Mark Mann was sworn in to the open District 4 seat on the Oklahoma City Public Schools board in a special meeting Saturday.
“Parental involvement is something I really want to work on,” Mann told Free Press in an interview the day before his swearing in. “I want to work hard to make it easier for parents to be involved even if they can’t come up to the school at 3:30 in the afternoon.”
He is the only unelected member of the board having been appointed by the seven other sitting members.
The seat was last held by Paula Lewis who won a run-off election for board chair on ML. Her District 4 seat then was open.
Since an election had just been held, Oklahoma law called for the board to fill the seat with an appointment until the next election in 2018.
In contrast, the last two members to fill seats did so after hotly-contested races that required run-off elections.
Their ideas were tested by active public campaigns where the candidates had an opportunity hear from a broad spectrum of constituents.
All other members of the board have been elected after campaigning for votes from constituents of the district.
Seven of the seats represent geographic districts within the state’s largest school district.
The eighth seat is districtwide and reserved for the role of board chair.
Mann is the parent of a Wilson Elementary student and uncle of two Classen SAS students.
His mother was a teacher in Checotah as was several of his aunts.
Wife, Tonya Mann was a counselor at Southeast High School for several years, but resigned her position before the filing deadline, which allowed Mann to be available for appointment.
Oklahoma law will not allow board members and employees to be directly related in the first or second degree according to Brandon Carey, legal counsel for the district.
Mann is an insurance agent in Oklahoma City and active in the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce as well as other business organizations.
He said that he has learned much from being a part of a fundraising group, Wilson Arts, Inc., a money-raising group formed to help Wilson Elementary with a financial boost for the key element of the school.
In the interview, Mann was asked what he considered to be some of the top issues.
He said a major concern of his is that there are big differences in school performance across the district.
“Failure is not an option,” said Mann. “We can’t let a school fail. We need to look at resources to help struggling schools.”
He said one aspect of being a board member will be to work with the funding sources in the community to provide resources schools need to succeed.
Recruitment of good staff is another top concern Mann brings to the board.
“The board sets the tone,” Mann said. “I want to help with recruiting. The board can be the single biggest recruiter. Obviously, though, money is problem.”
When it comes to a lack of funding from the Oklahoma Legislature, Mann was clear that they are not providing adequate funding.
“The public is pretty fed up with what’s going on at the legislature,” he said. “Leadership in the house and senate are not willing to step up to the plate.”
When asked if he would be willing to lobby the Legislature he said that he would be willing to.
“I think the urban representatives get it,” he said. “But some of these people are not educatable. So, I don’t know how much we can accomplish.”
He said that’s when local funding can make a difference.
“I want to get the Chamber involved in helping us with funding solutions if the state is not going to step up and do their part,” said Mann.
He believes Superintendent Aurora Lora “has a tough row to hoe,” but so far has been providing continuity of leadership the district needs.
He said that he has no problem with either the American Federation of Teachers local that represents the district’s teachers or the principals’ union.
But what’s important is that the district is moving forward Mann said.
“At the end of the day, if everyone is marching in the same direction for children, then we are doing good.”