This upcoming Tue., April 5, Edmond Public Schools (EPS) is hosting a runoff election for District Two and District Five school board members. This election will determine who will represent the districts in future meetings and various school-related voting issues. However, this election will not only affect Edmond Public Schools; the District Two election will directly impact decisions made at Santa Fe.
This election will dictate who represents Santa Fe as a whole, which is why it is vital that you as an EPS student, parent, teacher or staff member decide who you want to represent you through your vote. This article serves as an opinion of the Santa Fe Howler news staff to educate voters on the best and most appropriate candidate to represent us and our peers.
The candidates potentially representing District Two are Cheryl Williams and Courtney Hobgood. Our chosen representative should be supportive in providing students with the curriculum we need to learn about, even the hard things.
Williams believes that sophomores should no longer read ‘The Glass Castle’ by Jeanette Walls, cherry-picking objectionable material in the novel.
“It’s pornographic… The stuff in this book could not even be put in an R-rated movie,” Williams said.
However, it is the opinion of the staff, other students and teachers that ‘The Glass Castle’ provides an insightful perspective into childhood trauma and mental illness. Many of the negative themes portrayed in this book serve as a jumping point for open discussion regarding mental health, poverty and abuse.
Contrary to Williams, Hobgood, a parent of three children attending EPS, shares that she wants to allow students to have representation in the curriculum offered.
“I think it’s important that these children — whatever color they are, whatever beliefs they have, whoever they decide to love — they need a character so they know they’re not alone,” Hobgood said in an interview with NonDoc.
Hobgood currently teaches preschool at First Presbyterian Church of Edmond and serves as a volunteer for the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO), so she has not only an opinion from a parent’s perspective but also from an educational perspective.
“I am for all parents, students, teachers, staff, not just the ones that look like me or believe like me,” Hobgood said. “There is no ‘I’ in team, and to be a board member you have to work as a team,” (NonDoc).
Williams previously served as a chairwoman for Oklahoman’s Republican Party, which shouldn’t necessarily coordinate with her running, but it does. Williams is endorsed by the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association which supports pro-second amendment legislation.
However, Williams herself claims that “the political indoctrination in the classroom has to stop,” Williams says in an undated video believed to be from November, posted to Twitter last Tuesday (JaxGay). Which directly contradicts her opinions on the separation of politics and education in the school system.
Unfortunately, Williams is not the only candidate in this running that is turning this nonpartisan election into a political one.
The District Five candidates Marcus Jones and Michael Grande were initially pitted against one another in a tight race, in which only five additional votes would have changed the outcome. Therefore, the candidates will enter a runoff election on Tue., April 5.
Michael Grande is not currently serving on the EPS school board and has not run for this position before. He has five children, who attend public, private and homeschool schools. Michael Grande stresses transparency and cooperation between the school board and parents. He pushes for a greater emphasis on classes that focus on finance, and he is against both mask mandates and the “discrimination” that unvaccinated kids have experienced through Covid-19 protocols.
Both Jones and Grande are against a mask mandate in EPS, but Grande goes the extra mile in saying that the EPS Covid-19 protocols are “discriminating” against unvaccinated students. This is in reference to an ongoing lawsuit with EPS surrounding the Covid-19 protocol that requires unvaccinated children to quarantine when testing positive, or when exposed to the Covid-19 virus. We believe that this protocol helps to ensure the safety of all students and that Grande’s stance on this issue is dangerous and serves to hurt students more than it helps.
Grande has also immaturely lashed out at elected officials over email, which sets a poor example for students and Edmond as a whole.
“You have been completely wrong on the mandates from the beginning and are now displaying without any reasonable doubt that you are either completely incompetent, have a mental illness or you are on drugs,” Grande said.
Grande was motivated to run for this seat because he felt there was a lack of transparency and communication coming from the active school board members.
“Also, something that we need to address, a lot of our decisions are made behind closed doors. This is a public position,” Grande said. “We need to be out in front having these conversations and holding our board members accountable and being transparent with the decision-making process.”
He claims in campaign ads relating to informed consent of reading material that “every school board member is ok with you not knowing” what is in your children’s school books.
His claims about transparency are simply untrue. The school board voting process is a public one, and their voting agenda for meetings is made public many days before the agenda goes to vote. We believe that parents should have a right to know what their child is reading. This right is fulfilled on every enrollment form sent to parents. They are told what books their child will be reading the following year and offered optional texts. Parents are required to sign acknowledging that they are both aware and agree with what their child is reading.
As we have previously stated, EPS school board candidates should run nonpartisan campaigns. Grande has done the exact opposite of this. He has run his campaign through the point of view of a right-wing politician and openly advertises the endorsement of individuals such as Gov. Kevin Stitt, who recently signed the perceived transphobic ‘Save Women’s Sports Act’ into law.
We believe that having someone on the school board who advertises politics aligned with the ‘Save Women’s Sports Act’ will make students feel uncomfortable and unsafe. This is in stark contrast to Grande’s opponent, Marcus Jones, who advocates for the importance of finding a place of acceptance for all students.
“When kids have something that they’re interested in, they excel in other areas of school, and they also find a value with school and a belonging,” Jones said. “And that belonging is very important for mental health.”(NonDoc).
Marcus Jones is currently on the EPS school board and has been there for five months. He has three children in EPS and stresses ideas such as building a strong community around feedback from parents, teachers and community members. He also wants to provide students with a quality education through the hiring and retention of good teachers, pushing for student engagement with clubs and electives and giving students opportunities to succeed.
Throughout this election process, Jones hasn’t pushed for any major changes to the status quo but rather wants to double down on policies that he sees as beneficial: such as the use of social-emotional learning and the use of academic programs like agricultural, financial and journalistic electives.
It is the opinion of the Santa Fe Howler news staff that Courtney Hobgood (District Two) and Marcus Jones (District Five) are the best candidates to serve on the EPS school board.
We believe that both Cheryl Williams and Michael Grande are pushing for policies that serve to create more harm than good for students. Their immature behavior is not representative of EPS’ values and potential candidates should serve as a beacon of respect and maturity to students and the community.
Edmond resident voters in District Two and District Five are encouraged to vote for the future of EPS students on Tue., April 5.