Following community support, TPS board appoints Diamond Marshall to District 2
The board appointed Marshall after almost a full two months of deadlocked votes, delays and a contentious meeting over the board seat.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to accurately reflect the title of a person who made a public comment at the meeting.
Following a wave of community support on Monday night, Diamond Marshall was appointed to the Tulsa Public Schools’ District 2 board seat.
Marshall, a field organizer at the Terence Crutcher Foundation and former charter school educator, was reconsidered in the application process for the district seat after the original two finalists did not receive a majority vote from the six sitting school board members. The board’s decision fills the seat just before they hit the 60-day vacancy mark, which would have forced a special election. The seat was left open at the end of January when former board member Judith Barba-Perez moved out of state.
TPS District 2 runs along both sides of Interstate 244 between downtown and Memorial Drive.
The board's appointment followed nearly two months of contention and gridlock, much of which was over the candidates.
"It took as long as it needed to, and we're here now, so I'm very excited," Marshall said after the board meeting.
From Barba-Perez’ resignation to Marshall’s appointment, the board was deadlocked over board appointments and policy votes. Former finalists Sharita Pratt and Quinton Brown were not voted onto the board amid concerns over their backgrounds, including Brown threatening a security guard at Booker T. Washington High School.
The lack of progress came to a head at a four-hour Feb. 27 meeting in which Griffin and board member Jennettie Marshall raised their voices and criticized board president Stacey Woolley and Superintendent Deborah Gist.
The wait aggravated District 2 residents, including on Monday night before the vote.
"It is grossly irresponsible to continue to not fill that seat," said District 2 resident Michelle McCain. "Having a special election pushes that to June and possibly to September, and that is six months of dysfunction with the current six members that we have."
"This is not a game to those of us who are actually living in the real world," said District 2 resident Ana Barros.
At the board’s March 6 meeting, the board affirmed board president Stacey Woolley’s move to reopen the application process.
Before the vote on Monday night, seven commenters threw their support behind Marshall, arguing she's active in the district. Speakers didn't mention any other board candidate.
Marshall said she’s she's organized with TPS families, and has a brother with autism. She also pointed out that as an Afro-Latina woman, she can reach communities within the district because she's part of them.
"I want our immigrant families to be supported, our dual-language families to have proper resources, and our BIPOC community to be heard and represented. I want students to feel safe, and I want teachers to feel equipped to do their jobs, and I want all of this to start being worked on tonight with the appointment of a District 2 representative, and I want that representative to understand that they cannot do things for the community, but need to do things with the community," she told the board.
Before the vote, candidate KanDee Washington told the board she doesn't "have a foundation backing" her. While Terence Crutcher Foundation director Tiffany Crutcher was present at the meeting Monday night, the foundation did not formally endorse Marshall, in accordance with state law.
Washington received three votes; candidate Weslie Alexander received two. None of the other six candidates got any votes.
Marshall secured the majority when board member Jerry Griffin voted in favor after being told he couldn’t pass on his vote. Until Monday night, Griffin, Jennettie Marshall and board member E'Lena Ashley generally voted together against every school board candidate, leading to deadlocked votes and no appointment to the open seat.
When Woolley announced Marshall as the new board member, her supporters cheered.
"Honestly, I was in shock," Marshall said of the vote.
After the meeting, Woolley said she was "overjoyed" that District 2 now has representation.
"I'm very excited to be talking to students, staff, admins, families, principals ... all of the people that are involved in our education system. It's something that I'm very passionate about and I do on the daily, and so I'm excited to continue that in this role," Marshall said.