By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The Voices Organized In Civic Engagement (VOICE) Action Fund will host an Accountability Session featuring candidates running for Oklahoma City Public Schools board chair. The free public event will be held on Sunday, February 5 from 4 – 5 p.m., at Mayflower Congregational Church (UCC), 3901 NW 63rd Street, in Oklahoma City.
Five candidates are seeking to replace OKCPS chairman Lynne Hardin.
“Public school education is in crisis in our state, and it’s time for Oklahoma City to elect a new board chair who will guide our community’s school district through the many challenges we face,” said VOICE Education leader Heather Sparks. “Join us as we lift up the stories we’ve heard in our congregations and ask the candidates to commit to working with us to improve our schools.
“We anticipate about 200 attendees from most of the VOICE member institutions across the Oklahoma City metro area, including Midtown institutions like First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City,” Sparks said.
VOICE is a coalition of 25 congregations, nonprofits, and schools that have come together out of a concern for the pressures families face in the Oklahoma City metro area. The organization strives to improve the lives of citizens, identifying and training institution-based leaders to be able to act more effectively on behalf of their children, their schools, their neighborhoods, and the community.
Member institutions focus on the issues they can work on together, such as public education, restorative justice, utility costs, and public transportation.
The five candidates running for office are Stanley Hupfeld, a retired hospital executive; Paula Lewis, an occupational therapist; Wilfredo Santos-Rivera, a retired educator; Bianca Rose, a former district teacher; and Gregory Wyatt.
All candidates have been invited, and no endorsement of a candidate or party will be made by VOICE. Hupfeld, Lewis and Santos-Rivera have agreed to attend.
“This is an important moment in Oklahoma City for our public schools and the direction the district will take moving forward,” said Sundra Flansburg, another VOICE leader. “Honestly, I can’t think of a time in recent history when who the chair is, meant more. There are policy decisions in terms of funding and needs, charter schools, and other areas where the board will have a critical role to play.
“An accountability session is a little different that other candidate events, and I think, more interesting,” Flansburg added. “Instead of simply inviting candidates to speak, or to debate, we use the work we have done to create a series of questions for them.
“We ask each candidate to give a clear yes or no response and explain it, and ask if elected, if they will agree to meet with us at the beginning of their term,” Flansburg continued. “That structure is important because it asks candidates to respond to our concerns and interests in a clear way rather than focusing on their own talking points.
“In addition, it hopefully lays the groundwork for an ongoing working relationship.”
The election for OKCPS school board chair will be held on Tuesday, February 14. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast a runoff election will be held. To learn more about this event, visit the VOICE OKC Facebook page.