A group of parents, students and community leaders tried to speak Monday night at the Oklahoma City School Board meeting in support of an assistant principal who said she was forced to resign.
Hope Alvarez resigned from Roosevelt Middle School for “personal reasons,” according to a termination card she filled out Jan. 24. She did not submit a resignation letter, according to a district document.
Alvarez said in a written statement provided to The Oklahoman that she was forced to resign after she had planned to teach English-language classes to parents in evening hours. She said she was told teaching the class for a contractor would have been a conflict of interest, so she never did.
She said she was told to resign by Roosevelt Principal Michelle Pontikos and Chris Caram, the director for federal School Improvement Grants for the district.
“I felt I was treated unprofessionally and bullied into a situation that left me little recourse but to sign the resignation as they demanded,” Alvarez wrote.
District officials declined to comment about Alvarez, citing personnel laws.
Several people, including community leaders and parents, signed up to speak on Alvarez's behalf at the school board meeting Monday.
Ed Romo, representing the League of United Latin American Citizens, asked the school board to investigate Alvarez's resignation.
“We're concerned that Ms. Hope Alvarez may have been unjustly forced to resign,” Romo said. “There's evidence.”
As Romo began to discuss the circumstances, he was cut off by District 6 board member Jay Means, who said detailed discussion of the situation could affect a possible investigation.
The district's attorney, Tammy Carter, said discussing specific employees was against the rules. Romo was told to stop talking.
“It is abnormal,” Carter said. “This is the board's meeting. It is abnormal for the audience to participate in this way.”
Superintendent Karl Springer told Romo he would contact him Tuesday.
Wilfredo Santos-Rivera, a former school board member, told the board stifling comment was inappropriate.
“Perhaps you might entertain considering modifying the process,” Santos-Rivera said. “I think it's OK for the board members not to respond, but I think it's OK for the citizens to say whatever they want. Open it up. As long as you don't respond, I think that's OK. That's good democracy.”
In other business
The board approved an alternative charter school application after initially denying it. Harper Charter Academy will serve about 150 students in sixth through 12th grades. Organizers expect about 1 in 4 students there to be pregnant or parenting teens. About half will be dropout recoveries. The board denied the charter application last month, but the applicants answered questions of concern district officials had.
The board approved $300,000 to create 75 Teach for America teaching positions for the next school year throughout the district. They will be in addition to about 100 other Teach for America teachers in the district.
The board heard a transportation report from the TransPar Group. More than 16,000 students ride the bus to and from school each day on the district's 147 bus routes. Six wrecks have been reported so far this school year. Last year, 10 wrecks were reported. The average age of district buses is 7.3 years.
Final plans for new classrooms and gyms were approved at four elementary schools: Mark Twain, Putnam Heights, Southern Hills and Stand Watie. The work is being done through MAPS.
The board re-elected District 3 board member Phil Horning to the vice chairman position. Also, District 7 Board Member Ron Millikan was reappointed as the board liaison to the Oklahoma State School Board Association.
Former board members Lyn Watson, Gail Vines and Angela Monson were honored for their service to the board. Watson and Vines did not seek re-election this year. Monson was defeated by Lynne Hardin by a vote of 3,381 to 3,211 in an election Feb. 12.
The McLaughlin Family Foundation was honored with the Perfect Partnership award by the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools. The family was honored by Lori Dickinson, president of the school foundation.
Tim McLaughlin of the McLaughlin Family Foundation reported that the revamping of athletic fields and facilities at Jefferson Middle School, 6800 S Blackwelder, has boosted sports participation by 140 students. The school fields were remodeled through Fields and Futures, a districtwide project to improve athletic facilities. McLaughlin said the next project will be Webster Middle School, 6708 S Santa Fe.
AT A GLANCE
The Oklahoma City School Board awarded several contracts at its meeting Monday night, including:
• Oklahoma Roofing, $647,000 for a new roof at Hillcrest Elementary, 6421 S Miller.
• Buddy's Produce, $250,000 in additional funding for produce. The original contract was for $2.2 million.
• Greenwood Publishing, also known as Heinemann, $200,000 for literacy intervention materials for kindergartners at some schools throughout the district. The original contract was for $28,000.
• Metropolitan Custodial Service, $114,000 for Cesar Chavez Elementary, 600 SE Grand.
• Eales Electronics Corp., $75,000 for fire alarm inspection and repair.
• Edu Skills, $5,000 for three days of professional training at Northwest Classen High School, 2801 NW 27.
STAFF WRITER CARRIE COPPERNOLL