Most school board candidates unopposed


Shame on me. Shame on all of us. School board filing period was last week, Monday through Wednesday, and I forgot to remind you about it. I knew it was coming up soon, sometime in December, but forgot it was the very first Monday, and this year, that was December 1st. (I did mention it a couple of months ago, however.)

So last Thursday the Whirled published the list of candidates who filed for school board seats in Tulsa County. Of the 18 seats on the ballot, 13 drew only one candidate. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall a Whirled story announcing the beginning of the filing period.)

The Tulsa district has two seats out of seven up next February. One seat is contested -- incumbent Cathy Newsome faces challengers Betty Pelton Morrow and Claudia L. Brown-King. In the other seat, Ruth Ann Fate is reelected to her third four-year term without opposition. (She beat Marilyn Wigger in 1996 and Dennis Dowell in 2000.) Most of the suburban districts have five members, each serving a staggered five-year term.

While ignorance of the law is no excuse, the school board election system in Oklahoma seems designed to keep the school board election process out of the public eye and insulate the schools from the democratic process. Filing takes place during the busy Christmas season, after the regular election date has come and gone, when ordinary people and the news media are paying attention to other things. Elections are in February, and the campaign is conducted during a season when early sunsets and cold temperatures interfere with door-to-door campaigns. Terms are long, making board members less accountable to the public. And it is impossible, because of staggered terms, to throw all the bums out. I often get the impression that school board members are more interested in representing the administration's views to the public, than holding the administration accountable on behalf of the public.

I offered my idea for school board accountability and taxpayer empowerment a few months ago -- elect the full school board, in partisan elections, every two years. For now, I guess we'll just have to put up with a school board that has no problem with French classes that don't teach French.

If candidates in the contested school board elections would like an opportunity to air their views publicly, please drop me a line at blog at batesline dot com. I'd like to do my part to give voters an informed choice.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 8, 2003 1:19 AM.

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