On August 28th, Amy Shelton resigned from her position as the District 2 representative, leaving an open gap for those who have the skills. Several people signed up for the job including Ronald Barr, a businessman, Jenny Plaster, a real estate agent, Alvin Okonkwo, an employe at a charter school, Gary Copper, another businessman, Jania Wester, a director at Communities in Schools, and Robert Howard, a teacher at TU. District 2 includes Kendall-Whittier, McKinley, Mitchell, Owen, Sequoyah and Springdale elementary schools, along with Carver middle school, Rogers high school and our very own Booker T. Washington high school. Applications were due by August 31st and on September 4th the contenders gave their five minute long speeches to the board of education.
First up was Jania Wester, who had brought 121 people, most of whom are hispanic, live in the Kendall-whittier neighborhood, and are a major portion of District 2. She spoke about her more than 20 years of experience in the neighborhood; from being a teacher at Kendall-Whittier elementary, to working as the managing director of communities in schools. In response to criticism from some opponents, she also spoke about how working in Communities in Schools is not a conflict of interest because the organization no longer accepts money from the Board of Education.. Even so, the public may still believe that there was a conflict of interest. Her main point though, was to provide representation for the latin-ex community. Wester addressed that in District 2, 44% of the district is latino, and there has never been a District 2 representative that is latino.
The second applicant was Alvin Okonkwo, who works at a charter school also applied for the seat. He brought with him around 20 people to cheer him on, each one of them snapping throughout his speech, ”We approaching a point in history where we must take a critical look at our greater community and solidify our commitment toward progress. When I arrived in Tulsa, I met 30 kindergartners that would alter the trajectory of my life. My intention is to apply and eventually run for the Tulsa Public Schools District 2 board seat, because I believe in education as a bridge for the future.”
After those two was Jenny Copper, and Robert Howard. Each of them had their own reasons to apply but who’s resumes did not compare to what the previous two had done. Additionally Ronald Barr, after giving his two minute long speech, he revealed that he did not even live in district 2, immediately disqualifying him from the race.
After hearing all of the applicants it was clear that only the first two had a chance to make it as they both had the support of the community and both were the only ones with history in education. Although this was prevalent, the board decided to abstain from voting and would further interview each and everyone of the candidates and question them about any possible conflicts of interest.
After interviewing each candidate the board decided to meet up again on September 17th to announce their decision. Sadly Alvin Okonkwo was disqualified because it was found out that he had not registered to vote the required six months before submitting his application. This left the board with only one good option, and on that day, September 17th, Jania Wester was appointed for a vote by Ms. Ruthann Fate. Dr. Cindy Decker quickly second the motion, with Ms. Jannette Marshall being the first to vote, saying that she did not support Wester because Jania Wester’s husband had once paid for a trip she had gone to and she considered that as a conflict of interest. Mr. Gary Percefull decided to abstain for the same reason. With two of the board members voicing their opinion, the rest of the board all voted to have Jania Wester be the district two board of education representative. The vote ended up being 5-1 with one abstaining.
The board quickly had Mr. Eric D. Wade give her the oath.
“I Jania Wester, hereby declare, under oath, that I will faithfully perform the duties of the board of education of independent school district number one tulsa county oklahoma with the best of my ability, and that I will faithfully discharge all of the duties pertained to said office and obey the constitution and laws of the United States and Oklahoma.”