Mustang Public Schools Board
Physician Dr. Robert Rader and licensed clinical social worker Audra Tucker will be on the election ballot for Seat 2 of the Mustang Public Schools Board of Education on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. (NonDoc)

Two district parents, licensed clinical social worker Audra Tucker and family physician Dr. Robert Rader, will compete for Seat 2 on the Mustang Public Schools Board in the April 5 election.

During February’s primary election, Rader walked away with 38.47 percent of the vote, and Tucker received about 22.76 percent. Two other candidates were on the primary ballot, and incumbent board member Stacy Oldham did not seek reelection.

Rader has multiple family members who work in the education sector, and he currently has four children attending school in the district.

“One of the main reasons that I’m interested in running (is) to give back to the community and try to see what I can do as far as my part to help continue to improve the schools, support our students, support our teachers and continue to try to make Mustang a great school system,” said Rader, who serves as chief medical officer for SSM Health Midwest City and Shawnee.

Tucker, who has three daughters who attend school in the district, believes her experience in the mental health field would make her an asset to the board, because school districts throughout the state are focused on helping students and teachers recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

She said people in the district also encouraged her to run.

“Some people were saying, ‘I think we need a mom,’ and, ‘I think we need another woman on the board,'” Tucker said. “I thought, ‘You know what, I’m just going to try it and see how it goes.'”

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

‘A lot of kids are struggling with mental health’

Tucker said part of her job as an LCSW involves contracting with different school districts to provide therapy services for employees. She said the number of teachers seeking therapy services has grown in the past few years.

“Mental health is important to me, of course, because of my job but also because of what I’ve been seeing in the community,” Tucker said. “I know that a lot of kids are struggling with mental health. It’s gotten a lot worse than it was two or three years ago. But the teachers are really struggling, too.”

Although the Mustang district currently employs six licensed professional counselors and a recreational therapist, which Tucker calls a great start, she believes a lot more needs to happen to improve mental health in the district.

Rader said he also cares about the mental wellbeing of students and teachers and worries about the additional stress faculty and staff have dealt with recently.

“I think just trying to find ways to support our students and our teachers as we try to get back to some sort of normalcy and bring resources to help support what is probably going to be some ongoing issues as we try to come out of the pandemic,” Rader said.

Tucker also wants to improve communication between the Mustang Public Schools Board and community members.

“I feel like being able to be an open communicator, being available to people, being able to answer questions, being able to make the best decisions for the most amount of people possible are a priority,” Tucker said.

Keeping up with district growth

Rader and Tucker both identify student population growth as a major challenge facing the district. District enrollment increased from 11,868 students for the 2020-21 school year to 13,001 students for the current year.

Rader said the district needs to ensure it has the facilities, resources and finances to accommodate this growth.

“It’s a great problem to have,” Rader said. “It means you’ve got a good school and people want to move in. But it still has to be managed. I think our administration has plans in place and some initiatives to try to manage that volume. But that and financing the growth is going to be a major challenge moving into the future.”

Tucker said concerns about overcrowded classrooms will need to be addressed as the construction of new neighborhood additions near the turnpike south of Mustang brings even more students to the district.

“How are you learning and how are you teaching if you have 30 kids in a class?” Tucker said. “I think that’s probably one of the bigger issues that’s going to start getting worse over the next few years.”