Gov. Stitt rescinds controversial State Board of Education appointee following heavy public backlash


OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – On Monday afternoon, Governor Kevin Stitt reversed his latest nomination to the Oklahoma State Board of Education at the appointee’s request after his decision to replace Kurt Bollenbach with Melissa Crabtree came under heavy fire.

“At a basic level, the folks who serve on our state boards that are overseeing our schools in particular, should be objective, reasonable, experienced leaders who are looking to serve the majority in the very best way,” said Erin Brewer.

Brewer represents the Oklahoma Parents Legislative Action Committee. The group teamed up with other nonpartisan education and parent groups, including the Oklahoma Educators Association, the Institute for Child Advocacy, Pastors of Oklahoma Kids, Save Our State, Oklahoma Educates, Indivisible Stillwater Oklahoma, and Oklahoma Rural Schools Coalition in opposition to the appointment.

On Monday, the coalition launched a campaign urging Oklahomans to email the governor with concerns about Crabtree. By Monday afternoon, Brewer said more than 1,200 letters had been written to the governor’s office asking him to rethink the decision.

“A woman from Enid who has been spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories, whose children don’t even participate in our public school system,” Brewer said.

Between 1998 and 2002, Crabtree was a special education teacher in Tennessee. Since then, she transitioned to home schooling her children.

The governor’s office defended her appointment, saying she would be a good addition to the state board.

But after her appointment, she received heavy criticism for not having any experience with Oklahoma’s Public Education System, leading a group that staunchly opposes mask mandates, and for promoting several conspiracy theories surrounding the pandemic on social media.

“That’s reason to not be in any position of leadership,” Brewer said.

On Monday afternoon, Gov. Stitt announced Crabtree requested he rescind her appointment. He said in a statement,

“I spoke with Melissa Crabtree today and she requested that I rescind her appointment to the Oklahoma State Board of Education.  
I was extremely disappointed to see how many were so quick to judge her without taking the time to personally speak to her.  
Ms. Crabtree is a loving mother and wife, and her public school teaching experience and work with special needs children would have been valuable assets to our state. 
However, it’s become clear that Democrats and unions only value the voices of teachers when they are willing to fall in line with their political agendas. 
That being said, I respect her decision and will rescind her nomination. We will reopen the search process and identify a new appointee as soon as possible.”

Gov. Kevin Stitt

Crabtree also issued a statement saying, “I am grateful to Governor Stitt for nominating me to serve on the Oklahoma State Board of Education and it is a tremendous honor to be considered. However, after careful consideration, I have determined that this is not the right opportunity for me to serve my state.”

Public school supporters spoke out loudly against an unqualified nominee to the Oklahoma State Board of Education. Our opposition was unprecedented, swift and grassroots, representing a bipartisan majority of parents who desire a state board member that brings expertise and objectivity, as well as genuine care for our public school system.

This outcry against the removal of a qualified board member and the nomination of a questionable replacement didn’t come from a political party or organized union. This was a coalition of education supporters led by parents and volunteers from both sides of the aisle who agree that our children’s education is too important to treat casually.

Parents rely on the State Board of Education to ensure excellence, equity, accountability and leadership for all students for the benefit of our state. We implore our Governor to carefully select a nominee that has a vested interest in the success of our schools and brings appropriate experience to the task.

Erin Brewer, Communications Co-Chair OKPLAC

On Tuesday the Oklahoma Democratic Party released the following statement:

“It is incomprehensible for me to understand how any so-called leader can disregard the health and safety of our children and the teachers trying to protect students, their families, and themselves. Stitt accused concerned citizens and child advocacy groups of pushing a ‘political agenda’ on Monday. Protecting children is absolutely not a ‘political agenda.’ The data and experts have proven that masks work to save lives. The citizens and groups expressing their outrage against Stitt were not acting on behalf of any political party. Instead, sadly, it is our own state GOP leadership playing games for political gain.”

As our state continues to experience surges and cases and hospitalizations are at record highs, Stitt should be focused on curbing the COVID virus in our state versus picking petty partisan battles. This goes far beyond politics. It involves compassion and empathy, or, sadly, our Governor’s lack thereof when it comes to the lives of Oklahoma children and their families.

 We are calling on Stitt to honor his oath to protect all the people of our state. Oklahomans care deeply about our children and the people will no longer tolerate the Governor’s game-playing that will only serve to jeopardize the lives of our children, teachers, and their families. We will all remember in 2022 how Stitt put party politics before protecting the constituents he swore to serve.”

Alicia Andrews, Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair

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