Epic battle: Former State Virtual Charter School board member levels charges against Governor and Epic co-founder

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – In a letter first published in the Tulsa World, former head of the State Virtual Charter School Board John Harrington says EPIC Charter Schools co-founder David Chaney told him the Governor wanted the board and EPIC to work things out in private, instead of in open meetings.

“To suggest that we have private ways of just sort of making this go away, or get dealt with, it’s not appropriate,” Harrington told News 4. “When David Chaney suggest that I ignored it, I don’t support it, I believe we need to be public.”

Harrington is refencing what was said to him in this email from Chaney.

John,

As a mentioned yesterday, I look forward to working with you as Chairman of the SVCSB this coming year and am committed to a better open dialogue than we had in years past. I want EPIC to be able to answer any questions and resolve concerns you or the board has before they ever reach the point of having difficult discussions in open meetings. At a meeting with Secretary Rogers, the virtual schools, CCOSA, the legislative authors of HB1395 and others during the recent legislative session, Secretary Rogers told all of us that the Governor was tired of all of the public infighting and charged us all with the mandate of getting around a table and discussing and solving issues in private rather than continue the public back and forth. We are committed to following that direction and maintaining that approach.

There have been a lot of positive change at EPIC over the last few years. I know you have a very busy schedule, but am hoping you can set aside a couple hours some time in July and we could meet at the EPIC office so that you can get a good overview of EPIC, see behind the curtain of our systems and how we operate and get answers to any questions you may have. If you would like to meet, please let me know some dates and times that would work for your schedule and we will get something on the calendar.

Thank you,

David Chaney

News 4 reached out to EPIC for comment, Chaney sent News 4 the following statement.

“We have always known John Harrington had deep financial conflicts of interest and bias against EPIC. But, sadly, we did not realize he also had no regard for the truth until we read this. I have never spoken to the Governor or John Harrington about the false allegations against EPIC. Moreover, a look at the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board’s agendas for spring and summer 2019 and the period of time Harrington invokes also shows there were no issues pertaining to EPIC before the Board. He is clearly doing the bidding of his traditional school customers.”

We asked David Chaney specifically about the email, Chaney said, “It proves that Mr. Harrington is lying to KFOR and published a falsehood in the Tulsa World.”

In response to the statement from Chaney, Harrington shared the following statement with News 4.

I served as a volunteer on the Virtual Board to protect and expand educational opportunities for Oklahoma students, not limit them. In my “day job,” I lead a team of professionals who support over 4.2 million K-12 students in 36 states across the country. Our focus is on increasing access to online educational resources for all students.The distinction Mr. Chaney makes between “traditional” and online schools is a mindset that the education community is quickly moving past. Education no longer needs to be limited by a student’s location, and the quicker we can move past “us versus them” accusations, the sooner we can focus our energies where it matters most: educating our children.

John Harrington

News 4 also reached out to the governor’s office to ask about the statement from Chaney in the Tulsa World article. We were sent the following statement.

“The Governor’s Office spoke with Governor Fallin’s appointee to the State Virtual Charter School Board to let him know that his term was expiring at the end of October, and that Governor Stitt may be going in a different direction.After careful deliberation, Governor Stitt made Dr. Brandon Tatum his first appointment to the Board in early November.Dr. Tatum is an education thought leader and is already making votes with his board colleagues to ensure transparency and accountability. Those actions are in line with the governor’s request for an audit of Epic in July 2019.The governor has consistently fought for transparency across state government and has been vigilant to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly. Allegations that the governor directed anyone to avoid open meetings are categorically false and recklessly irresponsible.”

Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office

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