Meg McElhaney was sworn in as the newest member of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education Monday night.
She has been appointed to the seat by the BOE to represent board District 7, the southeast corner of the expansive school district.
The seat was left vacant after Jace Kirk moved just over the line out of the District, which disqualified him to represent the area and serve on the BOE.
First meeting — done!
After McElhaney was sworn in Monday she sat through a mercifully short meeting on a Board of Education known for it’s high-profile, long, sometimes contentious meetings.
After adjournment Free Press asked her what’s on her mind as she begins her new role in the city.
She said that “supporting the Pathway to Greatness plan” was high on her agenda as it is right now for the rest of the BOE.
McElhaney said that she is looking forward to being on the Student Experience and Equity Committee.
We asked Board Chair Paula Lewis if it has been a hardship for the board going without representation from the southeastern section of the school district.
“Any time you have an empty spot, it puts pressure on the other people to make sure you are voting for the whole district. And, you have to go a little extra to find out what’s happening in that area,” Lewis said.
“We miss Jace, but we are super excited to have Meg to bring fresh eyes. She’s very involved in the community.”
Superintendent Sean McDaniel told Free Press after the meeting that he was glad “to have eyes and ears” on that part of the district again.
“Board members just hear things that we don’t, and we need that input,” he said.
McElhaney agreed to an interview by Free Press after the announcement in late November.
“You know, we shouldn’t base our education quality on ZIP codes. I’m adamantly against that,” said McElhaney.
“Because kids don’t have control over where their parents decide to move and live. And it’s holding children responsible for adult decisions, and I don’t like that.”
And the ZIP codes she is representing have significant poverty levels and language/cultural challenges.
Knows the neighborhoods
McElhaney is much more familiar with the fabric of her corner of the city than most who even live in the same area.
She helped her husband, state Representative Forrest Bennett, knock doors through all the neighborhoods in House District 92 which covers much of Board District 7 and some of the city just north across the Oklahoma River.
In our November interview, she said the parents of District 7 had been “incredibly patient with the city and, and the school board and politics in general.”
“Whenever you have a majority working-class population, which we do — people who are having to maybe work multiple jobs — they don’t have the bandwidth to show up and fight like you do,” said McElhaney.
She said that the large charter school presence in that part of the city is a “symptom and product of the kind of systematic neglect of the south side.”
Santa Fe South Schools, Inc. has now grown to seven schools from Pre-K through college prep. Dove Schools has also expanded into that part of the city after having shown success on the North and Northeast parts of the school district.
Her appointment means that an election for the seat is in the near future.
The BOE has set the process for filling the seat:
The person appointed to fill the District 7 Board Seat vacancy shall serve until the 2021 school board election. Then, the individual who wins the 2021 school board election shall serve the remaining year of the current, unexpired term of the District 7 seat (ending in February 2022).
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