Members Blasted For Absences
Lindesy And Rodriquez Claim Racism
A Black and a Hispanic who are members of the Crooked Oak school board are under fire for frequently not attending meetings and for being late.
Both men say they are being attacked because of their race.
The board president believes someone outside the southeast Oklahoma City school district is directing Board Members Chris Lindsey and Guadalupe Rodriguez to not attend the meetings.
Board Member Lindsey, who is Black, and Board Member Rodriguez, a Hispanic, said they have no plans to resign, despite being confronted at Thursday night’s board meeting by angry alumni, parents and teachers demanding their ouster.
“Their lack of attendance has made it impossible for the district to meet its financial obligations,” said Michelle Boykin, the mother of three children who attend Crooked Oak schools.
Mrs. Boykin is leading the charge to remove Board Members Lindsey and Rodriguez, who have missed five of the board’s last nine regular and special meetings, and are frequently late when they do attend.
“In my opinion, it would be the responsible thing to step down from [your] positions and leave these vacancies open to people who care enough about this district to make the meetings a priority,” Mrs. Boykin said. “If we prioritize attendance for the students of this district, we should prioritize attendance for the board members.”
Most who spoke criticized the two board members for failing to live up to standards set by their predecessors on the board.
The Crooked Oak Public School District has about 1,200 students.
The district is near Eastern Avenue and SE 15th Street.
“If you cannot put forth the effort, you need to get out,” Amanda McBee said. “This is about our students and our teachers. This is an embarrassment.”
The district couldn’t pay its bills or payroll in May because the school board did not have a majority of members present to approve the expenditures, Linda Grange, a staff-member of the district, told the dozens who attended the meeting.
Mrs. Grange said the district has nearly $5 million in its bank account and is not in danger of closing “as long as we can get a quorum here every month and as long as our board can vote.”
“We don’t even care how they vote, just show up to vote,” she said. “We want them to care about our school (district).”
Until Thursday’s appointment of former Board Member Katie Conway to fill a vacancy, the board had operated for about a month with four members.
Board Member Lindsey, who was late to Thursday’s meeting, accused administrators of intentionally scheduling meetings he would be unable to attend and intentionally provoking him in attempt to get him to react unprofessionally.
“At this point, I can only conclude that the actions being taken by the administration and other board members are racially motivated,” he said.
Board Member Rodriguez accused district officials of “routinely calling special meetings when they knew the two minority board members would not be present.”
He also accused Scott Trosper, president of the board, of running against him “to keep me or a Hispanic off this board.”
He said he was met with open hostility by board members and district administrators after joining the board earlier this year.
Gene Joslin, another speaker at the meeting and a 1982 Crooked Oak graduate, who went to school with Board Member Trosper, as well as Mrs. Conway, disputed the racism claims.
“I can tell you right nowm there’s no racism here,” Mrs. Joslin said. “None with them. They’re as loyal to anybody as you can be.”
Board Member Trosper raised a few eyebrows at the meeting when he said the school district has been “held hostage” by “outside influences” orchestrating the actions of Board Members Lindsey and Rodriguez.
“We’re not able to get the work of the board done because those outside the board deliver notes that tell our board members they’re holding illegal meetings,” he said. “The whole board knows these meetings are legal.”
Board Member Trosper did not identify the “outside influences,” but said they have caused teachers, staff-members and patrons to question the school district’s stability. He blamed the absences by Board Members Lindsey and Rodriguez for a delay in hiring school principals and said the district is in a position to default on “our bonding debt obligation.”
“Because of this outside influence, the school board members cannot or will not communicate,” he said. “The outside influences cause the school board members not to participate.”
Supt. Brad Richards characterized as “absurd” the allegations of racism. He said Board Members Rodriguez and Lindsey knew about the meetings ahead of time—including regular evening meetings and special meetings called during business hours—and said the absences were unexcused.
Only once, he said, did either man contact Supt. Richards to let him know they wouldn’t be able to attend.
Supt. Richards said it will likely take a board vote to remove the two board members.
“The board has asked me to contact an attorney to see what we can do,” he said Friday. “I don’t think we can legally make them step down.”