Norman Public Schools
Three candidates will appear on the primary ballot for Norman Public Schools District 2 on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. (NonDoc)

Two candidates are challenging incumbent Norman Public Schools Board of Education District 2 member Dan Snell in the Feb. 8 primary election.

Snell, a retired history professor at the University of Oklahoma, has represented District 2, which covers central Norman, for nearly 25 years. He was automatically reelected in 2017 when he was the only candidate to file for the office.

Snell’s challengers are former Norman Public Schools teacher Alex Ruggiers and Chemise Stancle, a cosmetologist and small-business owner.

Recently, the district has received criticism from parents and community members, as well as current and former Oklahoma athletes, after a video of a sixth grade special-education student being hit and pushed around by another student surfaced on social media. The student who was attacked told his mother that he was also called racial slurs.

News 9 reported that the student’s mother alleges her son was forced out of special-education classes at Alcott Middle School and placed in a different class owing to staffing shortages. The school called the student’s mother after the bullying incident, but she says the school’s report doesn’t line up with her son’s account of events.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 8. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off election will be held on April 5.

For this electoral cheat sheet, the following candidate profiles are presented in alphabetical order and were drawn from publicly available information.

Alex Ruggiers

Norman Public Schools
Alex Ruggiers

Age: 29

Profession/Background: Ruggiers is a former Norman Public Schools teacher who is currently a curriculum developer for the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Public Management.

A life-long Norman resident, Ruggiers received his bachelor’s degree in language arts education from the University of Oklahoma and later received his master’s degree in instructional leadership and academic curriculum while teaching at NPS. He taught sixth, seventh, ninth and 10th-grade English and language arts in the district for three years at both Norman High School and Longfellow Middle School.

In July 2020, Ruggiers spoke before the Norman Public Schools Board of Education, urging the district to understand that the decision to return to in-person instruction amid the pandemic was a life or death issue for teachers.

Platform: Ruggiers has said he aims to use his experience as an educator in the district to cut wasteful spending, bring a modernized perspective to the school board and advocate for students, teachers and staff.

According to his campaign website, Ruggiers believes that Norman Public Schools can cut administrative costs and that education is a partnership between teachers and guardians, not a transactional relationship. He wants community members to have the ability to hold the district’s administration accountable and pledges to be present in school buildings in order to grow and learn with the teachers and students. He has also called for greater accountability for the board of education.

According to his campaign website, Ruggiers would be the youngest board member the district has seen and the first out member of the LQBTQ+ community. He told the Norman Transcript that this would allow him to identify with students in a unique way.

State Sen. Mary Boren (D-Norman) has expressed support of Ruggiers.

Online: WebsiteFacebookTwitter

Dan Snell (incumbent)

Norman Public Schools
Dan Snell

Age: 74

Profession/Background: Snell has served on the Norman Public Schools Board since 1997 and was president of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association from 2012 to 2013. He taught at the University of Oklahoma from 1983 to 2017, specializing in the history of the Middle East.

Snell is the president of the Norman chapter of Parents Helping Parents, a nonprofit that provides advocacy and support to the parents of people struggling with addiction. He volunteers to read with students at Lincoln Elementary School and has also served as a court appointed special advocate for children in foster care for several years.

In addition, Snell has also made time for his work as a Mark Twain impersonator.

Platform: According to his campaign website, Snell’s time on the NPS board has included work to provide professional development for teachers through the Professional Development Center and better pay to retain teachers. Snell has also supported alternative school success through Dimensions Academy.

He lists “safe and healthy learning” as an area of focus, mentioning his involvement in an effort to have a nurse in every school in the district and his advocacy for trauma-informed education.

He says he has supported “flexibility” in Norman’s response to the coronavirus pandemic by “balancing CDC guidelines while obeying state law.”

Snell believes the district should partner with OU, the career and technology center, small businesses, economic development professionals and chambers of commerce in order to keep students in the Norman community after graduation.

According to a post on the Neighbors 4 Norman Facebook page, flyers endorsing Snell from the Advance Oklahoma Political Action Committee have been going around. However, it’s not clear whether Snell approved this flyer or accepted the endorsement.

Online: WebsiteTwitter

Chemise Stancle

Norman Public Schools
Chemise Stancle

Age: 41

Profession/Background: Stancle is a University of Oklahoma graduate, licensed cosmetologist and small-business owner of 20 years who has a child that attends school within the district. She has been a youth leader at Crossroads Church in Oklahoma City since 2012 and previously mentored young women in foster care through Youth for Christ.

Stancle told the Norman Transcript that she became an alternatively certified teacher a few years back and has also substituted in the district.

Platform: According to her campaign website, Stancle wants to promote unity in the district and help students build confidence.

She has said she wants to bring a fresh perspective to the school board and supports getting “back to basics” in the classroom while giving teachers authority in classroom administration and ensuring that parents’ voices matter.

Stancle’s website also states that she is an advocate for strong support systems for community members, keeping politics out of the classroom, maintaining physically and mentally safe learning environments for students, protecting parental rights and preparing students to be contributing members of society.

Her campaign website states that she supports diversity in the classroom and does not support critical race theory.

According to a post on Stancle’s campaign Facebook page, she recently received a donation to her campaign from the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee.

Online: WebsiteFacebook

Review candidate campaign finance reports 

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(Update: This article was updated at 3:19 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7, to include candidate campaign finance reports.)