teaching certificates suspended
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters shakes hands with State Board of Education member Donald Burdick before a meeting Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Joe Tomlinson)

After more than an hour of executive session, Oklahoma State Board of Education members voted today to suspend the educator certificates of nine teachers accused of various illegal activities. Board members also voted to accept fact-finding reports on other educators facing disciplinary decisions, and they advanced proceedings for a half-dozen additional educators whose certificates could be revoked.

One of those still awaiting a hearing is former Norman High School teacher Summer Boismier, who is suing Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters for defamation related to his statements about a QR code she posted in her classroom in August 2022 providing access to books via the Brooklyn Public Library. Walters, meanwhile, has been attempting to revoke Boismier’s Oklahoma teaching certificate even though she has moved to New York and now works for the library.

The board voted unanimously to set a hearing for Boismier at its June 27 meeting to consider an application to revoke her teaching certificate, which is set to expire on its own June 30 — three days after the hearing date.

During his introductory address at today’s meeting, Walters previewed the other certificate revocations up for consideration Thursday.

“A few months ago this board took a record vote to revoke the most teachers’ licenses and administrators’ licenses in one single board meeting, and we’re going to be here today to ask for a new record revocation of certificates,” Walters said.

Earlier in the meeting, administrators for Tulsa Public Schools, presented their district’s planned summer programs to the board as part of its monthly accreditation update.

‘Findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendations’

Norman teacher's resignation
When students entered Summer Boismier’s English class at Norman High School on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, all the books were covered with paper that said, “Books the state doesn’t want you to read.” (Provided)

Originally set for March and then delayed until May, the hearing to consider revoking Summer Boismier’s teacher certificate was rescheduled once again Thursday until June 27, just three days before Boismier’s certificate is set to expire anyway.

The board also set a June 13 deadline for the State Department of Education to respond to Boismier’s request to disqualify Walters from the hearing and for Boismier’s attorneys to file exceptions to the hearing officer’s finding of facts and conclusions of law.

“On June 13, we’ll have all findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendations will be filed,” Walters said during the meeting. “And then June 27, we have the hearing, which will be in a regular board meeting.”

While the certificate is set to expire on its own at the end of June, Walters has been vocal about wanting to revoke Boismier’s license after she resigned from her position as a Norman High School English teacher just days into the 2022-2023 school year amid national attention.

Boismier resigned after making headlines for covering her classroom display of books with red paper on which she had written, “Books the state doesn’t want you to read.” Boismier also posted a QR code in her classroom that linked to the Books Unbanned webpage of the Brooklyn Public Library.

Walters, who was still campaigning for state superintendent at the time, called for Boismier’s certification to be revoked and initiated proceedings to do so after he took office. At the time, Walters made numerous social media posts and other comments about Boismier, leading her to sue him for defamation.

In January, board members had set the revocation hearing for their March meeting. At the March meeting, they agreed to delay it to Thursday.

After the incident in Norman, Boismier moved to New York. She does not appear to have made an effort to renew her certificate.

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Litany of legal issues lead to certificate suspensions

After about a 70-minute executive session, state board members voted unanimously to suspend the teaching certificates of:

  • Cody Barlow, a former Wewoka Middle School principal who is set to go to trial in September for numerous counts of lewd or indecent acts or proposals to children under 16;
  • John Boggs III, a McCurtain Pubilc Schools teacher certified in agricultural education who was charged in Haskell County in March with one felony count of engaging in prostitution within 1,000 feet of a school;
  • Stephen Gainor, a former OKCPS special education teacher who was fired last year for placing an “inappropriate hold” on a student;
  • Donald Holt, a Stigler High School teacher who was charged April 9 in Haskell County District Court with possession and distribution of obscene materials;
  • Tyler Patrick McGrew, a Sapulpa Public Schools teacher who was charged in November with unlawful possession of a controlled substance;
  • Aron Wayne Pearcy, who received a deferred sentence April 17 for a misdemeanor charge of “obscenity by electronic communication” in Pottawatomie County District Court;
  • Floyd Robinson, a Bristow Public Schools employee who faces three felony counts related to allegedly using his phone to record students while they were undressed in a locker room;
  • Jaelah Marche Rose, a former Douglass High School teacher and coach who was charged with malicious injury of property for allegedly using a baseball bat to smash the truck taillights of a boyfriend whom she had discovered was dating another woman; and
  • Vernon Tyler Thetford, a former Lexington High School teacher who was charged in April with five counts involving lewd acts with a minor.

Additionally, State Board of Education members voted to accept fact findings and conclusions from a hearing officer for:

  • Kristen Andrews, who is serving a nine-year prison sentence with four of those years deferred for driving under the influence and manslaughter;
  • Christin Covel, a former Tulsa Edison Preparatory School who was accused of sex crimes in Kansas; and
  • Hao Jiang, who resigned from Western Heights Public Schools after he was caught messaging someone he thought was an underage boy online.

Finally, state board members voted to appoint a hearing officer to conduct a hearing on the application to revoke the teacher certificates of:

  • Amanda Bristow, who allegedly gave sleeping medication to elementary school kids and then failed in her attempt to change her legal name when she did not show up for a hearing in Logan County District Court;
  • Toya Edwards, a former Oklahoma City Public Schools teacher who was arrested in May 2021 for public drunkenness and assault. Edwards filed a protective order against her boyfriend, Justin Hansbro, a week later. Five months later, Hansbro was arrested and charged with incident or lewd acts with a minor, although the charges were ultimately dismissed;
  • Essence Fields, an Owasso fourth-grade teacher facing a first-degree murder charge in the shooting death of her romantic partner;
  • Brandi Price, the former superintendent of Mannsville Public Schools who resigned in February after pleading guilty to public intoxication; and
  • Travis Sloat, a former Okay High School teacher who pleaded not guilty in February to a lewd molestation charge after he was accused of recording his daughter’s friend in the bathroom.

The board voted to have the findings of those hearings presented to the board at its meeting June 27.

TPS unveils ‘Ready, Set, Summer’ program

Oklahoma education roundup
Located at 624 E. Oklahoma Place, Carver Middle School is a part of the Tulsa Public Schools district. (Bennett Brinkman)

As a condition of TPS’ accreditation “with deficiencies,” district administrators have given monthly progress reports to the State Board of Education on various goals set for the district by Walters and the board members.

As the district let out for summer break Tuesday, TPS Superintendent Ebony Johnson and Deputy Superintendent Kathy Dodd informed board members about the district’s Ready, Set, Summer program.

“(It) offers a full day of academic and enrichment programming at 24 of our sites throughout the district,” Dodd said.

Dodd said 7,200 students from pre-K through eighth grade have enrolled in the program since it opened in March. Enrolled students will receive 20 days of instruction, Dodd said.

Additionally, Dodd said TPS will be running four-week credit recovery boot camps at each high school site over the summer. Dodd’s presentation showed 1,657 students across the district are enrolled in 3,390 courses for credit recovery.

“Most importantly, this allows our students and families to receive more individualized outreach and more individualized attention to get our over-age, under-credited students back on track quickly while preventing or recovering potential dropouts,” Dodd said.

Johnson said she hopes to keep the district’s momentum going through the summer and the 2024-2025 school year.

“I’m looking forward to having the summer to do quite a bit of work with our team,” Johnson said. “They may not be as excited. They may want to take some time, but we’re hitting the ground running, and I’m also looking forward to having a full year in the superintendency to really move in a more intentional way and efficient way.”

During Walters’ address at the beginning of the meeting, he said the State Department of Education is redirecting $180,000 from TPS’ literacy ambassador program from earlier this spring to fund the Ready, Set, Summer program. Another $220,000 will be provided for the district’s credit recovery bootcamps.

“We asked Tulsa, ‘What are your innovative, out-of-the-box ideas to really jumpstart student learning?’ And we loved this one,” Walters said.

After the presentation, board member Donald Burdick praised Johnson for her work after “taking leadership in a non-traditional manner.”

“You’ve done amazingly well, and your team has done amazingly well,” Burdick said. “I couldn’t be more proud as a Tulsa resident myself to see how you’ve taken this challenge, which I interpret to be absolutely focused on helping these kids to learn, to read, to write, to do math, to succeed in society.”