Monday, July 21, 2014

To Fire or Not To Fire, That Is The Question...


Following the filing of the lawsuit against HB3399, a number of questions could be raised about the fact that four individuals responsible for overseeing public education in Oklahoma were plaintiffs; Leo Baxter, Amy Anne Ford, William F. Shdeed and Daniel Keating.

As I've reported numerous times, the law regarding Oklahoma school board appointees has changed. During the first year of Dr.Barresi's term, our school board was changed from a board appointed by the governor on a rolling six year term to members appointed by the current sitting governor to serve at her/his "pleasure" (Senate Bill 435, 2011).  It seems odd then, that four board members would choose to go against the will of the governor (certainly displeasing one would think) following her signing of the repeal of Common Core in Oklahoma and file a lawsuit that asked the court to throw out, not just the part regarding legislative oversight of the standards to which they objected, but the ENTIRE bill.  Would this not be grounds for their removal? Why has this topic not been broached?

The state Board of Education is comprised of seven members.  According to Open Records law in Oklahoma, members of a body such as the state School Board may not meet together as a majority of the board without posting the meeting and taking minutes.  It is unclear how the lawsuit may have been discussed among the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, but if at any time these four board members 'met' on a conference call or physically together in order to discuss the suit, Open Records laws were broken.  If I'm asking this question - did they meet - does this not constitute a level of impropriety?  What about trust?  How do the people of Oklahoma trust this Board to do the state's business when it appears as though they could have broken laws which provide transparency to citizens?

After the Board meeting in June, behavioral impropriety should also be at issue in my mind.  The first hand reports I received of the unprofessional manner in which the school board members on the lawsuit behaved, creates further issues of trust in my mind.  I know we don't live in the 50's and we're not all wearing white gloves and hats to meetings anymore, but truly, a state School Board meeting should be held with an amount of decorum to allow the public trust.  The loud, dismissive manner with which some acted, does not make me feel good about holding them up as representatives for myself or Oklahoma.

According to HB3399, the entire education standards re-write is overseen by a Steering Committee which consists of at least two board members:

There are only two Board members who did not sign on to the lawsuit - Cathryn Franks and Bill Price.  Mrs. Franks is new and none of us have had the chance to make her acquaintance, but Bill Price is well known within the Republican Party as a sincere supporter of Common Core.

How can we have any confidence that those of us that spoke out against the Common Core will be considered for Committee membership?  How can we believe any of the four Board Members listed as Plaintiffs on the lawsuit will be fair in overseeing the standards re-write process? 

I think these concerns are valid and should be addressed by our Governor at her earliest convenience.  If indeed, as the law says, these individuals serve at her pleasure, why are they still serving?  I must say, if these Board members served at my pleasure, they would be serving no more.