school board elections
Voters across Oklahoma weighed in on school board races and bond propositions on Tuesday, April 4, 2023. (Tres Savage)

Tuesday’s elections saw a number of candidates elected to school boards across the state.

Voter turnout and candidates’ claims varied widely. Below is a roundup of some of the biggest school board elections and a summary of school bond propositions on the ballot.

Western Heights Public Schools

Of the 277 total votes cast, Brayden Hunt gained 35 more votes than Kelly Brown to win the Office No. 3 seat on the Western Heights Public Schools board in far southwest Oklahoma City.

A former youth pastor and volunteer in the district, Hunt currently works as an in-school intervention teacher at Taft Middle School in Oklahoma City Public Schools and began organizing his campaign in 2020.

Hunt’s new board seat has been vacant since November, when three controversial Western Heights board members abruptly resigned.

Since then, the State Board of Education has lifted its intervention in the troubled district and community members have celebrated the chance to move beyond the shadow of its former leadership.

Hunt said his original motivation to run came from problems with the former board members. Now that they are gone, Hunt said his priorities remain increasing transparency and community engagement in the district.

“For all the Western Heights students and families I have known and still know–and for my own daughter, a future Western Heights student–I will represent the district with integrity, transparency, and the same tenacity that I have approached this campaign with and that I have striven toward in all facets of my life, and especially in loving and investing in the lives of students in this district,” Hunt said in a Facebook post after the election. “I am ready to get to work, and I hope to represent this district well!”

Hunt also thanked those who voted for both himself and Brown, and he thanked Brown “for running an honest, open, and passionate campaign.”

Tulsa Public Schools

Current Tulsa Public Schools board president Stacey Woolley beat challenger Jared Buswell for the Office No. 1 seat.

Woolley, a Choctaw Nation citizen who garnered 68.27 percent of the vote, will serve her second four-year term.

At a State Board of Education meeting in August, Woolley addressed board members after TPS’ accreditation was downgraded owing to a HB 1775 complaint.

Woolley argued that the district did not violate “the letter or spirit” of HB 1775, a law which bans the teaching of certain concepts of race and gender.

“More to say tomorrow but thank you to every Tulsan who voted and worked on this campaign. Now it’s time to get back to work on your behalf,” Woolley wrote Tuesday night in a Facebook post that included a photo of herself with the caption “Victory!”

Buswell garnered just 31.73 percent of the vote. Challenging Wolley from the right, Buswell said in a speech that it had been a tough choice for him to decide to “go against systemic demonic strongholds that have been occupying our schools for too long.”

His campaign also gained some Facebook notoriety Tuesday when supporters held signs with his name on them outside of Tulsa schools. At least one supporter sported guns as she held a sign outside of an elementary school.

Putnam City Public Schools

Incumbent Judy Mullen Hopper beat challenger Lori Tuggle with 65.21 percent of the 1,719 votes cast in the Putnam City Public Schools district in northwest Oklahoma City.

Long involved with the district, Hopper has been a teacher and education advocate at the state Capitol. She previously ran for State Senate District 47 in 2016 but lost to Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-OKC). Hopper is the current president of the PCPS board.

In a campaign flyer posted to Facebook, Hopper said that as a retiree, she has been able to make her board position a priority and be responsive to the many stakeholders who contact her.

“We’ve made a lot of headway in the past two years in our district, with more positive changes to come,” Hopper said in the same flyer.

Tuggle had been a vocal challenger on Facebook, accusing various schools in the district of having “sex clubs,” decrying “Marxism” and calling for the elimination of the diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator position.

In a Facebook post after the election, Tuggle said that despite her loss, she still wants to get rid of the “Marxists and useful idiots” in the district.

“The incumbent kept her seat on the board tonight, but I got what I wanted, too,” Tuggle wrote. “I was looking for God to let me know whether to fight this battle from inside the education system or from outside. Outside it is! My team and I are working on a strategy to get the Putnam City School District cleaned out. I still want to help teachers, parents, and students that are trapped in our corrupt system.”

Midwest City-Del City Public Schools

Gina Standridge narrowly beat Lynette Dean for the Office No. 3 seat on the Midwest City-Del City Public Schools board.

Garnering 34 more votes than her opponent, Standridge received 52.34 percent of the 728 total votes cast.

A Chickasaw Nation citizen who grew up and taught in Mid-Del Public Schools, Standridge is currently working on her PhD in education and was a classroom teacher for 32 years.

El Reno Public Schools

With 60.9 percent of the 335 votes cast, Eric Palmer beat Ronald Funck for the El Reno Public Schools Office No. 3 board seat.

Palmer, 33, is a customer service manager at Gemini Coatings, Inc., according to his LinkedIn page. On his Facebook page, Palmer calls himself a lifelong resident of El Reno.

Funck is a former Canadian County assessor.

The two competed for an open board seat, so this will be Palmer’s first term on the ERPS board.

A graduate of ERPS, Palmer did not list many campaign priorities on his social media pages but did say that he wanted to give back to the district.

“Thank you for everyone who went out and voted! Time to get to work!” Palmer said on Facebook after the election.

16 of 25 school bond proposals pass

Of the 25 school districts with bond proposals on Tuesday’s ballot, nine failed to meet the 60 percent threshold needed to pass. The bond failures occurred in the public school districts of:

  • Boise City
  • Cimarron
  • Grove
  • Hooker
  • Hulbert
  • Prague
  • South Coffeyville
  • Stigler
  • Stilwell

Sixteen more districts across the state saw their proposals pass with the required 60 percent of the vote:

  • Achille
  • Chelsea
  • Colcord
  • Cordell
  • Dewey
  • Drumright
  • Eufaula
  • Fanshawe
  • Grand View
  • Mulhall-Orlando
  • Pioneer-Pleasant Vale
  • Seminole
  • Smithville
  • Wapanucka
  • Waukomis
  • Weatherford

In total in 2023, 78 school districts have had bond proposals on the ballot. Including Tuesday’s elections, 16 of those districts’ proposals have not passed.

Issuing bonds, which are bought by private investors, can provide districts up-front funding for school site improvements, technology purchases and transportation upgrades.

Districts pay off their bonds over time with local property tax revenues. Bond proceeds cannot be used for things like teacher salaries and programmatic funding.