OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — It’s another four years for Paula Lewis, incumbent Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education Chair.
But in no way could it be called a landslide. Lewis won the district-wide vote by a 342 vote margin.
The unofficial results at the end of the evening on Election Day showed Lewis with 4,576 votes, 51.94% of the vote, and challenger Charles Henry with 4,234 votes, 48.6% of the vote.
We asked what she hoped for moving forward.
“For the first time, possibly in history, the board and the superintendent and the district are on the same page,” Lewis told Free Press at her watch party. “Like, we’re pulling on the same end of the rope. We’re moving in the same direction.”
“And, that’s my goal is that we continue the momentum we’ve had,” Lewis added. “And, we’ve been through some crazy stuff in four years, between Pathway to Greatness and a pandemic. And now coming out on the other side of the pandemic was stability.”
She said that she just “want to keep the bus moving forward” and see OKCPS as the “gold standard.”
Charles Henry did not respond to attempts to contact him on his cell phone by the end of the evening.
Mayor Holt arrived late in the evening to congratulate Lewis. Four years ago he endorsed Henry for the Office 1 seat but endorsed Lewis this time around.
We asked him why he chose to endorse Lewis this time.
“It’s a different race,” Holt said. “This is Paula the incumbent. She has led the district in a very challenging time, obviously with the pandemic but you know, before that, working with the superintendent, who I think is very well-liked in this city, on Pathways to Greatness, demonstrated her leadership ability.”
“I think when the incumbent has demonstrated great leadership and done a good job, I have no interest in switching horses,” Holt said.
“And I look at these races as the mayor, but I also look at them as a parent,” Holt added. Both of my kids are in Oklahoma City Public Schools.”
Holt said that now that we are coming out of the pandemic it will be time to assess what damage the it has done to the schools.
“Big day for kids”
Board member Carrie Jacobs was at the watch party and we asked what her response was to Lewis earning four more years as Board Chair.
“Today’s a big day for kids. That’s what it comes down to,” said Jacobs. “Paula has worked hard for all students in all parts of this community for four years and then I know represented her district well the four years before, and I’m so excited that she gets to do that for another four years. The community trusts her to carry on that torch.”
Free Press talked with the OKCPS Superintendent Sean McDaniel about the election results.
“You know, there’s potential out there,” said McDaniel. “And, we’ve got to help people reach their potential.”
McDaniel continued, “I’m happy for Paula. I’m sad for Charles. Both of them have volunteered their time to our school district. Somebody had to win, somebody had to lose. And so we’re thrilled, and we’re behind Paula.”
“And just a huge congratulations, and thank you to Charles as well. He put in the time, he did what he needed to do. And I’m sure you’ll see him around doing good things for kids moving forward,” McDaniel said.
District 1 seat
Carole Thompson won the race to represent the far northern part of the expansive school district with a commanding lead by the end of the evening over Brett Hayes.
Thompson was not available for comment Tuesday evening.
A key statement from Thompson in the OKCPS Foundation forum before the election was about putting “children first.”
“I believe that an effective school board member’s decision-making emphasis should be children first,” said Thompson. “That’s all that matters is, children first.”
Neither were incumbents but Thompson had been in OKCPS as a teacher for years and then as an administrator with deep ties to the community. She continues to tutor children even though officially retired from her professional education duties.
Hayes is the director of Behavioral Health Integration at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
He said that the key to being an effective board member was to have a “strong, strong relationship with your superintendent.”
District 2 seat
Lori Bowman beat James E. McHenry for the District 2 seat. Neither were incumbents.
Free Press was able to get Bowman on the phone Tuesday night. We asked what she thought about moving forward in her new responsibility.
“I’m thrilled to have the great honor of being a member of the board,” Bowman said. “And, I look forward to learning more about what’s possible.”
Bowman said that she wants to understand clearly the “power of one member.”
She continued, “What I would like to see is a real laser focus on our COVID return to school plan and how we’re going to get kids academic and mental health needs met as soon as possible.”
Bowman’s background is in education policy both in Washington, D.C. and in Oklahoma City. She has two elementary children that currently attend in the district.
Learning the issues and listening to a broad spectrum of people had been at the core of her comments in the forum.
“I think as an individual board member, that you need to have a commitment to learning the issues and talking to stakeholders and talking to important partners in your district and around the community to learn about the issues,” said Bowman in the OKCPS Foundation forum.
James E. McHenry is the father of five children who all went through Oklahoma City Public Schools and is a active parent and PTA leader in the district for 30 years.
He said that there should not be an “I” in the deliberations of the board and “coming together as a team.”
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