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12 candidates vying for Oklahoma City, Tulsa school board seats

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12 candidates vying for Oklahoma City, Tulsa school board seats

Dec 08, 2023 | 1:30 pm ET
By Nuria Martinez-Keel
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12 candidates vying for Oklahoma City, Tulsa school board seats
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Five school board candidates are running in Oklahoma City Public Schools, where two board of education seats are up for election. Primary elections are Feb. 13, and general elections are April 2. (Photo by Nuria Martinez-Keel/Oklahoma Voice)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Twelve candidates are seeking five school board seats in the state’s two largest school districts next year, drawing contested races across Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Three seats will be on the ballot for the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education, which is grappling with a threatened state takeover and has yet to make a permanent hire at superintendent.

Two seats will be up for a vote in Oklahoma City Public Schools, where the school board recently faced key decisions on new charter schools.

The three-day candidate filing period ended Wednesday.

School board primary elections are Feb. 13 for races with three or more candidates. General elections are April 2. All school board elections are non-partisan.

Tulsa Public Schools

Two Tulsa school board members, Diamond Marshall and Jerry Griffin, did not file for reelection.

Sarah Smith, 45, and Maria Mercedes Seidler, 68, both filed to run for Griffin’s District 6 seat representing east-central Tulsa.

Smith is a Nathan Hale High School graduate, the parent of four Tulsa district students and a community volunteer. She is determined to “put politics aside and put children first to improve our schools,” according to her campaign website.

Seidler is an attorney known for her involvement in parent advocacy and vocal support for state Superintendent Ryan Walters. She led legal action against Stillwater Public Schools and attempted to have Shawnee Public Schools’ accreditation downgraded. She recently alleged Union Public Schools violated House Bill 1775 because the district offers an online course that discusses social issues.

Calvin Michael Moniz, 38, and Kandee Washington, 56, are running for the unexpired term in District 2. 

The Tulsa school board appointed Marshall to the seat in March after a former board member resigned. Washington was among the final pool of candidates for the District 2 appointment.

Moniz has volunteered on several advisory boards in Tulsa. He posted on Facebook that his vision is a “safe and welcoming Tulsa Public Schools” where the community maintains local control of the district and students receive robust support.

Insurance agent and former teacher John Croisant, 46, is seeking reelection to District 5. The central Tulsa seat also drew two challengers: retired teacher and school administrator Teresa Peña, 58, and businessman Alan R. Staab, 66.

Oklahoma City Public Schools

The District 3 election in west Oklahoma City features an incumbent running his first race and a challenger.

Cary Pirrong, 58, was appointed to his seat in July 2022 to replace a resigning board member. Pirrong, an attorney and district parent, will face Jessica Cifuentes in his bid for reelection. 

Cifuentes, 25, was raised in Oklahoma City, graduated from Emory University in 2020 and is an engineer, according to her LinkedIn account.

Three candidates hope to represent central Oklahoma City’s District 4. The current office-holder, Mark Mann, is running for state Senate District 46 and did not file for reelection to the school board.

Former teacher Dana Meister, 69, was the first of the three candidates to file. Meister taught in Altus Public Schools, Choctaw Middle School and Midwest City High School and is now the general manager of Full Circle Bookstore.

She is a passionate advocate for educational reform and a candidate “committed to listening to diverse voices and fostering collaborative solutions,” according to her campaign announcement.

Business owner and realtor Scotty Hernandez, 29, and Jay Albertson, 53, president of the local union chapter of the Communications Workers of America, also filed to run. The Oklahoma City school board considered appointing Albertson to the District 4 seat in 2017 but chose Mann.