Tuesday's presidential primary could possibly overshadow two important elections in Oklahoma City. If you live in the Oklahoma City Public Schools districts generally between N.W. 36th and S.W. 29th streets, you'll have a school board election to consider Tuesday.
Board positions in election Districts 3 and 4 are at stake. The boundary line between District 3 to the west and District 4 to the east runs south along N. Villa Avenue from N.W. 36th to N.W. 23rd Street, along N. May Avenue to N.W. 10th Street, and along Western Avenue to S.W. 29th.
The District 3 position is vacant after the incumbent moved from the district. Two candidates, Phil Horning and Tom Beall, are running for the seat.
The difference between the two is striking. Horning has lived in the Linwood neighborhood for 33 years, where he was instrumental in organizing its neighborhood association and served as its first president.
His support of his neighborhood school, Linwood Elementary, has ranged from being a Little League baseball coach when his children were small to currently tutoring Linwood students four days a week.
Throughout his professional life, Horning has served on a variety of significant local, regional and state boards and commissions as an engaged citizen. Through experiences as an adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City University, he understands the challenges facing education.
With a lifetime of civic and professional endeavors, Horning has the skills and experience to be an effective school board member. His honesty and integrity are without question.
Beall is a state employee with little if any engagement in the community. Appearing to be a stealth candidate who remains invisible except for signs and a direct-mail campaign, Beall has failed to show up at most, if not all, public forums for board candidates. Although the school board election is a nonpartisan election, he is sending letters to Democratic voters with donkeys on them and letters to Republican voters with elephants on them in a deceptive effort to infuse partisanship into the election.
Both candidates in election District 4 are campaigning fully and openly, providing voters with a good choice for their votes. Both are well-respected businessmen in the community, with strong credentials in educational backgrounds, professional achievement and civic experience.
Joe Clytus has served on the board since 2000 and seeks a third term. Clytus, his children and grandchildren have attended Oklahoma City schools. While serving on the board, Clytus has been engaged in the MAPS for Kids program from its inception. His re-election campaign is being supported by many civic leaders.
Steve Shafer, with young children, is one of many young professionals who have moved to the inner-city with a commitment to its revitalization. If elected, he would be the youngest member of the school board. Shafer believes he and his family have a stake in the outcome of school district reform and that he can make a difference on the board.
Both of these elections are vital to the future of Oklahoma City. We govern our school district through our elected board members, and this is the voters' opportunity to be heard on the governing of the district. Many critical decisions will face the Board of Education in the near future.
With the exception of Mr. Beall, the voters have strong candidates from which to make their choices. Please study these candidates' qualifications carefully and vote in these elections. The future of our city and its children depend on it.
Bleakley is publisher of Oklahoma Gazette.