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Who our schoolchildren need


Bill Bleakley February 6th, 2013

Tuesday is election day for choosing the chair and two members of the Oklahoma City Public Schools School Board. Many believe the school elections are set in the middle of winter and not in conjunction with regular elections to subdue voter turnout and strengthen the political power of education special interests. The usual voter turnout in these elections proves them right.

Since most of us in Oklahoma City are no doubt disgusted with the generally dismal performance of our school district, our inclination may be to conclude that our votes make little difference.

Hopefully, however, they might make a difference for thousands of young people grossly underserved with the education provided to them by the district.

In an earlier commentary on this page, I advocated dissolution of the school board and the appointment of a commission to take over the district in distress.

The Legislature has primary responsibility of the quality of education in the district and throughout the state. It should take control of the district, but taking such a bold and responsible action is unlikely.

So that leaves us with the forthcoming election as the only action we can take to change things.

Anyone who is registered to vote in the school district can participate in the election. All other public school boards in the state appoint their board presidents annually from among each board’s members. Only Oklahoma City has an elected board chair position, which makes this vote particularly important.

A MAPS for Kids legislative initiative in 2000 resulted in legislation that created the chair position. The law gives that seat almost absolute power over the board’s agenda and unusual control over the district’s governmental processes.

The current chair, elected in 2009, must accept significant responsibility for the downward spiral consuming the district’s educational performance. She has not provided the leadership to make the fundamental changes necessary to provide meaningful education for students.

Running against her is Lynne Hardin: a district graduate, businesswoman and advocate for improving the school district’s performance. Her background information can be found at lynnehardin.com.

There are also two elections for school board members in the northern part of the district. If you live north of Britton Road, you vote in District 1. If you live between 36th Street and Britton, and west of Lincoln, you vote in District 2.

The choice in both districts is clear.

Oklahoma City businessman and advertising executive Bob Hammack is running in District 1. He’s proven himself as a civic leader, most significantly as the chairman of the Oklahoma City Zoological Trust and as a past board member for Omniplex Science Museum (now Science Museum Oklahoma) and Neighborhood Services Organization. The District 1 incumbent is not seeking re-election.

In District 2, incumbent Gail Vines filed for re-election but then declared her noncandidacy after the period for withdrawal ended. Justin Ellis is the only other candidate for the position. He has two young children entering the public schools and is actively engaged in his community.

Take a few minutes Tuesday and cast your vote for the sake and future of the children in Oklahoma City public schools.

I promise you won’t have to wait in line.


Bleakley is publisher of Oklahoma Gazette..

 
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