This impasse comes after a series of meetings, including six held in February and two earlier this month. Besides failing to fill the vacant seat, the Board appeared unable to come into alignment on “board members norms and procedures… as well as board duties and responsibilities,” as stated on the agenda for two of the Board meetings.
In an attempt to break the standoff, the Board reopened the field to some of the candidates who initially filed to be considered for the seat but were eliminated. The District 2 board representative application has closed. The Board met to interview some of the applicants during a special meeting on Thursday, March 9.
Candidates Still Under Consideration
According to public notices, the Board of Education still considers the following individuals for the seat: Weslie Alexander, Paul Hall, Diamond Marshall, Kevin Pearson, Jasmine Stewart, and KanDee Washington who have been interviewed. In addition, the board interviewed the following candidates for the seat on March 9: Rob Allwine, Jennifer Campbell, and Paul William Thomas. It is unclear if they are still considered candidates for the seat.
The next meeting of the Board is scheduled for March 20. According to state law, if the Board is unable to approve a candidate to serve in the district 2 position by March 24, a special election must be called to fill the seat. One key reason for the impasse is that Board members Jennettie Marshall, E’Lena Ashley, and Jerry Griffin have united to block appointments, citing various reasons. Marshall and Ashley are the only two African Americans serving on the Board.
Meanwhile, public outcry to fill the vacancy is growing.
In the Board’s March 6 meeting, Sharita Pratt, who was considered one of the finalists for the board seat, told the Board, “I am sick of hearing that it isn’t filled and that it is sitting there empty. District 2 deserves to have a voice.”
Other members of the public echoed Pratt’s view at the March 6 meeting. Multiple board members said they had heard the same sentiment through emails and other communications.
Perez resigned her seat effective January 23. Initially, the board appeared on the way to promptly filling the vacancy, conducting interviews, and narrowing the list to two finalists.
But when a vote was scheduled to select between Quinton Brown and Sharita Pratt on February 13, information was brought forward about the candidates that was potentially disqualifying. In their applications for the vacancy, both affirmatively denied being “convicted of a misdemeanor involving embezzlement or a felony under the laws of Oklahoma or the United States within the last 15 years.” Pratt acknowledged she had an unspecified misdemeanor but claimed it had been expunged from her record. Brown gave no statement to the board about the allegation made public beyond his application filing. These are disqualifying events to hold a school board seat under Oklahoma law.
This threw board members in a quandary about how to proceed. That limbo status extended throughout February and into the last meetings in early March.
To resolve the matter, Board President Stacey Woolley widened the applicant pool “to appoint any applicant who interviewed with the board on January 26, 2023.” This included seven potential appointees.
Yet, Marshall, Griffin, and Ashley remained entrenched in their positions, failing to support any candidate. Griffin said he had “a real problem with this process.” And, he added, “It’s been tainted with the fact that there have been unclear milestones and shifting directions which have undermined the credibility of this board.”
As an example of a “tainted process,” Marshall pointed out that Pratt met with Woolley, John Croisant – District 5, and Susan Lampkin – District 7, on Wednesday, Feb 22, to discuss her candidacy. She added that finalist candidate Quinton Brown was not afforded the same opportunity for an “out-of-quorum” interview. Because of this, Marshall directly accused Woolley of having an “illegal meeting.” Woolley denied the charge. Marshall then sought to reopen the application process to include existing and new applicants. Wooley did not recognize the motion saying, “there is an existing motion on the table.” Marshall then asked Woolley whether Brown had been invited to address the board concerning his application at the last special meeting. Woolley responded he “was not uninvited.” Board secretary, Sarah Bozone, said she did not know whether candidates were invited to that meeting or not.
Ashley appeared to support Marshall’s remarks but said little. Griffin favored an election, saying he “did not want to substitute his judgment for the voters in District # 2.” But legal counsel Jana Burk told the board the earliest available date for an election was June 13, which brought muffled protests from the public in attendance. In summary, the board has voted as follows on the candidates.
Quinton Brown: the vote was announced, but no one moved to appoint.
Jasmine Stewart: 3-3 deadlock
Diamond Marshall: 3-3 deadlock
Sharita Pratt: 3-3 deadlock In an early March meeting, Pratt read the list of schools that lack representation on the school board. The list included several prominent North Tulsa schools, such as Emerson Elementary, Carver Middle School, and Booker T. Washington High School. Woolley told the board, “We will continue to have this item on the agenda.”