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Chickasha auditorium filled in support of suspended employees

CHICAKASHA, Okla. - The community surrounding Chickasha Public Schools is in an uproar following the suspension of five employees. Dozens attended a school board meeting Monday night in passionate support of the suspended employees and demanding change from the school board.

The crowd that showed up was so large that the meeting had to be moved to the auditorium adjacent to Chickasha High School.

Many in attendance insist the suspension of Pam Huggins, Pete Bush, Yohance Brown, Stacy Crutchfield and a fifth person who has not been identified publicly is suspicious if not downright corrupt.

"When you have transparency and communication, you have a level of honesty,” said community member Laurie Allen, “[one] that we haven’t seen. The school board and the superintendent have continued to bully, intimidate.”

In a letter from their lawyer, four of those suspended contend it’s a move in retaliation after they voiced concerns related to the Student Personalized Learning Center, a teaching program introduced last year.

Then, a lawyer for the school board, Richard O’Carroll, said in a letter of response the four are being investigated for embezzlement and failure to report child abuse of a special needs student.

O’Carroll also said on Monday “We recently became aware of these employees stalking the administration and, at this stage, we’re concerned for their well being. I think it was meant to intimidate and I’m convinced, coupled with the other events, that it was indicative of them trying to keep a cover up.”

“There’s just no way that any of those allegations are true,” said high school parent Leah Bell.

While the school board was in executive session, many from the community addressed the entire audience to voice their support and concern for the welfare of the school system.

Children and one husband of those suspended came forward as well to thank the crowd and defend their parents.

“It’s really hard for us to be up here because my mom is “accused.” It’s not fair for us to say that because she didn’t do anything wrong,” said Allison Crutchfield.

“They just want him to cower out, I guess,” said Jaycie Brown, “but you know him. He’s going to stand, he’ll fight for you all.”

Many at the meeting were hoping the school board would allow the community to vote on a new board member to fill the position left open last week after Amos Franco resigned. However, the school board voted to appoint retired teacher Ginny Howell.

“I would highly recommend that person do not take this seat because they will also have an element of liability in this,” Allen said.

The board was also scheduled to discuss taking on a long-term superintendent to replace David Cash and interim superintendent Cindy Schmidt. No decision was made at Monday’s meeting.