EPIC Board Expands, New Officers Assume Governance of State’s Largest School System;
Votes Unanimously To Sever Ties with Company of EPIC’s Co-Founders
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Board of Education for Epic Charter Schools (Community Strategies) voted to expand to a total of six members following the recommendations of a consultant hired to recruit experienced, independent board members for the organization. The Board accepted the resignations of Betsy Brown and Doug Scott, both who had served for a decade each, and J.P. Franklin. It also elected new officers.
Oklahoma businessman and Academy of Seminole founder Paul Campbell was elected board chair, and forensic accountant Jon Tatum and attorneys Danny Williams Sr. and Ginger Casper joined him as new Board members. Board members Dr. Kathryn Stehno and Wyjuana Montgomery, who had only joined the Community Strategies Board in recent months, remain on the Board. Stehno was elected vice chair and Casper was elected secretary.
Immediate past Board Chairman Doug Scott said in knowing Campbell’s background he is confident he can now pass the torch for a complex organization to a leader who will work tirelessly for the families and staff of EPIC Charter Schools.
“It’s no secret the Community Strategies Board was criticized in the state audit,” said Scott. “Like many volunteer, nonprofit boards, we relied on the information provided to us to make decisions for a very complex and unique school system. As soon as we knew the information provided to us was lacking or not accurate, we took decisive, bold actions. I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished in the last year and I’ve always been proud of the mission of this school and of the work of its dedicated teachers and administrators. We have transformed thousands and thousands of children’s lives and it gives me a deep sense of peace to know that work will continue under the governance of this board.”
Campbell thanked Scott, in particular for his efforts in the last year to to lead EPIC to settlement with the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter Schools Board (SVCSB) and in productive representations of EPIC with the Oklahoma Department of Education.
“We new members would not be here today if it weren’t for the decision to strengthen this Board,” Campbell said. “This Board is committed to the highest ethical standards to support EPIC’s mission to educate and empower students who choose us. We also care for the adults working at EPIC who have devoted their lives to this work. We will empower them to do the work that needs to be done, set high expectations, and support and hold them and each other accountable for our critical work.”
Campbell, Williams, Casper and Tatum were nominated to the Board by Education Board Partners (EBP), a nonprofit organization that recruits and trains individuals with relevant skills and experience for school board service. All four were recommended through a blind process, according to a set of recruiting priorities grounded in the mission of public education, best governance practice, and a vision of strategic board composition.
“Our goal was to ensure that this public school organization, on behalf of students and the public, has a strategic and effective board committed to governing with transparency, accountability, and equity,” said Carrie Irvin, CEO and Co-Founder of EBP. “Per settlement terms with the SVCSB, we know this Board must have a minimum of seven members by July 1, so we will be bringing forth another slate of board candidate(s) for the board’s consideration in June.”
Campbell is the owner of Oklahoma-based Spartan Energy Services and the founder of the successful non-profit Academy of Seminole charter school, which graduated its first class of seniors last week.
Casper is an Oklahoma City attorney with a background in litigation involving privately-held corporations. She also is co-founder of Workflow, a coworking and office space company focused on human health.
Tatum is a Tulsa-area forensic accountant and ordained minister with significant experience in nonprofit finance.
Williams Sr. is a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma and an attorney with Conner & Winters in Tulsa, specializing in investigations and white collar defense, commercial litigation and other practice areas.
Board votes unanimously to terminate contract with co-founders’ company
The new board members started with significant agenda items, voting unanimously to sever all ties with EYS as of July 1, 2021. Moreover, the Board voted to contract with Power School, the largest student information system provider in North America, and migrate all of its data and technological processes from a system controlled by EYS. Founded by Ben Harris and David Chaney, EYS was the contracted management company for the EPIC Board, managing EPIC Charter Schools, all aspects of its operations, its employees and its finances since the school was founded.
The Board also is compelling EYS to pay the school’s administrative cost penalties for FY19 and FY20 and what the EPIC believes it owes the OSDE for Oklahoma Cost Accounting System coding issues included in the state audit of EPIC.
“There is a deep bench of talent among the educators and public servants employed at EPIC and they outgrew the management of EYS some time ago,” Campbell said. “Severing ties with EYS will result in tens of millions of dollars in savings and the school will be taking a significant leap forward in technology during the next 18 months for students, parents and teachers. Moreover, this Board is not open to contracting with an education management organization ever again, much less a for-profit company. Every dollar lost to a company like that is a dollar not invested in students. This school’s bottom line is educating and empowering students. Not turning a profit.”
EPIC Superintendent Bart Banfield echoed that commitment and applauded the Board’s actions.
“We are thankful this Board has freed us to be completely focused on what is best for children. Our decision-making will be grounded in the answer to this fundamental question: How does this educate and empower students? We look forward to working collaboratively with the Board as we move forward to create exciting educational opportunities for Oklahoma students.”