, but Sandburg closed in 2011. The "neighborhood" school is Kerr Elementary, over five miles away. I'm told that many students in the neighborhood transfer to Catoosa schools, where the furthest building is about three miles away, and the middle and high schools are barely a mile away. The neighborhood has always had strong cultural and economic ties to Catoosa.
Beyond this one half-section, it would make sense to move everything east of 145th East Ave. out of the Tulsa School District. The area was also home to Lynn Lane School and several never-developed TPS sites. East of 145th East Ave and south of 31st is already in the Broken Arrow School District, and that area has seen many new subdivisions in recent years. Transferring the area north of 31st and east of 145th to Catoosa would encourage new residential development within the Tulsa city limits and would increase the value of existing homes, and that increase in value would benefit all Tulsa taxpayers, by spreading the property tax sinking fund burden across a higher assessed value. City of Tulsa leaders would be smart to encourage the move.
Part of the City of Tulsa is already in the Catoosa district: part of the area in Wagoner County annexed in 2001 and the fenceline in Rogers County that extends to the Tulsa Port of Catoosa.
TPS would benefit, too, by no longer having to run bus service to the isolated subdivisions and acreages of east Tulsa. TPS might even be able to sell the Sandburg building and proposed school locations to Catoosa schools for their future expansion.
If I'm reading 70 O.S. 7-101 correctly, voters in the affected area could submit a petition requesting an election, and it wouldn't take many of them. Subsection B reads:
B. An annexation election shall be called by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction without the concurrence of the board of education of the school district which is proposed to be annexed, upon the filing of a petition with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for annexation that is signed by a majority of the school district electors in the territory proposed to be annexed, hereinafter referred to as the area affected, said majority being applied to the highest number of voters voting in a regular school district election in the district in the preceding five (5) years as determined by the secretary of the county election board, who shall certify the adequacy of the number of signatures on the petition. The petition shall contain such information as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction may require.
The TPS board could choose to limit the election to the affected area or, if they wanted to give the petitioners a bigger hill to climb, could have the entire school district vote. I'd hope that TPS would see the benefit of ceding this sprawling territory with its attendant expenses.
Once upon a time, developers wanted to move rural school territory into the Tulsa district to attract suburban homebuyers. In the early 1950s, voters transferred a large section of the Union district into the Tulsa district -- everything now in the Tulsa district southeast of 21st and Yale.
But for several decades now, smaller suburban and rural districts have been more attractive to househunting parents than Oklahoma's largest single school district. Parents feel that suburban board members and administrators are more accessible and responsive, and a district with one high school is more of a cohesive community than a district with nine where the boundaries seem to be constantly changing. Parts of the City of Tulsa in suburban districts have thrived, while I suspect it's been over 30 years since a new middle-income housing development has been built within TPS boundaries.
MORE: A November 21, 2010 Tulsa World story lists earlier waves of school closings in the Tulsa district.
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