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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Meg McElhaney drew no opponents for the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education District 7 seat for the next four-year term so she is already working on one of her big goals for the four-year term coming up.

District 7 covers the southeast corner of the expansive district running from the old Capitol Hill area all the way down to SE 82nd, and Western to east of Bryant.

In just a matter of a few years she was appointed, then ran for a one-year term without opposition in a unique set of circumstances and rules after the resignation of the previous District 7 board member Jace Kirk.

The next term she won by lack of opposition. And this one that she filed for in December with no opposition will be her first full four-year term when she is sworn in for her third time in the early months of 2022.

One of McElhaney’s big goals that she is pursuing is for Oklahoma legislators to have an accurate understanding of OKCPS “on both sides of the aisle.”

McElhaney
McElhaney shows off her filing form on December 6, 2021, for what would become her first full four-year term in front of the Oklahoma County Election Board. (social media photo from her account)

Engaging the Legislature

Once upon a time not that long ago the district had a Government Affairs committee of the BOE and lobbyists at the Oklahoma Capitol.

But those activities fell by the wayside for several years with other executive staff of the district with already packed portfolios functioning as lobbyists.

But, now the Board has revived that committee and chosen McElhaney as the chair which was something that she eagerly sought.

The district has also chosen two new lobbyists to be at the Capitol to advocate for issues that the district considers to be important.

McElhaney was enthused by the response they just had the morning of our interview when the Government Affairs Committee held a legislative breakfast. They invited the legislators from OKC.

She said that the teachers of the year were there and that Superintendent Sean McDaniel gave a persuasive presentation.

But, that’s not all. McElhaney said that OKCPS would be publishing legislative priorities and their legislative agenda after Board approval in their January meeting.

“Every kid”

Another of her goals in her next four years in the post is for the district to provide “resources for every kid” regardless of their income or zip code.

“OKCPS gets a bad rap of being a big, scary urban district where you only go if you cannot afford a private school,” McElhaney told Free Press by phone. But, she wants to make sure that legislators and the general public develop a different view of the district in the future.

“We are able to offer opportunities that other smaller districts can’t, and that private schools can’t just because of the economy of scale that we have access to,” she said.

And she emphasized that anyone should have those opportunities.

“So making sure that any kid who wants the opportunity to try something or learn something or be exposed to something, they get it regardless, they’re on the south side or on the east side or core bubble, that’s what my priority is.”

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Engagement on the south side

One issue that political leaders and school officials are often puzzled by is the lack of voter turnout on the south side for about any contest and the lack of general involvement with the rest of the City.

But, McElhaney doesn’t find that to be mysterious.

Her husband is Representative Forrest Bennett (HD-92) and she has helped knock doors for him through roughly the same part of the city that she represents on the Board. In doing that she has heard the frustrations from so many who live in that part of the City. As well, she has been briefed by Board member Gloria Torres who holds the other southside seat for Board District 6.

“A big part of that is the only time people on the south side hear from people is when they need something when they need you to vote for them — when they need you to volunteer — when they need you to knock doors for them,” said McElhaney.

She said that there is not a process of “building a bench” of young people on the south side who can step up into leadership positions and bring the perspective of the south side to larger city-wide or school district projects.

McElhaney said that when the process of building relationships year-round is the effort then those feelings of being remote from the rest of the City and district will ebb.

The other race – District 5

The other board district open for election in this cycle is District 5 covering the Spencer area and others east of downtown which has been held by Ruth Veales since her first election in 2010. Veales told Free Press earlier in the fall that she would not run for another term.

Originally, three filed to run for the seat: Sharri L. Coleman, Adrian D. Anderson, and Vernona Dismuke. However, Dismuke withdrew from candidacy on the last filing day, Dec. 10.

Since only two are running, there will be no primary. The general election for that seat will be April 5, 2022.

Free Press will cover that race closely in the coming weeks.

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Last Updated December 19, 2021, 6:35 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor