Deborah Gist, member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change and former State Commissioner of Education in Rhode Island, is having a hard time holding on to teachers in her job as Superintendent of Schools in Tulsa. 

Gist won Arne Duncan’s praise back in 2010 when she supported the decision to fire all the teachers and school staff at Central Falls High School because of low test scores.

Since then, she took charge in Tulsa, where her tenure has been rocky.

Teacher turnover at Tulsa Public Schools spiked the past two years, with an exodus of 1,057, or 35 percent, of all 3,000 school-based certified staff.

Although Oklahoma’s rock-bottom teacher salaries are often cited by district leaders, a Tulsa World data analysis found a significant portion of those former TPS teachers — 295, or 28 percent — are not in higher-paying states but in other Oklahoma school districts with comparable pay.

Leaving TPS wasn’t easy for Melissa Howard, who worked at Lindbergh Elementary School for 10 years but now works at Glenpool Public Schools.

She loved her principal and school community but grew frustrated by what she described as top-down directives from district administration.

“If I don’t think something is best for my students, it’s really hard for me to buy in. And I didn’t agree with the curriculum,” said Howard. “It was very scripted. … If I wanted to read a script, I would be making a lot more money because I would be working in Los Angeles or New York as an actress.”