Gov. Stitt removes school board member, appoints new one with no experience in Oklahoma Public Schools system

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Gov. Stitt removed a state school board member Friday and replaced him with an individual who has no experience with the Oklahoma Public Schools system and is staunchly opposed to face mask mandates.

Melissa Crabtree is a member of the Enid Freedom Fighters, a group adamantly against mask mandates. Now, she’s taking a seat on the State School Board after Gov. Stitt removed his own appointee, Kurt Bollenbach.

This is Stitt’s second replacement of a board member since mid-November. Her lack of experience, or being around, the Oklahoma Public Schools’ system is what some local leaders said they are worried about.

“It’s not a move that makes a whole lot of sense,” said Jacob Rosecrants, State House Representative for District 46.

“I don’t understand why the governor would pick somebody to fill a spot on the state board of education who has no experience with Oklahoma’s public education system,” said, Rep. Andy Fugate, District 94.

Some state representatives spoke out on Friday about the unexpected move.

“It’s certainly troubling,” Fugate said.

“I was surprised by the brazenness of who he chose,” Rosecrants said.

Crabtree is a former special education teacher in Tennessee. She had four years experience between 1998 and 2002. Then, she transitioned to homeschooling her own kids and in-home advising for parents with special needs kids.

The governor’s office released the following statement:

“Melissa Crabtree is a former teacher who is passionate about using her experience in the classroom to improve educational outcomes for all Oklahoma students. The governor believes she will be a great addition to the State Board of Education and appreciates Mr. Bollenbach’s service to our state.”

CHARLIE HANNEMA, CHIEF OF COMMUNICATIONS

“He’s looking for people who are puppets,” Fugate said.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister also released a statement, which is as follows:

“Kurt Bollenbach has been an exceptional board member whose legal acumen, breadth of experience and commitment to excellence have been of great value to the State Board of Education. He is a man of tremendous principle and integrity. Of course, I look forward to meeting his successor on the board, Ms. Crabtree, and anticipate a good working relationship with her, but I will miss Kurt’s bold leadership.”

STATE SUPERINTENDENT JOY HOFMEISTER

Crabtree, a member of the Enid Freedom Fighters, spoke out against a mask mandate at a heated city council meeting Tuesday in Enid.

“I ask you to rise to the occasion, stand up to the noise of the liberal media and bullies in our community, not place an undue burden on businesses, and vote for the citizens of Enid to manage our personal health affairs with our responsibility as we see fit,” Crabtree said during public comment to the City Council.

Crabtree’s social media post campaigning against the proposed face mask mandate in Enid, which the City Council ended up passing.
Another post from Crabtree in which she campaigns against the proposed face mask mandate in Enid.

Alicia Priest an educator for 26 years and now president of the State Education Association called the decision baffling.

“We need him to be a leader that we elected him to be and listen to the professionals in the school system,” Priest said.

Priest said Stitt replaced a board member who was trying to get a mandate passed in schools, with someone who isn’t.

“It feels like a bullying tactic,” she said.

However, Priest said she’s still just hoping it works out.

“We’re rooting for them to be the best for our kids,” she said.

State Democrats released their own statement as well.

Statement from Oklahoma Democrats.

Gov. Stitt has replaced six board members since 2019. The only original member left who was not appointed by Stitt is Hofmeister.

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