4 minute read

In a crisis of his own creation, Gov. Kevin Stitt now must replace an already unnecessary replacement. 

With his incompetent governance beginning to feel like the wholesale trolling of the state, Stitt removed state Board of Education member Kurt Bollenbach on Dec. 3. He then tried to replace Bollenbach with Melissa Crabtree, an anti-masking, anti-vaccination homeschooling advocate, to help oversee public education in Oklahoma.

The reason for Bollenbach’s removal was his refusal to walk in lockstep with a state-level authoritarian. 

Opinion by George D. Lang

In July, Bollenbach, whom Stitt handpicked for the board in April 2019, voted in favor of a mask mandate for public schools alongside Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and board member Carlisha Williams-Bradley. On Dec. 3, Stitt’s office filed paperwork with the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office to replace Bollenbach with Melissa Crabtree of Enid, and it took fewer than four days for Crabtree’s nomination to fall apart.

“I am grateful to Governor Stitt for nominating me to serve on the Oklahoma State Board of Education and it is a tremendous honor to be considered,” Crabtree said. “However, after careful consideration, I have determined that this is not the right opportunity for me to serve my state.”

Perhaps there truly is another opportunity for a Young Living essential oils salesperson and administrative assistant to an evangelical homeschooling advocate to serve her state, but Oklahoma’s public school students are not in need of her particular expertise. 

In related news, I have decided against using that IT consultant who just pulled up in the horse-drawn buggy. 

Stitt is angry and lashing out in the wake of Crabtree’s withdrawal from consideration. After all, Crabtree was the ideologically closest Stitt could get to nominating himself. 

“I was extremely disappointed to see how many were so quick to judge her without taking the time to personally speak to her,” Stitt said in a prepared statement. “Ms. (sic) Crabtree is a loving mother and wife, and her public school teaching experience and work with special needs children would have been valuable assets to our state. However, it’s become clear that Democrats and unions only value the voices of teachers when they are willing to fall in line with their political agendas.”

According to Oklahoma Watch, Crabtree’s experience as a special education teacher took place in Tennessee from 1998 to 2002. So, it’s been awhile, and in the intervening years she has become a superspreader of conspiracy theories, bogus claims about the efficacy of zinc and hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 treatments, anti-vaccination polemics and the use of essential oils as a cure-all. 

Reaction to Crabtree’s nomination by Democrats and the Oklahoma Education Association has nothing to do with party politics and everything to do with having experienced people in the driver’s seat. 

Stitt wanted Crabtree because, as leader of a group called Enid Freedom Fighters, she fought a mask mandate proposed by Enid Ward 3 City Commissioner Ben Ezzell. That mandate finally passed Dec. 1, but Crabtree is not done with Ezzell, who she discussed Aug. 21-24 on her anti-masking, anti-vaxxing, homeschooling evangelist boss Heidi St. John’s conservatve Christian mobilization podcast, Off the Bench with Heidi St. John.

“All the way along, he has introduced in the city council meetings a lot of liberal policies that he’s trying to pass,” Crabtree said. “He has mentioned in the past making LGBTQ a protected class in Enid and things like that. He also seems to think that this (COVID-19) is a major emergency in capital letters, people are dying, and we’ve had five deaths in Enid, most of which don’t even live in Enid, they just happen to have died in our hospitals.”

Because of his pro-mask and human rights stances, Ezzell now faces a recall election on February 9, 2021 thanks to Crabtree’s lobbying, all because he was trying to prevent the 32 more COVID deaths that have taken place in Garfield County since Crabtree and St. John recorded that podcast. 

Simply put, Stitt wanted that energy in the state Board of Education because he resents Hofmeister’s independent-minded leadership and her vote for the mask mandate. In January, before coronavirus hit critical mass in the U.S., Stitt expressed his desire to make the state superintendent an appointed position.

The State Superintendent is elected in a state-wide vote.

“When the governor’s elected by all four million Oklahomans, the people think that he or she’s supposed to be able to go in and make some different moves on education to get outcomes,” Stitt told The Oklahoman’s Carmen Forman. “That’s just common sense. That’s what I thought when I was sitting in Tulsa in the business world. That’s what people in Oklahoma think.”

Stitt, who apparently thinks “all four million Oklahomans” voted for him, wants the state’s public education leadership packed with his ideological clones. Crabtree might be out of the picture now, but Stitt is likely doing his due diligence, scanning through Parler posts and Nextdoor Karens to find his next great candidate. 


Sustain our journalism by becoming a supporter

Oklahoma City Free Press is dedicated to providing high quality journalism that positively impacts our community. Click this linkto support our mission.


Last Updated December 8, 2020, 7:55 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor