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Tulsa school board members allege illegal meetings in Gist resignation, Johnson appointment

Ben Abrams
Dr. Jennettie Marshall (left) at a meeting of the Tulsa Public Schools' Board of Education on Dec. 11, 2023.

Two Tulsa Public Schools board members have filed a lawsuit alleging their colleagues broke state law — including in the resignation of the district's former superintendent, and appointing her replacement.

School board members Dr. Jennettie Marshall and E'Lena Ashley, along with plaintiff Aaron Griffith, filed the lawsuit against board members Stacey Woolley, John Croisant, Susan Lamkin and Diamond Marshall, former superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist, and current superintendent Dr. Ebony Johnson.

The lawsuit specifically accuses Woolley, the board president, of meeting with former superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist about her resignation and the appointment of the current superintendent, Dr. Ebony Johnson, outside the requirements of a public meeting. It alleges Woolley met with Gist to discuss Gist's decision, and that Gist told media outlets she had conferred with the school board before deciding to step down.

Gist resigned after threats from the state to lower the district’s accreditation and possibly remove local control. Johnson was appointed as interim and eventually as permanent superintendent of the district.

In response to these claims, Woolley said she wants to focus on improving student outcomes.

"I'm going to do all I can to move forward with that work because adult issues cannot be allowed to become problems for our children," she said in a statement.

The suit further accuses Woolley of bringing up topics not listed on a meeting agenda in a December 11 executive session, which Marshall alluded to when they returned to the dais.

"This board, while in executive session, violated the executive session rules and had a discussion — several discussions — about an item, one item, which we were warned by the attorney could not be discussed," Marshall said

In response, Woolley accused Marshall of bringing up unrelated topics to try to force a meeting violation from other board members.

After the meeting, Woolley told reporters Jennettie Marshall had brought up a past dispute over Tulsa Honor Academy, and that board member Diamond Marshall engaged her in discussion. Woolley believes she brought up the topic to trigger a meeting violation.

"Both myself and attorneys asked multiple times for them to stop the conversation," Woolley said.

Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS.
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