OOLOGAH — Oologah-Talala Superintendent Max Tanner is resigning as of the end of the 2020-21 school year after coming under fire from the state for the school district’s handling of five separate cases of teacher misconduct involving students.
The local school board held a special meeting on Tuesday, receiving Tanner’s resignation and voting unanimously to accept it.
Afterward, Tanner and the board released a joint written statement to the Tulsa World, vowing to remain a team as they continue to face the scrutiny of officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
In late June, the State Board of Education slapped the small Rogers County school district with accreditation probation and public reprimands for the local school board and Tanner for their handling of five separate cases of teacher “misconduct of a sexual nature involving students” over the last four years.
Not all of the cases resulted in criminal prosecution, but all five did result in the suspension or revocation of the teachers’ credentials by the state board.
Tanner’s resignation letter states: “I will continue to focus on our students and staff safety and health, reentry to schools, and staying true to my core belief of doing what is right for all students.”
Late last week, the Oologah-Talala school board met for about three hours in a closed-door executive session to discuss Tanner’s employment status.
Board President Don Tice noted for the record that state Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, had been present with Tanner in the executive session and, when asked, said Pemberton had been allowed in “as a personal representative” of Tanner.
An online petition calling for Tanner’s removal as superintendent, a position he has held for six years, has garnered nearly 800 signatures since the petition was created a month ago.
According to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Education, his first year as superintendent, 2014-15, Tanner’s total pay with fringe benefits was $131,270. Comparatively, for 2019-20, it was $165,123.
The state board’s extraordinary action against Oologah-Talala’s accreditation will be in place through the 2020-21 academic year, with local officials being required to provide quarterly updates to the State Board of Education beginning this Thursday.
Representatives of the school district were first summoned before the state board in October in regard to their handling of four separate cases of teacher “misconduct of a sexual nature involving students” over the last four years.
Then they were summoned again in a March letter, which stated that a concerned parent had informed the state about a new case — this time of a high school girls basketball coach accused by multiple students of sexual harassment — that the local school district reportedly did not tell the state board about in a timely fashion.
Thursday’s joint written statement by Tanner and the school board reads as follows: “As the superintendent and board, we look forward to working together during this pivotal year to focus on our most important responsibility — the health and safety of our students and staff while delivering an excellent student education experience every day.
“Together, we will implement the district’s reentry plan to provide students with safe and effective learning opportunities during this critical and unprecedented time. Additionally, as a team, we will fulfill our commitment to the public to continue to improve our school district and make it an even better place for students to learn as we carefully navigate what this looks like in a worldwide pandemic.
“Mr. Tanner‘s service will span seven years by next summer. His early announcement provides generous time and opportunity for the board to conduct an intentional and structured search for the next superintendent of Oologah-Talala Public Schools. As we imagine the possibilities, our attention will be fully focused on keeping students safe and creating an education environment that maximizes student potential.”
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