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Meet the new Oklahoma State School Board!

Stitt's hand-picked a who's-who mix of Oklahoma right-wing grifters, culture wars fighters, and biblical indoctrinators to oversee public education in his quest to, well, destroy public education.

11:48 AM EST on January 19, 2023

Class is in session! Let the grifts and right-wing indoctrination begin!

Last week, just hours after he started his second term as Governor, Kevin Stitt made major changes to the Oklahoma State Board of Education, replacing four board members with a new batch of servants who are eager to help the Governor – and his henchman Ryan Walters – use sensational culture wars to distract the public and media from their conniving attempt to privatize and destroy Oklahoma public education in the name of “reform.”

The moves were met with general hysteria and outrage from people who actually have studied and/or work in the field of public education; sinister grins from conservative grifters who want to make a few bucks off public education as they watch it fail; and, as usual, general ambivalence and apathy from the average Oklahoma taxpayer.

Anyway, as a public service to our loyal readers who both support and don’t support local media, I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at the members of the Oklahoma State Board of Education, their primary qualifications and backgrounds, and what exactly they bring to the table in Stitt's quest to destroy public education.

Here we go...

Marla Hill

Primary Qualification: Homeschooled Her Kids

Marla is an Evangelical anti-abortion radical whose big claim to fame is that she’s homeschooled all 5 or 8 or 10 of her children, which based on Kevin Stitt’s logic, apparently makes her qualified to serve on a board that oversees the real-life schools that normal kids attend.

Naturally, when you Google Marla’s name, the first video that pops up is some weird speech where she tries to connect the pro-life “abolition” movement to 19th-century efforts to end slavery in America...

Uhm, if I was going to give a lecture comparing the movements to abolish slavery and abortion, I’d probably take a more fact-based approach and examine the similarities of today's opponents of abortion and yesterday's proponents of slavery. For example, they both were in favor of...

A) Wanting to control other people and tell them what they can or can not do to their own bodies.

B) Using warped biblical and Christian rhetoric to justify their beliefs. 

Then again, what do I know? I went to real schools and wasn’t indoctrinated at home by some kookie Bible-thumper, so I actually developed critical thinking skills and have a broad understanding of US history, which I guess makes me unqualified to serve on a school board. 

Trent Smith

Primary Qualification: Played Football at OU

Trent – a member of the Young Presidents Organization that has infiltrated Oklahoma state government at all levels – is one of two people to retain their spot on the school board.

Although injuries, a slight frame, and a general lack of speed, strength and elusiveness derailed his professional football career, he’s been an all-pro at using his OU football chops to become a successful businessman.

Like any good ex-jock who clings to his exploits from yesteryear to stay relevant, he goes out of his way to remind people he played football:

"I’ve heard for years about the workforce shortage in Oklahoma, big companies like Tesla most recently, passing Oklahoma and choosing Texas," Smith told The Oklahoman. "As a football player, I spent a lot of time thinking about beating Texas, and we were pretty successful in that regard. I’d really like to beat Texas in education now."...

Former OU coach Bob Stoops said Smith is “as dedicated to Oklahoma as anyone I know.”

“He is a product of Oklahoma schools and a successful businessman,” Stoops said in a statement. “I know his work ethic first hand. He pours all of his energy into any task he takes on and I know he will approach the State Board of Education the same way.”

Imagine getting a new job and asking your college professor from 20 years ago to send a quote to the newspaper to vouch for you. That’s not sad or anything. 

For what it's worth, playing football isn’t the only bullet point that got Trent this appointment. 

He is also a leading proponent of siphoning funding away from public education and putting it in the hands of grifters and profiteers all in the name of “reform” and "school choice."

In fact, he’s the founder of Every Kid Counts Oklahoma – the same shady non-profit that helped launched Ryan Walters’s political career and managed the program that used Covid education funding to put TVs, power tool, and Pac-Man video game cabinets into Oklahoma households.

With chops like that, you have to wonder if he "dropped the ball" by not running for State School Superintendant himself. 

Kendra Wesson

Primary Qualification: Culture War Fighter

Kendra ran for State House in 2022 against Jacob Rosecrants in Norman. 

Even though she was endorsed by Marcuswayne Mullin and Rob Standridge, volunteered with an anti-woke school board group, and one of her sons plead no-contest to sexually assaulting two Norman high school wrestlers during a hazing ritual on the back of a school bus, she somehow lost by a 10% margin.

That being said, her anti-woke qualifications were apparently strong enough to impress Stitt and score her a school board seat. Check out this quote from a Norman Transcript article:

Themes of critical race theory are not just bubbling at the state level but also in local school board races.

Kendra Wesson, a volunteer with the conservative group School Boards 4 Kids, believes universities are indoctrinating teachers with views on critical race theory and encouraging students to use their preferred pronouns.

“These freshly indoctrinated teachers are now spreading their beliefs to our children,” Wesson told the crowd at the Edmond forum.

Yep, it’s the teachers that are the ones who are indoctrinated. It’s not the lady who says on her website that her religious beliefs “closely inform her moral and political values.”

Donald Burdick

Primary Qualification: Donated Money to Stitt’s Campaign

This guy is an aspiring oil overlord from Tulsa who has started a couple of oil companies that are so big and prominent that they don’t have their own websites. One of them is called Olifant Energy I and the other is Olifant Energy II. If he starts a third, I wonder what he’ll call it. 

I don’t know a lot about Donald. Well, other than he donated money to Stitt’s campaign, which I guess is a decent way to get on a school board:

In addition to donating money to Stitt, it does probably make sense to have someone with oil and gas connections on the school board. He can make sure that our oil industry continues it's efforts to indoctrinate kids with Petro Pete books. 

Sarah Lepak

Primary Qualification: Worked for Stitt’s Old Company

Sarah worked for Stitt’s old company Gateway Mortgage as a laywer, but now calls the QuikTrip compliance department home. Since thousands of Oklahoma high school dropouts have found good work and employment at QuikTrip, it makes sense that Stitt would put her on the school board. Hell, he should go all out and appoint someone from Kum N Go, too! 

This is probably a cool deal for Sarah, as it seems like she really wants a prestigious government appointment to pad her resume. In 2019, despite having no judicial experience, she applied for an opening on the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Even though her mom serves on the Judicial Nominee Council – and her dad is a State Rep for HD 9 – she didn’t make the Top 3. Womp womp. Maybe this school board appointment will improve her chances. 

Suzanne Reynolds

Primary Qualification: Doesn’t Like Woke Diversity Training

Suzanne Reynolds is a pharmacy professor who’s apparently popped a lot of crazy eye pills during her research and studies. She hangs out in right-wing ruling-class society circles, gets tagged in Facebook posts by the Unwokable Podcast dude, and generated some publicity when she spoke about the trauma she experienced after going through diversity training:

Reynolds offered public comments at the July State Board of Education meeting in support of a Tulsa teacher who filed a House Bill 1775 complaint against Tulsa Public Schools and urged the board to assess the “strongest possible penalty.” That complaint resulted in state sanctions against TPS’ accreditation status.

“This person was acting as a whistleblower about her experience as a teacher. The complainant was harassed in an attempt to silence her in revealing her identity.” I commend her for her courage and her brave act. I was especially motivated to come before you because I am an educator who experienced this attempt at indoctrination,” Reynolds told the board at the video recorded meeting.

“I have some sense of the humiliating task the complainant had to endure. As a health care provider and former faculty member at the University of Oklahoma, I endured diversity, equity and inclusion training during a two-hour faculty webinar entitled ‘Unlearning Your Transphobia and Homonegativity,” in which I was told that I was socialized into believing there are only two sexes when there are actually 10.

Wow. I wonder how long it took Carly Atchison to slide into Suzanne’s DMs after seeing that!? I hope Suzanne was able to pop some good uppers and downers to cope with the trauma of being exposed to something that challenges her own closely held beliefs.

Anyway, those are the six people who, along with Ryan Walters, make up the Oklahoma State School Board. Give Stitt credit – he knows how to pick them. Education in this state is screwed. 

Stay with The Lost Ogle. We’ll keep you advised.

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