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State Board Votes to Recuse 2 Members from Matters Concerning Epic Charter Schools

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The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board voted on Tuesday to recuse two members from any future discussion or action on Epic One-On-One Charter School.

The board censured Matthew Hamrick in September, accusing him of dodging votes when it came to Epic’s use of state dollars the school claims became private once deposited in its learning fund. In July, Hamrick signed an affidavit for Epic’s operating company that contradicted the board’s official position on the matter.

Hamrick said in a board meeting Tuesday his conversations with Epic are being misconstrued as inappropriate.

"To be able to listen to both sides, I find that interesting that you would think that I could not and do not take my own conscious reasoning and discussion and thoughts into account when making the decisions that I make up here," Hamrick said.

Acting virtual charter school board Chair Dr. Robert Franklin said it’s admirable Hamrick wants to work with stakeholders.

"But I think it’s the acts that you made as a result of listening and talking to those key stakeholders from Epic that put us in that position to take this vote," Franklin said.

The board on Tuesday also recused Phyllis Shepherd from matters related to Epic. The Tulsa World first reported Shepherd is Epic co-founder David Chaney’s aunt. Franklin said that’s how the virtual charter board learned of the relationship.

"In our board training individually with our legal counsel where we talk about our ethical principles and we talk about conflicts of interest, that was not disclosed, that relationship. And in the investigation with the state auditor’s office, again, that relationship was not disclosed," Franklin said.

Shepherd was the only member to vote against starting the process to terminate the state's contract with Epic. She said Tuesday she has voted against Epic’s interests.

"I have no financial interest in his affairs or the affairs of Epic, and I do not consider him close family. We have not violated my own conscience," Shepherd said.

Both recusal votes were 3–2, with Hamrick and Shepherd opposed.

The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board has scheduled a March 8 hearing in its process to potentially end the contract with Epic.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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