Run for school board! Oklahoma filing underway

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Even though it happens every year, it always seems to sneak up on me, coming as it does between Thankgsiving and Christmas. The filing period for the Oklahoma 2011 public school board elections is underway. It began today and will continue through 5 p.m., Wednesday, December 8. Filing takes place at your county's election board.

Most independent school districts have five board members with five-year terms, with one up for election each year. In 2011, Office Number 1 is on the ballot. While candidates must live in the election district for the particular office they seek, the whole school district votes on the candidates.

For dependent districts (K-8) with three board members, it's Office Number 3's turn. In Tulsa County, that means Keystone School, the last remnant of the drowned town for which the reservoir was named.

As a large independent district, Tulsa has 7 members with four-year terms. This is the year that only one district is on the ballot: Office 1. Candidates must live in the district, and they are elected only by district residents. Election District 1 covers all of the Tulsa school district west of the river, the area west of downtown along the Sand Springs Line, downtown (within the inner dispersal loop), Brady Heights, Crowell Heights, Owen Park, Country Club Heights, Gilcrease Hills south of Newton St., Riverview, North Maple Ridge, Swan Lake, and Forest Orchard neighborhoods. (Here's the Tulsa County Election Board map of Tulsa Public School election districts.)

The technology school districts (vo-tech for us old-timers) also elect a board member: Tulsa Technology Center Zone 2 will be on the ballot in 2011, and 9-year member, former legislator, and Tulsa TV legend Betty Boyd is not running for re-election. Three candidates have filed as of 5 p.m. Monday: DuWayne N. Barnett Sr., former Tulsa Police chief Drew Diamond, and Rick Kibbe. Barnett is a registered independent; Diamond and Kibbe are registered Democrats. Zone 2 is roughly between 46th St N. and 31st St. S, east of Yale. (Here's the Tulsa County Election Board map of Tulsa Technology Center election districts.)

After the first day of filing, there are only two contested races for K-12 school board in Tulsa County. Tulsa Office 1 member Gary Percefull is being challenged again by former Booker T. Washington school teacher Brenda Barre, both Democrats. A vacancy in Skiatook Office 3 has drawn Mike Mullins (a Democrat) and Linda Loftis (a Republican) to compete for a two-year unexpired term.

I am amazed that seats in two schools notable for financial and administrative scandals -- Skiatook and Broken Arrow -- did not draw any candidates at all on the first day of filing. Neither did the Office 1 seat in Liberty district.

The rest of the seats in Tulsa County have so far drawn only one candidate. That's a shame. Our public schools need careful scrutiny (Skiatook and Broken Arrow are exhibits A and B). The school board election is the best way to influence a school's operation.

If you are concerned about the kind of fiscal mismanagement evident in the Skiatook case, if you are worried that political correctness and educational fads are pushing aside tried-and-true methods of instruction, you should consider running.

It would not be difficult for a hard-working campaigner with a few dedicated volunteers to win a school board seat. If you could identify 500 people to vote for you and pester them on election day until they go to the polls, you would win in a landslide. This last February, challengers beat both Tulsa school board incumbents. Fewer than 600 voters cast ballots in each race. Lois Jacobs beat long-time incumbent Matt Livingood by a mere 6 votes. (February 2010 Tulsa County school board election results.) Four years ago, Percefull beat Barre by 37 votes -- about two votes per precinct. Less than 900 voters turned out in that race.

(School board turnout is a great example of the depressive effect of non-partisan elections.)

Tulsa Election District 1 includes several neighborhoods that are attracting young urbanophiles, the kind of civic-minded folks who are restoring historic homes, tending community gardens, and trying to resurrect the notion of the corner grocery. A combination of good public schools and school choice (and public schools that make themselves better as a result of school choice) are vital to keeping these young adults in the central city when they begin raising children.

Perhaps one of those young urbanophiles will file for this seat. While I endorsed Barre four years ago and still consider her a far better alternative to Percefull, it wouldn't hurt to have more candidates in the race. In particular, I'd like to see a conservative run, maybe someone with the skills to bring strong financial oversight to the board. If there are more than two candidates, and no one gets a majority in the February election, a runoff will be held on the 1st Tuesday in April.


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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 6, 2010 8:59 PM.

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