Jul. 2—The Stillwater Board of Education announced Friday that Roberta Douglas, Assistant Director of Employer Engagement at Oklahoma State University Career Services, has been appointed to fill the school board seat in Ward 3 recently vacated by Tanya Massey.
Massey, who served as Assistant Director of Residential Living at Oklahoma State University, is relocating to Texas after accepting a job with Texas Tech University.
Douglas is a Certified Career Services Provider and a Global Career Development Facilitator. She previously held positions with Oklahoma CareerTech, Payne County Youth Services, and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.
She was chosen from a field of four candidates who were interviewed by the Board during a special meeting Thursday to represent Ward 3, which encompasses northeastern Stillwater.
"We had an excellent pool of candidates, all with unique talents, backgrounds and perspectives that would be very beneficial to Stillwater Public Schools," Board President Tim Riley said. "Ms. Douglas is a well respected member of this community, and her career services background and extensive connections throughout the community of Stillwater will serve the board well. Her experience connecting job seekers and employers in a wide variety of industries will help the board have a greater perspective on how the district can prepare all students for their career paths, and her vast network around this town will further help the board hear feedback and help the community to continue to know they have a voice."
Candidates for the board of education must have lived in the district for at least six months before beginning of their filing period. They must also have been a registered voter at an address within the boundaries of the ward they will represent for at least six months.
The Stillwater Board of Education declined to identify the complete list of applicants for the vacancy. SPS Communications coordinator Barry Fuxa cited guidance from the Oklahoma State School Board Association as the reason.
Under the Oklahoma Open Records Act, employment applications submitted by applicants not hired by a public body are exempt from disclosure. The list of candidates for positions like school superintendent, for example, are usually not revealed. This is also the case in some other states.
But the Stillwater Board of Education also declines to identify individuals applying for appointment to vacant seats on the board of education, a governing body of elected public officials. Board of Education members are not school employees, but if they were, the Oklahoma Open Records Act specifically addresses applications from people who become public officials.
According to Oklahoma Statute Title 51 Section 24A-7 titled "Personnel records — Confidentiality — Inspection and Copying," a public body may keep certain personnel records confidential but "All personnel records not specifically falling within the exceptions provided in subsection A of this section shall be available for public inspection and copying including, but not limited to, records of:
1. An employment application of a person who becomes a public official;
2. The gross receipts of public funds;
3. The dates of employment, title or position; and
4. Any final disciplinary action resulting in loss of pay, suspension, demotion of position, or termination.
Douglas will be the third person to hold the seat in Ward 3 during the current five-year term, which ends in April.
Massey took office in November 2021 to fill a vacancy created when former BOE president Mitsi Alexander resigned, citing bullying and abusive behavior from community members.
In spite of the controversies that have engulfed Stillwater Public Schools and the Board of Education regarding COVID-19 response and bathroom policies, Douglas expressed optimism about her new role and appreciation for the initiatives in place to help students succeed, from basic resources, career and academic planning to the opportunities provided by the student-led SMAC week charity fundraiser that connects students to the community.
"I recognized this as an opportunity to impact students in our district, a way to help ensure that schools and educators have access to the resources necessary for student success,"Douglas said when asked why she applied. "Education and service have always been important pieces of my professional experiences. Serving on the School Board is the perfect alignment of the two. I am both honored and humbled to have this opportunity to promote our school district and impact student development."
Douglas said she's looking forward to celebrating student achievements but knows the School Board's work primarily involves making sometimes challenging decisions.
"I also want to ask the questions necessary to support equitable access to resources and programming," she said. "How can we create more of these beneficial programs for all Pioneers in our schools? Is that increased funding for more teachers or tutors? Developing community partnerships for coaching and mentoring? Enhanced industry connections to promote exposure to career options?"
While academic achievement is vital and should always top the SPS priorities list, it is also important to recognize the value of developing students beyond the classroom, she said. She's ready to get started better understanding the needs of the schools and supporting policies that create a positive education experience.
"I look forward to working with this team of dedicated volunteers to move forward the initiatives that Stillwater Public Schools administration and staff set," Douglas said. "... Without a doubt, the district's 2023 school bond efforts will fill much of the coming months, and I am excited to see and support that vision to fruition."
Douglas has been active in the community through the United Way of Payne County, Leadership Stillwater, the Stillwater360 Internship Program, Young Professionals of Stillwater, Stillwater Chamber of Commerce, school PTAs, and other local organizations.
A graduate of Stillwater High School, Douglas received her Bachelors of Science in Family Relations and Child Development and a Masters of Science in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Oklahoma State University. She and her husband Bart have two children, Hannah and Abby, both enrolled at Stillwater High School.
She will be sworn in at the July 12 Board of Education meeting and will hold the seat until it comes up for election in February. She has not announced if she will seek election for a full term.