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Three candidates vie for an open seat on the OKC school board.

Clifton Adcock February 1st, 2012

Three candidates are vying for an open seat on the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education.

District 4 is located primarily in the inner north-central section of OKC, but stretches as far south as Capitol Hill Elementary School. The seat is being vacated by board member Steve Shafer.

A second school board election in school OKCPS District 3, with incumbent Phil Horning running for re-election, is uncontested.

Both elections are scheduled for Feb. 14. If a runoff election is required, it will be April 3.

Campaign donation and expenditure filings for each candidate are not due until later this week.

Vying for the open seat are Patrick Gaines, 42; Crystal Hodges, 33; and Laura Massenat, 44.

Patrick Gaines
Gaines is the owner of Gaines Government Services, an OKC government relations and lobbying firm. The University of Oklahoma graduate has two 10-year-olds attending Wilson Elementary School and serves on the board of the nonprofit Wilson Arts Inc.

A former employee of the State Regents for Higher Education, Gaines said he chose to run because he feels a position on the school board is one of the most important roles in the city that can have a positive impact.

He said he hopes to champion the cause of making schools community cornerstones, thereby increasing parental and community involvement.

“Back when we were growing up, schools were the focal point of the community, and everything happened at the schools,” Gaines said. “That really provided a sense of community and ownership with the school. That’s something we’re lacking today. Once you find a way to bring the community and parents back into the school system where they feel they have a stake in it, you’re going to address a lot of the other concerns we face.”

Other issues Gaines said he hopes to address are local control of schools, communication between the district administration and schools regarding federal and state mandates, class size, the importance of teaching healthy lifestyles and habits, and using technology to facilitate communication between the district and parents.

Crystal Hodges
Hodges, a U.S. Navy veteran, holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from OU, and has three children, as well as a nephew her family is raising. She is home-schooling all four.

Hodges said she is running because she has a passion for education. Although she home-schools her children, Hodges said she hopes to be able to extend some of the options that she was given to other members of the community who may not be so fortunate.

“I think I’ve come to a point in my life where it’s time to give back and this is one thing I think I would be good at,” Hodges said. “My skill set is directed toward education. I’m looking outside of my own life, my own family, to extend that to the community because here are a lot of families that don’t have the choices I have, or the choices that many people have regarding private schools, home schooling, or even charter or magnet schools.”

In talking with members of the community, teachers and parents, Hodges said she has found that each have their own issues they want addressed.

She said teachers cite funding, discipline and the amount of testing as concerns, while parents point to curriculum and bullying. Hodges said other people in the community worry that the city’s reputation is tarnished by the bad rap that Oklahoma City public schools have received.

Hodges said her only agenda is to be a watchdog for students, and she said she hopes to be an independent voice on the school board.

Laura Massenat
Massenat is the owner of Elemental Coffee and works with the nonprofit group Eat Wise OKC, which promotes healthy eating and lifestyles in OKCPS. She has four children attending schools in the district.

Massenat, who holds a degree in elementary education from OU, said she felt the biggest issue is the school district’s compliance problems with federal and state performance benchmarks, such as test scores required for graduation eligibility.

Massenat said she hopes to be able to regularly visit all schools and wants to link the schools with community resources and corporate partnerships to help address their unique, individual needs.

She added that she supports the proposed downtown charter school, which will be a partnership between the private sector and OKC public schools.

“I feel like the school district partnering with the private sector, and also partnering with the city on different programs, is going to be the way to go forward. I think we’re about to shift,” she said.

“I’m going to be looking for different partnerships that can happen at each school, and then on a district and city level, on a district and business community level, to join all three of those. It’s in all of our interest to have great schools in Oklahoma City.”

In addition, Massenat said she wants to improve school cafeteria nutrition and make schools the civic hub of their surrounding communities.

Schools represented in District 4:
ASTEC Charter
Capitol Hill Elementary
Classen School of Advanced Studies
DOVE Charter
Edgemere Elementary
Emerson High School
Eugene Field Elementary
Gatewood Elementary
Hawthorne Elementary
Independence High School Charter
Sequoyah Elementary
Wilson Elementary

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