EPS District 2
Edmond Public Schools District 2 candidates Cheryl Williams, left, and Courtney Hobgood, right, will be competing in a runoff election on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. (NonDoc)

The next representative for District 2 of the Edmond Public Schools Board will be either a local parent-teacher organization member or one of the board’s most outspoken critics.

Courtney Hobgood and Cheryl Williams will compete for the seat in the April 5 general election after beating out three other candidates for the top two spots in the February primary, when Williams received 1,454 votes (36.61 percent) and Hobgood finished with 1,004 votes (25.3 percent).

The EPS District 2 seat has not changed hands in two decades, during which time it has been held by Kathleen Duncan, who was last elected in 2017 and decided not to seek reelection this year.

In an interview with NonDoc, Williams said she decided to run after her granddaughter was assigned to read The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeannette Walls, in an AP English class. In a November 2021 board meeting, Williams criticized the book’s assignment because it includes sexually explicit language and content, and she called for EPS board members to resign over the issue.

Williams said “a large number of people approached me and asked me if I would run for the board” following her appearance at that meeting.

Hobgood, who has three children attending school in the district, said she decided to run because local public schools are important to her family and others.

“The continued success is important to me. It affects my family directly, just like it affects my neighbor’s children and their family,” Hobgood said. “It’s important for me and my family that the success of this district is continued.”

forum designed for voters to learn more about each EPS District 2 candidates is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 24, at West Field Elementary School. The forum will be hosted by the Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee and moderated by Ted Streuli, Oklahoma Watch’s executive director.

Williams: ‘I don’t understand the pervasiveness of pushing racism again’

Hobgood said she believes teacher retention is the biggest issue facing EPS and that parents should support their children’s teachers.

“Right now, a lot of teachers are under attack, and we need to trust their degree and their expertise in correctly teaching our children what needs to be taught for our children to be successful,” Hobgood said.

When asked about teaching content related to topics of race and gender, Hobgood reiterated her support for teachers.

“I want my children to be taught that because that is real life. Not everybody is going to look like us, and not everybody is going to believe like us,” Hobgood said. “We need to trust the teachers to teach that and age-appropriately, of course.”

Hobgood added that representation in literature matters.

“Everybody should get the opportunity to find a book or read a book that looks like them, that acts like them, that believes like them,” she said. “I think it’s important that these children — what every color they are, whatever beliefs they have, whoever they decide to love — they need a character so they know they’re not alone.”

Williams said topics related to race and gender diversity should not be taught in schools.

“The role of schools is to teach academics. Families are to teach about sex and religion,” Williams said. “I don’t understand the pervasiveness of pushing racism again, and part of that is through the critical race theory, which is not supposed to be taught but is being introduced through various methods.”

Critical race theory is an academic framework that emerged from legal scholarship and examines how racial bias can be perpetuated through laws and institutions. After the November board meeting at which Williams spoke, Superintendent Angela Grunewald released a statement denying accusations that critical race theory is taught in EPS.

In June 2021, Williams appeared before the Edmond City Council to oppose the designation of June as Pride Month. She has also objected to allowing LGBT flags, “coexist” stickers and Black Lives Matter clothing in classrooms.

Williams’ campaign website states that she is “actively involved in the Oklahoma Republican Party.” She previously served as vice chairwoman for the state Republican Party, among other party leadership positions.

Asked what she would say to those who believe her public speeches are too inflammatory or partisan for a nonpartisan school board position, Williams said the topics at hand triggered her “mama bear” instincts.

“Unfortunately, we are all humans. And my point of view, when I spoke to the board, was what was happening to my children and my grandchildren,” Williams said. “And the mama bear comes out in me, and I will fight for everyone else’s students to have the rights that they should have in a school.”

Williams went on to say that “political indoctrination” is occurring in schools.

“The school should never, ever be taking one side over the other. It should never be politicized,” she said. “And I think that’s my biggest issue is things are being politicized in schools now, and that needs to stop.”

Asked what she would say to voters who might perceive her policies as too progressive, Hobgood said she is a conservative but believes in taking politics out of school governance.

“I, too, am a conservative,” she said. “They have tried to put me in a box of not being conservative, but I am. I always have been. But I do believe that has no business in the school board.”

Candidates disagree on COVID-19 policy

Williams said she believes COVID-19 should be treated as any other communicable disease in the classroom.

“We have a communicable-disease policy, which is, if you’re running a fever, you don’t come to school. You need to be fever-free for 24 hours,” she said. “So I just think COVID-19 is right in the same group with communicable diseases, and we follow the same protocols.”

Hobgood called COVID-19 policies in EPS “a very fluid situation.”

“I think if there was another surge — which nobody knows — then I would be open-minded to figuring out what is best for our school district,” Hobgood said.

Hobgood: ‘I don’t have YouTube videos of me screaming at the school board’

Asked why voters should cast their vote for her instead of Williams, Hobgood said she has the correct temperament for the work and has personal investment in the district.

“I have a long future in the school. I am open-minded. I am kind. I’m a good listener. I know how to communicate appropriately, and I think, out of the two of us, I may be the only one who can check all those boxes,” Hobgood said. “I don’t have YouTube videos of me screaming at the school board. I support our teachers. I think I’m the only candidate that does support our teachers.”

Williams, meanwhile, said the district would benefit from her previous experience working in finance.

“You have to have somebody with experience on how to read and budget money if it’s needed,” Williams said. “But also, how do we better serve with the money we have that comes in?”

When asked if there was anything else she wanted to address in the interview, Williams said, “I’m a nice person.”

“There is a small crowd who is very vicious toward me, and it’s really kind of sad, because I’m like, ‘Wow, if only you’d get to know me a little bit better, you’d find out we probably have a lot in common,'” Williams said.