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School Board Candidates Are Seeking Your Vote
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John Neal, All-Black Towns, Black Towns, Oklahoma Black Towns, Historic Black Towns, Gary Lee, M. David Goodwin, James Goodwin, Ross Johnson, Sam Levrault, Kimberly Marsh, African American News, Black News, African American Newspaper, Black Owned Newspaper, The Oklahoma Eagle, The Eagle, Black Wall Street, Tulsa Race Massacre, 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

School Board Candidates Are Seeking Your Vote

John Croisant, KanDee Washington, Maria Seidler, Calvin Moniz, Sarah Smith, Teresa Pena, Tulsa Public Schools, All-Black Towns, Black Towns, Oklahoma Black Towns, Historic Black Towns, Gary Lee, M. David Goodwin, James Goodwin, Ross Johnson, Sam Levrault, Kimberly Marsh, John Neal, African American News, Black News, African American Newspaper, Black Owned Newspaper, The Oklahoma Eagle, The Eagle, Black Wall Street, Tulsa Race Massacre, 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

LOCAL & STATE


Four candidates competing in the upcoming Tulsa School Board elections used a Feb. 27 public forum at the University of Tulsa to make a case for you to vote for them. 

The election, scheduled to be held in just four weeks, is widely considered more important than any in recent years for Tulsa parents, educators, and anyone who supports improved public education in the city. The biggest reason is that the Oklahoma State Board of Education, under the leadership of controversial State Superintendent for Public Instruction Ryan Walters, is fighting a campaign to undercut TPS. The district’s accreditation status has been under fire since Walters led the state board to impose stricter demands to achieve higher math and reading scores over the year. If the district fails to meet the goals, Walters is threatening that TPS will lose its accreditation and be taken over by the state. Tulsa needs a school board composed of strong leaders to overcome the takeover bid. 

Key Positions of the Candidates  

John Croisant, running for re-election in School Board District 5, said, “we have to teach every single kid, no matter their religion, no matter their ethnicity, no matter who they believe they are, every kid deserves safety. And they deserve a quality education. That means teaching the real history, not a watered-down version, and letting kids decide how to determine what’s going on to give them critical thinking skills. And every kid deserves to be safe at school.” 

Teresa Pena, vying to replace Croisant in District 5, has been in her district for 54 years. She has been an educator and administrator for 35 years. She told the audience that she has never asked a child about their parents’ political beliefs, and politics should not be a consideration influencing decisions about the students. “It is about educating the child to read and know math. It is not about politics. We are at a critical point…people must realize this,” she said. “It is important to have input. But we must educate the child first,” she said.  

Sarah Smith, running in District 6, echoed the opinions of her colleagues. “We need to teach the critical thinking skills to our children,” she said. “This race is nonpartisan. And we should keep politics out of the classroom because there’s no room for that.” 

Calvin Moniz is seeking to be elected in District 2, which includes part of north Tulsa. He emphasized consensus building on the board and within the district. “Politics exists because we have an unlimited need for limited resources, so we have to come together as a community. What I have found in talking to members of the community is that education is only divisive because we’re letting our leaders at the top make it divisive. When we continue to have local control of our public schools, the political divide will erase itself.” 

Hosts of the Event 

The Tulsa World and the Tulsa Press Club invited the candidates to the University of Tulsa to answer a series of questions during a 90-minute session. The event occurred at TU’s Roxana Rózsa and Robert Eugene Lorton Performance Center. Each of the candidates was poised and collected. They spoke passionately about their educational values, the needs of the district, and their commitment to helping Tulsa Public Schools’ students succeed.  

They said that the board meetings within the past year have been chaotic and nonproductive as the school board has been challenged with transitions and new rules forced upon them by State Superintendent Walters and the State Board of Education.  

Walters led OSBE to impose stricter demands to achieve higher reading and math scores over the year under the threat of losing accreditation and being taken over by the state. He campaigned to remove former TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist, who resigned on Sept. 15, 2023. The TPS Board of Education hired Dr. Ebony Johnson with the responsibility to lead the district into compliance amidst state-mandated rule changes and regulations set by Oklahoma State officials while also coming under the scrutiny of extremist groups opposing critical race theory and teaching of history, challenging LGBTQ students’ rights and teachers’ unions, advocating book bans, and threatening to remove teacher certifications.  

Besides the contenders who appeared, two candidates – Maria Seidler of District 6 and KanDee Washington of District 2 opted not to participate.  

Seidler, a local attorney, declined the invitation after initially accepting, stating to the Tulsa World in an email “without a real debate forum, no one candidate is tested for knowledge or skill set.” Seidler is reportedly representing current board members E’Lena Ashley of District 4 and Jennettie Marshall of District 3 in a lawsuit accusing TPS and several other board members of violating the state’s Open Meeting Act, circumventing Board Policy, and manipulating board proceedings. The lawsuit seeks to invalidate Ebony Johnson’s appointment as TPS Superintendent and start a national search. 

Washington did not reply to multiple emails and calls, the Forum’s moderator explained. 

Tulsa World education reporters Andrea Eger and Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton, and Editorial Editor Ginnie Graham joined Editor and Tulsa Press Club president Jason Collington as facilitators for the debate. They peppered the candidates with several questions that were common to all, but in most cases, the questions were explicitly directed to only one candidate.  

The continuance of local control of Tulsa Public Schools was the most critical and common theme among the candidates, with each opposing a state takeover and pledging to involve students and engage parents when weighing decisions that impact them. 

Politics and bullying 

Since politics has played a significant role in the demands placed on the district, the top question of the night was how each candidate would represent constituents whose political beliefs differ. 

The forum came just days after community vigils were held for Owasso High School sophomore Nex Benedict, who died after what officials described as a physical altercation with other students in a bathroom. An investigation is ongoing regarding the cause of the student’s death.  

The subject of bullying was at the forefront of issues to be resolved in public schools, especially as it relates to gender identification. The state of Oklahoma has politicized student rights by forcing parents to include their children’s birth gender on enrollment forms and requiring students to use the bathroom for the gender they were assigned at birth. 

Asked if they would advocate for solid policies and practices in schools to address bullying, as well as advocating for constituents experiencing bullying problems, the candidates agreed that more personnel is needed in the schools to combat bullying and keep students safe. More emphasis should be placed on providing essential resources to address physical and emotional conflicts among students, with school resource officers, counselors, and adequate mental health as top priorities. 

“Bullying is a real problem,” Moniz said. “And there are as many policies as you could possibly throw at it, but unless you take action with those policies, it’s not going to happen. Two of my areas for action for bullying are mental health and making sure that our students have the mental health abilities, capabilities, and resources that they need to be great students and work through those bullying issues. The second is to make sure that we appreciate the diversity of everybody in our schools. As we take out the diversity, equity, and inclusion education in our schools, we lose the respect for each other that we should have. That’s why bullying and things that you’re seeing that happen in Owasso are happening. Because we’re taking the initiative out of our school to help people build consensus and communities. We’re on the wrong track in Oklahoma. And my plan is to get back on the right track in Tulsa.” 


School Board Election Information & Important Dates 

General Election: April 2 , 2024
Early Voting at the Tulsa County Election Board: March 28-29 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Last date to request Absentee Ballots: March 18

For more information or to find your school district, access the following website: https://www2.tulsacounty.org/electionboard/ . Call (918) 596-5780 or email electionboard@tulsacounty.org. The Tulsa County Election Board is located at 555 N. Denver Ave. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.  


Forum Candidate Profiles 

John Croisant, Dist. 5 

John Croisant has lived in District 6 since 2017 but has worked as an educator within District 5. He said he is running for reelection to a seat on the Board to help Tulsa students.  

See Also
Anthony Crawford, Tulsa Public Schools, All-Black Towns, Black Towns, Oklahoma Black Towns, Historic Black Towns, Gary Lee, M. David Goodwin, James Goodwin, Ross Johnson, Sam Levrault, Kimberly Marsh, John Neal, African American News, Black News, African American Newspaper, Black Owned Newspaper, The Oklahoma Eagle, The Eagle, Black Wall Street, Tulsa Race Massacre, 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

“After being a teacher at Edison for 12 years and a soccer coach, I started my insurance agency. I have the opportunity to give back to the community. And instead of just helping 2,000 students at Edison, I know I can help close to 34,000 students every single year.” 

Sarah Smith, Dist. 6 

Sarah Smith is a parent and community volunteer who has lived in District 6 for 10 years. Smith said she decided to run because she wasn’t happy with the previous board representative, and she became increasingly concerned with “attacks on Tulsa public schools last year.”  

Smith said, “I believe every child deserves a quality public education, and I think they can get one, but we still have some work to do in Tulsa public schools. I’m a little concerned, too, about the drama and chaos that’s been going on with the board. Again, that’s why I want to make sure that District 6 is represented by somebody who is a parent and somebody who knows what’s going on in the schools and can take action.”  

Maria Seidler, Dist. 6 

Maria Seidler is representing current board members E’Lena Ashley of District 4 and Jennettie Marshall of District 3 in a lawsuit accusing TPS and several other board members of violating the state’s Open Meeting Act, circumventing Board Policy, and manipulating board proceedings. The lawsuit seeks to invalidate Ebony Johnson’s appointment as TPS Superintendent and start a national search. The Oklahoma Eagle was unable to find any candidate information through an official candidate website or social media. 

Calvin Moniz, Dist. 2 

Calvin Moniz has been a District 2 resident for 15 years. He said he is running for a seat on the school board because he feels that public schools are the last chance for a great, equitable difference in society and the only opportunity for people to achieve their individual dreams.

His approach to public education is to “treat students individually for who they are, appreciated for their differences.” His priorities are student safety, teaching STEM curriculum for real-world application without sacrificing an education in the arts, and extracurricular activities. He said it is important to ensure that students know all their options after graduation, including alternatives to the four-year university degree, such as trade schools and two-year colleges. 

Teresa Pena, Dist. 5 

Teresa Pena has been in her district for 54 years. A native of Tulsa and a lifelong educator, she also worked for Tulsa Public Schools for 35 years as a classroom teacher, an academic coordinator, a school design specialist, and a school administrator. She recently retired and decided to run after watching “the chaos” at the local and state education board levels. “Nobody seemed to be talking about the children.  

“We are at a dire time when we must look at our education, our reading and our math and our science and social studies and get back to those basics. We need local control; we have to have a good school system. Because if we don’t have a good school system, now it will also go into our city. And we must have good workers, we must have good business owners, and we must be able to bring in different businesses to our community. 

KanDee Washington, Dist. 2 

KanDee Washington is listed on her Facebook page as a proud Booker T. Washington High School graduate, single mother and TPS Board District 2 candidate. She attended all District 2 schools: Springdale, Ellis Walker Woods, Marion Anderson, and Booker T. Washington. Her higher education includes Oklahoma State University. Tulsa Community College, Victory College and Columbia School of Broadcasting. 

Washington’s professional career listings include C.F.S. Network Customer Service, Williams Communications Group (Threat/Release Analyst) and entrepreneur. She has been involved with the Oklahoma Education Association, Parents & Teachers Association, Families of Murdered Children, Women’s Empowerment, Metropolitan Tulsa Urban League Guild, John 3:16 and the Dream Center. 

Washington’s platform states: “I’m on a mission, not a politician”, and lists her priorities as students first at school and in community; mental health help for all; site safety/security; eliminating worry; foster Engagement; boost Community Connections; all-around accountability. 

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