Two veteran Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education members, Carrie Jacobs and Mark Mann, were each sworn in for another four-year term from 2020 to 2024.
Mann represents District 4 which covers midtown, downtown and a panhandle that stretches all the way to south 29th street south of downtown.
Jacobs represents the significantly gerrymandered District 3 stretching in jigs and jogs from N.W. 36th Street near Northwest Classen High School all the way to S.W. 44th and Airport Road.
After the meeting Jacobs and Mann talked to Free Press about their service on the Board over the next four years.
We asked Mann why he was coming back for another four years after going through what may have been the most challenging four years in the district’s history since desegregation days of the late 1960s.
“It’s the most important thing in government that we do,” said Mann. “Getting it right for children changes the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years down the road.”
“And, if you want to boil it down to something that a lot of people would look at in terms of economic development – if they think about what Oklahoma City’s done and accomplished in the last 25 years is major, which it is, it pales in comparison to what it will be when we get education right in this city.”
And Jacobs was equally upbeat.
“I feel like we have made so much progress in the first four years I was on the board,” said Jacobs. “And I am so excited about the next four years.”
She said she is eager “to see how Pathways to Greatness grows and changes.” She is also looking forward to what a successful bond election can bring to the district.
“There are a lot of good things on the horizon. It feels totally different than it did four years ago when I was elected,” she said. “I cannot wait!”
Vice Chair elected
Unlike the Board Chair who is elected by voters from across the district, the Board members nominate and vote for who will be the Vice-Chair.
In years past the decision almost seemed to be a quickly-disposed-of item on the agenda when the time came.
But, Monday, the election revealed some tension on the board.
After the rules of the election were read nominations were opened resulting in District 6 member Ruth Veales and District 4 representative Mark Mann being nominated.
Each gave a short campaign speech of sorts. Mark Mann talked about his experience with finance and other business matters as his strengths.
But first, Ruth Veales gave the strongest campaign speech for vice chair this reporter has ever heard.
She told about her experience of leadership on a national organization, the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) which is a sub-group of the National School Board Association.
Veales said that she is the longest-serving Board member in the history of OKCPS and that she was qualified for leadership of the Board.
However, she closed with a statement that could show hard feelings between her and some other members of the board.
“But, I know that this decision has been predetermined.” She did not elaborate.
As the vote turned out, there were five votes for Mark Mann to three votes for Ruth Veales.
Spring break travel
OKCPS is informing parents that they must fill out a simple form informing the district if they plan to travel with students on Spring Break to countries that have been designated as Level 2 or Level 3 countries the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“This will help us comply with requests from health officials and aid in the prevention of the spread of this illness,” a letter to parents said Monday.
Superintendent Sean McDaniel was not at the Monday night board meeting due to illness in his family and so Deputy Superintendent Jason Brown was the administrator on the horseshoe.
Brown said that the district has been in communication with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department and is participating in coordinating a response to the threat of COVID-19.
In recent days district staff members have been working on possible response scenarios if the disease begins to spread in the state, said Brown.
Schools are the focus of concern among national and state health officials because of the close proximity of so many children at school and then the possibility that they will spread the disease further once they are home.
OKCPS is the largest school district in the state with 35,000 students.
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