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New board says St. Isidore's state contract to stay while lawsuit works through courts

Statewide Charter School Board chair Brian Shellem speaks with Rebecca Wilkinson before the start of the board's first meeting.
Beth Wallis
StateImpact Oklahoma
Statewide Charter School Board chair Brian Shellem speaks with Rebecca Wilkinson before the start of the board's first meeting.

The St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School’s sponsorship was held by the old board — the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board. But after recent legislation disbanding that board, its contract was absorbed by the new charter board.

The State Supreme Court decision declared St. Isidore’s contract unconstitutional and ordered it to be rescinded. But at the final Statewide Virtual Charter School Board meeting in June, one of the three present board members abstained, saying the board should wait until the end of the 10 days St. Isidore had to petition for a rehearing. That abstention torpedoed the vote, and the contract was passed to the new board.

That abstaining board member, Brian Shellem, was elected to chair the new Statewide Charter School Board Monday.

After a lengthy executive session at Monday’s meeting, Shellem explained St. Isidore filed a motion Friday asking the State Supreme Court to hold off on its order to rescind the contract. St. Isidore asked the court to stay its order until the expiration of its time to petition the U.S. Supreme Court, or if the petition is filed, until the SCOTUS makes a decision on the case.

“It would not permit St. Isidore to open to children or allow state charter school funding to go to St. Isidore while review by the U.S. Supreme Court is sought,” the request reads. “The limited stay would simply preserve the current contract in the event the U.S. Supreme Court reverses [the State Supreme Court’s decision].”

St. Isidore’s board voted last month not to open for the next school year or take funding from the state while the case continues through the courts.

State Attorney General Gentner Drummond, who filed the suit, has until July 22 to respond to St. Isidore’s motion.

Shellem said in comments to the press after the meeting, the board’s decision to rescind the contract will depend on how the court responds to St. Isidore’s new request.

“It’s really when the [State Supreme] Court issues its ruling on when [the contract must be rescinded] or if they want to preserve the right for any defendants to make their appeal,” Shellem said. “So there’s, it’s a legal process.”

State Superintendent Ryan Walters is a member of the new board, but he was absent at Monday’s meeting — instead sending a proxy, Department Director of School Choice, John Tautfest. Tautfest voted in Walters’ place, though it is unclear as to whether proxies, rather than official designated board members, may vote.

Beth Wallis is StateImpact Oklahoma's education reporter.
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