About 50 people gathered at El Patron Cocina Mexican restaurant Monday night for Tulsa Public Schools board member E’Lena Ashley’s first community event since she and two other board members ended a meeting early on the way out.
In a video stream of the session posted to social media by an attendee, several people who identified themselves as TPS parents and teachers can be heard questioning several of Ashley’s votes at the Board meetings. education on July 11 and 14.
Ashley and fellow board members Jennettie Marshall and Jerry Griffin walked out of the July 11 meeting after their non-vote on a dozen consent agenda items was criticized by Superintendent Deborah Gist. during the superintendent’s report portion of the agenda.
Citing third-party training that discouraged removing individual elements of the consent program for separate votes, Ashley voted no on the entire July 11 consent program, which included contracts for 30 new employees and recruitment allowances. for positions that are difficult to fill, such as special positions. education teachers. These contracts were unanimously approved three days later by the board at a special meeting.
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“Why did you vote no on the board’s agenda to accept new teacher contracts?” asked a woman, drawing applause. “We are understaffed. There are people who are willing to come and work for TPS, and you have told them no.
“I’d like to answer you,” Ashley replied. “We have a consent program. It’s got it all, isn’t it? We learned earlier that once you have a consent program, you can vote for the whole or split individual issues. However, I had understood in my training … and confirmed by Dr (Jennettie) Marshall that we should just vote on the full agenda.
Although Ashley voted to approve new employee contracts at the July 14 meeting, she voted against six deferred items, including two relating to the sale of $6.2 million in tech bonds to Bank of Oklahoma Financial. Services, an amendment to the district’s contract with Growing Together. to provide additional grant-funded services to Webster Middle School, a memorandum of understanding between Oklahoma State University Center for Family Resilience and Mitchell Elementary School for the PAX Good Behavior Game, a contract with the Academy for Urban School Leadership and an agreement with the Confucius Classroom Coordination Bureaux to provide support for the Chinese language program at Booker T. Washington.
The meeting has become so loud with frequent interruptions among speakers that at one point a uniformed Tulsa Police Department officer is visible in the live stream near a door.
When reached on Tuesday evening, Ashley said she asked TPD ahead of the meeting to be in the area, citing attendees’ frustrations at a previous community event, as well as concerns raised by her mother during the night.
TPD’s communications unit did not return calls on Tuesday.
In addition to questions about Ashley’s votes, several attendees also raised objections to the location and host of the meeting.
The meeting location near 41st Street and Garnett Road is outside the TPS attendance area one mile south and one mile east, prompting questions from several attendees on location.
Ashley told Tulsa World she chose the restaurant because of its proximity to Walt Disney Elementary School. Located at 25th Street and South 117th East Avenue, Disney is just over two miles north of the restaurant.
“It’s convenient,” she said, noting that her campaign also held events there during the 2022 election cycle. “People already knew I had meetings there, and I didn’t see no need to make things difficult.”
TPS policy does not require council members to hold community meetings on district property. A district spokeswoman said such an event would not be prohibited on a campus provided the facility is available, as well as the appropriate personnel to get people in and out of the building and the request has been made. in advance, as is the case with any entity or group wishing to meet at a TPS facility.
Additionally, the agenda stated that the meeting was hosted by “E’Lena Ashley TPS 4 2026”.
When asked on Tuesday evening, Ashley said she organized the event as an individual and did not create a committee of candidates for the 2026 election.
“It was just me sponsoring him,” she said, noting that she hoped to be re-elected when the East Tulsa seat returns to voters in four years.