As an immigrant from Peru who spoke only Spanish when she started high school in the United States, Talia Shaull understands the importance of a good public education, and she has dedicated her career to making sure that students in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s public schools have access to top-notch teachers.
When Shaull, 39, joined the Tulsa Public Schools in 2010, the district was struggling with a low-performing teaching staff and chronic instructor shortages at its 86 schools, where 87 percent of students qualify for federal free or reduced-price lunches. A system for assessing teacher performance was greatly needed, but the concept of performance management was new to both teachers and administrators.
With degrees in business and organizational development and a background in sales, Shaull had the know-how and skills to develop a talent management plan. Shaull began working with outside educators and national experts to develop and implement a new evidence-based teacher evaluation system called the Tulsa Model. In 2011 it was rolled out across the district and was eventually adopted by the Oklahoma State Department of Education to be used throughout the state.
“It’s been a journey in helping teachers and administrators understand what performance management is and how to help teachers improve and become better in the classroom,” Shaull said. “It’s given us the ability to look at talent as the huge lever in addressing student needs in public schools. We have an opportunity to place the most talented people in front of students who need it the most.”
The district is 30 percent Latino so the demand for bilingual teachers is great. In her quest to find top teachers who speak Spanish, Shaull has traveled to Spain to interview candidates using grant monies from organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.