“We will have to reconcile,” said Audra Beasley looking directly at a group of parents and other supporters of Kirk Humphreys, embattled board chair of John Rex Charter Elementary.
Beasley was one of over 15 parents of John Rex students who came to the Oklahoma City Public Schools board of education meeting Monday to show their disapproval of Humphreys staying on the charter’s board.
And she pointed to the possible recriminations from those on the school staff and other parents who support Humphreys.
“The issue has produced fear among our parents. Because of fear that our children will suffer the consequences, fear that our transfer revoked for being on the side of justice, some remain in silence,” Beasley said.
Humphreys made comments on a news commentary TV program Dec. 10 that seemed to associate homosexuality with illegal acts between adults and children. Humphreys has since publicly apologized.
Paula Lewis, chair of OKCPS board called for his resignation from the John Rex board soon after.
Five or six parents and another ten people came in support of Humphreys staying on the John Rex board.
Most of that group wore blue t-shirts with the words “WE [heart symbol] JOHN REX,” seemingly associating support for Humphreys with support for the school.
Megan DeShazo spoke in favor of Humphreys staying on the board as the group with the t-shirts all stood behind her.
She acknowledged that the “…controversy over the past few weeks has been a difficult experience for the John Rex community.”
“Nobody condoned his initial comments, but we welcome his efforts to be reconciled to the community…,” said DeShazo.
DeShazo characterized Humphreys’ contribution to the school as “both direct and significant” as he worked to raise money to start the school.
She recalled that while mayor of Oklahoma City, Humphreys led the city in voting for the MAPS for Kids penny sales tax to rebuild crumbling schools across the city.
But Jaricha Scales, who has a second grade and Pre-K student in John Rex, said that Humphreys staying in the leadership position was “totally incongruent with the student creed” that students have to sign each year.
Scales asked what students were supposed to think “…when the chairman of our board has made such degrading public statements that are completely opposite of what our school stands for.”
“There are parents who are scared to speak out for fear of retaliation,” said Scales, her voice trembling with emotion.
“We would like to say that our children don’t recognize this, but they know something is going on in the culture of our school has changed. They don’t know the details, but they feel the change.”
Troy Stephenson, executive director of the advocacy organization Freedom Oklahoma was present at the meeting. He had been involved in talks that led to Humphreys’ apology.
He told Free Press after the meeting that he thought both parent groups had been “civil” but “…there are issues that need to be resolved.”
“They’ve highlighted some deficiencies with the John Rex Elementary School.”
We also talked with John Rex parent Leonardo Mendoza who had made comments against Humphreys at the board meeting.
“It has to do with the school’s mission and his not being able to uphold the school’s mission with his public statements,” Mendoza told Free Press.
“He can believe what he wants to believe. It’s his right. He has the right to say what he wants. But when he does it in a public forum and holding the office that he does.”
For the family
Jon Dodson and Lucas Mundt talked with us afterward. Dodson was not wearing one of the t-shirts, but Mundt was.
Their focus was not just on Kirk Humphreys who is CEO of The Humphreys Company, a real estate development company made up of his sons Grant and Blair and Annie Middlebrooks.
I know the Humphreys family and am here supporting the act of forgiveness, said Mundt.
“I’m here because I’m for John Rex. I’m here for the dialogue that’s going on,” said Dodson, also a real estate developer in Oklahoma City.
“I’m for Blair. And I’m for Kirk being forgiven for what he said.”
It was an indicator that the support for Humphreys was not just associated with the man himself, but the other members of his family who are highly respected in a new generation of young developers who many see as a positive influence on the city.
There was little interaction between the two groups as they left the building.