One of the most undemocratic spectacles right now comes from a Tulsa school board block of three members who have so far refused to approve representation for part of the district.
The ongoing antagonism from board members Jennettie Marshall, Jerry Griffin and E’Lena Ashley is causing harm. It has been well-documented how their petty antics have stunted daily operation of the district.
Their greatest failure at this moment is denying Tulsa Public Schools District 2 a vote on the board. Reasons for this obstructionist behavior are not valid and ignores their board responsibilities.
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Within District 2 are eight elementary schools, Carver and Rogers middle schools and Rogers College High School and Booker T. Washington High School. The majority of students are Black and Hispanic, and the secondary schools all have magnet programs.
The district seat was vacated by Judith Barba Perez on Jan. 23 for personal reasons. Legally, TPS has a March 24 deadline to fill the seat. With the board election cycle set by state statute, the appointee would serve less than a year before the seat would go back before voters in 2024.
If the board fails to appoint a new member by March 24, a special election will be held in June, then possibly a runoff in September, costing taxpayers at least $30,000. That is a waste of time and money. The appointment is a short-term substitute, and several qualified residents have applied.
The drama that has unfolded is a pitiful display of personal and political grudges. The board started with 20 applicants and narrowed the field to two finalists, but then failed to make an appointment after one was discovered to have a felony conviction and had once threatened school staff.
At Monday’s board meeting, three applicants told the board they are still interested in this volunteer service. Marshall called them qualified but voted against them anyway. Griffin and Ashley went along with her, which has become typical.
Their actions ignored District 2 residents, parents and teachers that night who asked the board to make an appointment. Board member John Croissant said every District 2 resident who contacted him prior to the meeting wanted the seat filled quickly.
The only speakers pushing for a special election are a group of people who don’t live in District 2. Some don’t even live in Tulsa. Many regularly attend TPS meetings to make criticisms using right-wing talking points.
Beyond that, the behavior of these three board members has become appalling at times. Griffin erupted in anger after what he believed was a dirty look from a female administrator, demanding that he be respected. A break was called, and he returned with an apology.
Board tasks that range from just approving the minutes of a previous meeting to hiring janitors have become laborious. Routinely, the three ask at meetings for information that they should have requested previously.
This circus is not entertaining. It’s a shameful episode that now keeps a good swath of Tulsa from having a vote on the board.
The most basic, fundamental right of being American is having representation in government. If the TPS block of three truly wants to serve the public, they will fill the District 2 seat immediately.
The most patriotic thing elected officials can do is ensure that others have a representative voice.