Public school boards in Oklahoma are elected by voters and are tasked with creating school district policy, approving budgets and providing checks and balances for their district’s superintendent.
The filing period for Oklahoma’s 2022 school board elections ended at 5 p.m. Wednesday, and the following post provides an overview of the seats up for election in central Oklahoma’s largest districts.
State law specifies that the primary elections for school district board seats will be held Tuesday, Feb 8. But if only two candidates file for a seat, there will be no primary election for that position and the candidates will face off Tuesday, April 5.
In Oklahoma County, 15 public school districts were set to hold board elections in 2022: Bethany, Choctaw-Nicoma Park, Crooked Oak, Crutcho, Deer Creek, Edmond, Harrah, Jones, Luther, Midwest City-Del City, Millwood, Oakdale, Oklahoma City, Putnam City and Western Heights.
In Cleveland County, school districts including Norman, Moore, Noble, Lexington, Little Axe and Robin Hill will also hold board elections.
Full lists of municipal and school board candidates have been posted by the Cleveland County Election Board and the Oklahoma County Election Board. Voters elsewhere in Oklahoma can contact their county election boards to request a list of candidates who filed for school board seats and local elections.
Western Heights board gets new blood by default
What could have been an intense election for a seat on the Western Heights Public Schools Board of Education resulted in the incumbent board member declining to seek reelection and a newcomer being elected by default Wednesday.
Rosalind Cravens had held Seat 2 of the Western Heights board since 2015, but she did not file to run for reelection. That left community member and former district employee Darrin Dunkin as the only candidate for office in a troubled district where parents, teachers and school staff have called for change.
Dunkin, 51, is a 1988 Western Heights graduate who has lived within the district’s boundaries his whole life. From 1997 to 2009, Dunkin served as an in-school suspension aide and worked in the district’s information technology center. Dunkin currently works at Tinker Air Force Base as a computer network administrator and serves as a Pottawatomie County reserve sheriff’s deputy. Dunkin’s wife, Pamela Dunkin, streams the Western Heights board meetings to the Western Heights Community Facebook page.
Western Heights community members have been calling for resignations from current school board members for months as the district has dealt with a multitude of problems.
In early 2020, a citizens’ petition from the Western Heights Education Association and community requesting a special investigative audit of the district collected 998 signatures. The petition requested that the the state auditor’s office look into child nutrition program expenditures, credit card expenditures of certain district personnel, the issuance of bonds used to finance and purchase school buses and payments related to consultant and attorney fees. State Auditor & Inspector Cindy Byrd began the audit process in July.
Also in July, the State Board of Education voted to take control of the troubled district after expressing the “utmost” concern about district operations. In June, the state board voted to suspend the educator certificate of former Superintendent Mannix Barnes.
Voter turnout in the southwest Oklahoma City district has been low in past elections. In 2019, board member Rob Sharp maintained Seat 4 against challenger Brianna Dodd after only 67 total ballots were cast. However, in 2021 a total of 509 ballots were cast in the election for Seat 1, which ousted incumbent Darrell Raper for Oklahoma Education Association organizer Briana Flatley.
Pair of Edmond Public Schools seats draw crowd
Two board seats are up for election in the Edmond Public Schools district. Five candidates have filed to run for Office 2, while three candidates have filed for Office 5.
Office 2 is currently held by Kathleen Duncan, who has served on the board for 20 years and did not file to seek reelection.
Ashley Duffey, 37, will be running for Office 2. Last year, Duffey started a petition to return the district to a five-day schedule from the A/B schedule the district was using because of the pandemic.
Also running for Office 2 are Courtney Hobgood, 40, Bobby Kern, 44, Indrit Vucaj, 33, and Cheryl Williams, 66. None of those four candidates appear to have active campaign websites.
Originally from Albania, Vucaj is an educator who holds a doctorate from OSU and has taught in Enid Public Schools. He is listed as one of two managing members of a consulting company based in McKinney, Texas.
From 2013 to 2016, Kern operated a blog called Every Daddy’s Desire. His LinkedIn says he is a former youth and family minister who currently is an assistant professor in family science at Oklahoma Christian University.
Williams is a former vice chairwoman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, and she told The Oklahoman in 2009 that, “I don’t ever plan to run for public office.” She has made headlines in 2021 for appearing before the Edmond City Council to oppose the designation of June as Pride Month and for asking Edmond Public Schools Board members to resign over the continued assignment of a book called The Glass Castle, which features sexually explicit language and topics.
Meanwhile in EPS’ District 5, incumbent Marcus Jones is running for reelection. Jones was appointed to the board in November following the resignation of Meredith Exline, who had served since 2015. Jones is a software developer with two children who attend school in the district. Issues of focus on his campaign website include reducing class sizes, supporting fine arts, advocating for district athletics, reaching out to elected officials to discuss partnerships and improving the use of technology.
Also running for District 5 are Deonna Maxfield, 36, and Michael Grande, 45. Neither appears to have a campaign website currently available. Maxfield holds a masters in business administration from Southern Nazarene University and works in the financial sector.
Edmond Public Schools voters will also be asked to consider a pair of bond proposals Feb. 8. The first proposal is for $117 million to improve or acquire school sites. The second would raise $3 million for transportation improvements.
Two challenge Snell in Norman Public Schools
Three candidates have filed for election to Office 2 of the Norman Public Schools Board.
Incumbent Dan Snell, 74, has been on the board since 1997 and currently serves as board president. He was automatically elected in 2017 when he was the only candidate to file for the office. A former University of Oklahoma history professor who moonlights as a Mark Twain impersonator, Snell does not appear to have a campaign website, although he does have a Twitter account.
Chemise Stancle, 41, and Alex Ruggiers, 28, have filed to challenge Snell for Office 2. Stancle, a cosmetologist, does not currently have any policy information on her campaign website.
Ruggiers, a former teacher at Longfellow Middle School, does not appear to have a campaign website available. In 2015, Ruggiers helped convince University of Oklahoma leadership to create an LGBTQ study lounge.
Incumbent challenged in Moore Public Schools
Two candidates have filed to run for Office 2 of the Moore Public Schools board.
Incumbent Allison Richey, 52, was initially appointed to the board seat in 2016 and was automatically reelected in 2017 when no one else filed a campaign. Richey currently serves as board president and is a registered nurse with more than 30 years of experience.
According to information on the district’s website, early in her career, Richey served as a maternal/child nurse and school nurse for Moore Public Schools before becoming an educator and serving as the Adult Education and Campus Director at Moore Norman Technology Center through 2012. She does not appear to have a campaign website.
Harrison Leon, 26, has filed to challenge Richey and does not have a campaign website available.
OKCPS District 5 features three newcomers
Oklahoma City Public Schools has two board seats up for election in 2022: District 5 and District 7.
The District 5 seat is currently held by Ruth Veals, who was first elected to serve on the board in 2010, but she did not file to seek reelection. Three others tossed their hats into the ring.
Sharri Coleman, 50, has worked as a science teacher within the OKCPS district and currently serves as assistant professor of African and African American studies at the University of Oklahoma, as well as an internship counselor for Millwood Public Schools.
Vernona Dismuke, 55, and Adrian Anderson, 42, have also filed to run for District 5. Neither appears to have a campaign website currently available. Dismuke maintains a personal Facebook page. A blurb in The Oklahoman about Anderson from 2015 referred to him as a Bank of Oklahoma employee, youth mentor and coach. He founded the Living is Giving Community Development Foundation in 2014.
Incumbent District 7 board member Meg McElhaney, 30, has filed for reelection with no one challenging her. McElhaney, who is also the vice president of creative operations at the OKC-based marketing agency Bridges Strategies, was initially appointed to fill a vacant board position in 2019. According to her campaign website, priorities for the district include equity, transparency and culture.
Choctaw-Nicoma Park wants to bond $282 million
In the Choctaw-Nicoma Park School District, voters will be asked Feb. 8 whether to approve a pair of bond proposals, including more than $273 million for improving school buildings and $9 million for purchasing transportation equipment.