Two members of the Crooked Oak school board who have come under fire for missing or arriving late to meetings claim to have been mistreated because of their race.
And a third member, the board president, believes someone outside the southeast Oklahoma City school district is directing Chris Lindsey and Guadalupe Rodriguez to not attend the meetings.
Lindsey, who is black, and Rodriguez, who is Hispanic, said they have no plans to resign, despite being confronted at Thursday night’s board meeting by angry parents, teachers and alumni seeking 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.
Boykin is leading the charge to remove Lindsey and Rodriguez, who have missed more than 60 percent 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,” she said. “If we prioritize attendance for the students of this district, we should prioritize attendance for the board members.”
Most who spoke criticized Lindsey and Rodriguez for failing to live up to standards set by their predecessors on the board of Crooked Oak Public Schools, a 1,200-student district near Eastern and SE 15,
“If you cannot put forth the effort, you need to get out,” speaker Amanda McBee said. “This is about our students and our teachers. This is an embarasment.”
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, staff member Linda Grange told dozens who attended the meeting.
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 member Katie Conway to fill a vacancy, the board had operated for about a month with four members.
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.
Rodriguez accused district officials of “routinely calling special meetings when they knew the two minority board members would not be present.”
Rodriguez also accused board President Scott Trosper 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.
Speaker Gene Joslin, a 1982 Crooked Oak graduate who went to school with Trosper and Conway, disputed the racism claims made by Lindsey and Rodriguez.
“I can tell you right now there’s no racism here,” Joslin said. “None with them. They’re as loyal to anybody as you can be.”
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 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.”
Trosper did not identify the “outside influences,” but said they have caused teachers, staff and patrons to question the school district’s stability. He blamed the absences by 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.”
Crooked Oak Public Schools Superintendent Brad Richards characterized as “absurd” the allegations of racism. He said Lindsey and Rodriguez 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 did either man contact Richards to let him know they wouldn’t be able to attend, the superintendent said.
Richards said it will likely take a board vote to remove Lindsey and Rodriguez.
“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.”
A special meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. July 8 to vote on the sale of a $1.465 million construction bond.