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Barba Perez, called champion of Spanish-speaking and LGBTQ+ families in district, steps down

Max Bryan
Judith Barba Perez, center, speaks alongside fellow Tulsa Public Schools board members Jennettie Marshall, left, and Susan Lamkin during TPS' board meeting Monday, Jan. 9, 2022, at the district's service center.

Tulsa school board member Judith Barba Perez, known for serving Spanish-speaking students and parents at TPS board meetings, attended her final meeting as a board member Monday.

During her two years representing District 2 in TPS, Barba Perez became known for reciting instructions for board meeting attendees and viewers in Spanish at the beginning of each meeting. She also advocated for LGBTQ+ students and families, said board president Stacey Woolley.

Barba Perez is leaving her position because her husband got a job out of state, she said. The couple moved to Tulsa in 2015 after moving from Mexico to California the year before.

During her time on the school board, Barba Perez supported a partnership with the Kiowa tribe for language classes in the district. She also helped move the board past a contentious July 11, 2022 meeting that resulted in deadlocked votes and board members storming out of the room in her absence.

"If you're a Tulsan who cares about children and our schools and our teachers and our staff, keep showing up here to board meetings, and make your voice heard," she said at the end of Monday's meeting. "It's really important."

When asked how the board would continue to advocate for Spanish-speaking and LGBTQ+ district members, Wooley said Barba Perez has set the standard for the rest of the board.

"These folks who Ms. Barba Perez did so well at bringing into our board room and making sure that we are highly aware of the obstacles for — it's incumbent upon us for us to continue that work," said Woolley.

In her final remarks, Barba Perez encouraged students to hold their school district to a high standard.

"If you're a student, please — make sure you use your voice. Continue raising your voice. These are your schools, and this is your board," she said.

District 2 residents who wish to replace Barba Perez may contact the district before Jan. 21 for more information.

Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS. A Tulsa native, Bryan worked at newspapers throughout Arkansas and in Norman before coming home to "the most underrated city in America." Several of Bryan's news stories have either led to or been cited in changes both in the public and private sectors.