TPS District 2
KanDee Washington and Calvin Moniz are running to represent District 2 on the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education in a Tuesday, April 2, 2024, election. (NonDoc)

Voters in Tulsa Public Schools District 2 are preparing for an April 2 election to select their fourth board member of the 2020s, with both Calvin Moniz and KanDee Washington competing for the highest-turnover school board seat in TPS.

Moniz’s campaign has emphasized the need for District 2 to have consistent representation.

“I’m filling a one-year term. We’ve had a lack of representation, so I’m committed to making sure District 2 has representation,” Moniz said.

Asked if he viewed a school board seat as a stepping stone to higher political office in February, Moniz committed to run for a full term if elected to the school board next week.

“My goal is to continue to represent District 2 as long as constituents will have me,” Moniz said. “You have my full commitment to not only fill this one term, but the next four terms after that. I’m going to stay in Tulsa Public Schools as long as District 2 will have me.”

During a candidate forum March 25 at Will Rogers High School, Washington criticized the traditional focus of District 2 on a handful of schools.

“When I knock on doors, there are a lot of individuals in the northwest portion of District 2 that feel left out,” Washington said. “They feel District 2 has grown in its breadth to a point where their voice is not heard and that predominantly the TU area, Kendall Whittier area and Rogers area are the focal points of District 2.”

Washington emphasized the entire district needed to feel represented by the TPS District 2′ school board member.

“District 2 is all of District 2,” Washington said.

Incumbent Diamond Marshall is not seeking reelection after she was appointed by the school board to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of Judith Barba Perez in 2023. Perez won a 2021 election to succeed Jania Wester, but resigned after her husband accepted a job offer in another state.

Early voting is scheduled for March 28 and 29 at the Tulsa County Election Board.

Moniz, Washington campaign in TPS District 2

Tulsa Public Schools 2nd District includes parts of North Tulsa, the Kendall Whittier District and the University of Tulsa. (Screenshot)

Moniz, a member of the Choctaw Nation, is originally from California but moved to Tulsa to attend the University of Tulsa. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management in 2006 and a master’s degree of business administration in 2008, before earning his juris doctorate from the University of Tulsa College of Law in 2015.

He also started his career at TU before leaving to work in corporate relations for Ingredion Incorporated, a food and beverage company. Moniz serves as an appointed member of the City of Tulsa Housing and Urban Development Community Development Committee representing District 4.

While Washington’s campaign has received less media attention, she told The Oklahoma Eagle she has been knocking doors and actively campaigning.

Washington — who applied to fill Perez’s seat but lost the appointment to Marshall — grew up in Tulsa. She is a nurse and mother of five children who all attended TPS. An alumnae of Booker T. Washington High School, she also attended Oklahoma State University and Tulsa Community College.

Candidates agree that political divisions hurt board

Calvin Moniz and KanDee Washington speak during a town hall in the Will Rogers High School auditorium on Monday, March 25, 2024. (Tristan Loveless)

At the March 25 forum, Moniz and Washington were asked their thoughts on increasing partisanship in normally nonpartisan school board races.

“Even though we say it’s nonpartisan, excuse me, it’s very partisan,” Washington said. “It’s unfortunate.”

Moniz agreed that partisanship on the school board had grown in recent years.

“I’ve seen polarization on both sides of the aisle,” Moniz said.

Asked how to support teachers in TPS, Moniz referenced rhetoric about teachers’ unions from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters without mentioning him by name.

“We need to be celebrating our instructors in the classroom. We shouldn’t be calling our teachers’ unions ‘terrorist organizations,'” Moniz said. “We should be providing opportunities for career development and placement for teachers as well as career advancement. Until we do that, our educators will be looked at as second-class citizens, babysitters of our students, and individuals who are just scrapping by.”

Asked the three biggest changes needed on the board of education, Washington focused on one: less divisiveness.

“We need to learn how to play in the sandbox,” Washington said.

Moniz, asked the same question, focused on increasing transparency, finding consensus among board members and increasing outreach to constituents.

Candidates share district ‘bright spots’

Both candidates agreed the work of new Superintendent Ebony Johnson and the removal of 12 schools from the “failing school list” was the most important recent headline about the district.

Both candidates were also asked about “bright spots” in TPS that they would like to see celebrated more. Moniz said “great things” happen every day in TPS.

“Whether it’s science fairs, whether it’s the superintendent coming to visit,” Moniz said, “the bright spots are what our students are doing every single day in our homes and schools, and it’s not getting the attention it deserves.”

Washington thinks TPS’s biggest bright spot is the district’s diversity.

“Diversity is at an all-time high in Tulsa Public Schools, and I think it’s great,” she said. “It’s allowing us to have more different cultures within our district as opposed to black and white.”

Moniz has garnered the endorsement of the Tulsa World and Protect TPS. But falling behind in the endorsement race hasn’t discouraged Washington, who emphasized at the town hall that her campaign was focused on encouraging voter engagement.

“My entire campaign is pushing the vote,” Washington said. “Vote for the person that you choose, but vote.”