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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Virtual Charter School Board voted this week to start the process of terminating its contract with Epic Charter Schools.
The vote passed 3-1, but the one vote against is the aunt of Epic cofounder David Chaney.
“I’m very concerned that this issue wasn’t brought to the table beforehand,” Board Chair John Harrington told KFOR. “This is the type of situation that should be brought to the attention of the parties involved so that ethics professionals could make an informed decision about whether or not this is a violation.”
Social media posts show board member Phyllis Shepherd referring to Chaney as “nephew” and calling herself “Aunt Phyllis”.
The Tulsa World broke this story and KFOR independently verified the social posts.
KFOR did reach out to Shepherd, but we have not heard back.
The Epic cofounder released the following statement confirming they are related, but claimed it was not an ethics violation:
“Phyllis Shepherd is my grandmother’s half sister. We don’t do family dinners together, and we are not of close enough relation to present a conflict, according to state statute. Anyone who knows Phyllis, a retired teacher, at all knows her to be independent in the best sense of the word.
Conflicts do abound on the Statewide Virtual Charter Schools Board though, as several board members and staff members stand to gain if Epic can no longer operate. For example, Becky Wilkinson’s daughter is the head of school for another virtual school – a competitor of Epic’s. Barry Beauchamp is now retired from Lawton Public Schools, but he can’t be happy about the 1,500 students from his community who chose Epic instead. Robert Franklin has deep ties to brick and mortar schools and John Harrington is a consultant, and his customer base is brick and mortar schools who are hemorrhaging students as we continue to grow. If you want to know who stands to gain the most from the board’s action yesterday, look at the members who voted to begin the termination process.” – David Chaney, Epic cofounder
Oklahoma City Attorney Debbie Maddox says she does not believe this was an ethics violation because it was not a formal hearing.
When the formal hearing does happen on January 20, that’s when Shepherd should consider disqualifying herself.
“That type of vote is a procedural vote,” Maddox said. “It really has no bearing on Epic’s ability to continue business, their financial wellbeing or their right and ability to do business on behalf of the state of Oklahoma.”
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