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Publisher’s Note: This publication has, on many occasions, stood on the opposite side of Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist’s decisions and made our disagreements clear. Tonight, we are squarely in her corner. We have reported on far too much death and far too much suffering this year – all while leaders have stood by and seemingly ignored reality. Oklahoma deserves better. Students, families, teachers and school staff across this state deserve better than a bully. We deserve leadership. And we are grateful that Dr. Gist offered us that tonight.

TULSA, Okla. — Governor Kevin Stitt has yet to issue a statewide mask mandate to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, despite recommendations from the White House coronavirus task force — which was encouraged under the former Trump Administration. 

Despite the new Biden-Harris Administration’s 100-day mask challenge, the Oklahoma governor still refuses to implement a statewide mask mandate. In the past eleven months, the virus has killed one in every 1,100 Oklahomans, including one in every 1,100 people who call Tulsa County home.

Stitt has chosen to expend more energy attacking Tulsa Public Schools than actually combatting the pandemic.

A poll released by the National Parents Union (NPU) found that nearly half of all parents (47%) say public school teachers should be required to get the vaccine.

“Because I’m committed to getting all kids back into their classrooms, I made sure that we prioritized teachers to get this vaccine. Many teachers over 65 have been vaccinated already and many more teachers will be eligible this month,” Gov. Stitt stated from his podium at today’s State of the State address.

However, most teachers still aren’t eligible for vaccination and most state counties are still designated red under the state’s Education Department risk-level map

This staggering reality would seemingly lend itself to any governor taking action to keep the people they swore an oath to serve ‘safe’. Yet, Stitt has chosen otherwise, turning his attention instead to melodramatic proclamations of “heartbreak”; demeaning Tulsa Public Schools for remaining in distance learning and calling on parents to pressure their local school board to reopen amid surging cases.

The Governor has not mentioned this same heartbreak about the deaths of more than 3,500 Oklahomans.

In fact, even in today’s State of the State address, he held no moment of silence and paid no homage, rather he lauded his decision to take little action and stated that his goal in accelerating vaccine distribution was “to get us our summer back”.

Conversely, Tulsa Public Schools superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist has steadfastly sought to protect the health and safety of Tulsa students, teachers and staff – even amid a lack of leadership and a slew of unprovoked attacks from the Governor. 

Dr. Gist has remained diplomatic, working to extend olive branch upon olive branch in an effort to expand access to the vaccine and PPP for teachers and staff across the district. In spite of this, Gov. Stitt continues to lambast the district while taking almost no action to get schools back in person safely and quickly. He has been a bully – and tonight, in a statement on Facebook, Dr. Gist made that plain.

“Consider this. We live in a state that has had one of the highest COVID rates in the entire world. Our governor has done very little to address that and has, in fact, behaved in ways that exacerbated the work of health professionals. Now, rather than owning that situation and focusing on the efforts to address it, he wants to point in our direction. He is preying on the very real and understandable fear, frustration, and anger of our families and deflecting from what he has done to cause the situation.

We are a district that is managing the effects of his failed leadership. We know there are no good choices. We know our students need to be in school. We have done and are doing everything in our power to manage this without support from, and often in spite of, the leader of our state,” Dr. Gist wrote.

Read more of Dr. Gist’s statement in the embedded link below:

The Black Wall Street Times is a news publication located in Tulsa, Okla. and Atlanta, Ga. At The BWSTimes, we focus on elevating the stories of our beloved Greenwood community, elevating the stories of...