With the filing period for 2023 school board elections concluding Wednesday evening, a number of candidates have filed to run for seats in Oklahoma City, Norman and Western Heights school districts.
The three districts each had one office up for an election in 2023. Only one person filed to run for Oklahoma City’s District 6, but four people filed in Norman’s open district three, and three people filed to run for Western Heights’ open district three.
Primary elections for Oklahoma school board elections will be Feb. 14, 2023, and the general election will be April 4. School board elections are non-partisan, so candidates do not run as a member of a specific political party.
Oklahoma City Public Schools
With the end of the filing period Wednesday, residents of OKCPS’ Office No. 6 in southwest Oklahoma City already know who will be their next school board member.
Juan Lecona, 44, won election by default. He will succeed board member Gloria Torres, who declined to seek a third term.
Torres was appointed to the seat in 2014 and served two years before winning two elections in 2015 and 2019 for back-to-back four-year terms. Spending more than 25 years in public education, according to the OKCPS school board website, Torres became the district’s first Latina principal in 2004.
Lecona’s online presence is limited, and he had not established any sort of campaign page prior to winning election by default. He has children who are OKCPS students.
With the passage of a historic bond proposal last month in OKCPS, totaling nearly $1 billion, Lecona and the other school board members will oversee the numerous construction projects included in the proposal over the coming years.
Norman Public Schools
Residents of Norman Public Schools’ District 3 will have four candidates from whom to choose on Feb. 14.
The current board member in the seat, Cindy Nashert, is the board’s president, but she declined to seek reelection. District 3 encompasses a wide swath of northeast Norman, stretching from Flood Avenue to Lake Thunderbird.
Gary Barksdale filed to run Wednesday afternoon. A former 2016 candidate for mayor, Barksdale owns numerous pythons and fought against a city proposal to ban exotic pets in 2016. Barksdale is a University of Oklahoma math professor.
Kini Vaughn also filed to run for the office Wednesday afternoon. Their LinkedIn page lists Vaughn as a student at the Moore Norman Technology Center. A former Norman High School student, Vaughn expressed support for students participating in a recent walkout over NPS’ handling of a state bathroom law, SB 615, the emergency rules for which were approved at the State Board of Education’s August meeting.
Kathleen Kennedy filed to run on Monday. Kennedy is the president of the Oklahoma Center for Communication and Engagement, an education-focused public relations firm. According to her bio on the firm’s website, Kennedy was the communications director for OKCPS before moving to OCCE.
Annette Price also filed to run on Monday. Price is the former president of the Norman PTA and has a background in public relations. She is a former employee of the Oklahoma State Department of Education, according to a Norman Transcript article.
Western Heights Public Schools
After the resignation of three controversial board members on Nov. 15, the Western Heights Public Schools board lacked enough members to have a quorum for a meeting. On Dec. 3, Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed Jerome Marcus Johnson to fill the District 5 seat formerly held by Robert Everman. Johnson and the other board members will appoint someone to fill the seat formerly held by Robert Sharp.
In early 2023, voters in Western Heights Public Schools District 3 will choose between three candidates to fill Linda Farley’s former seat on the board. Western Heights Public Schools is located along the southwestern edge of Oklahoma City.
Brayden Hunt, 26, announced his candidacy for the seat in a Facebook video Monday. A former student of Southern Nazarene University, where he studied theology, Hunt said he became involved with Western Heights students through outreach programs in college and decided to run for office because of his love for the community and because he and his wife are raising a child in the district. Hunt currently works as an “ISI teacher” at Taft Middle School in OKCPS.
Kelly Brown, 52, is also running for the seat. According to her Facebook profile, Brown is originally from Detroit. Brown’s occupation is unclear.
Bud Ward, 56, previously ran for the seat in 2018, garnering 98 votes to Farley’s 230.
(Correction: This article was updated at 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, to correct reference to district numbers for Western Heights board positions.)