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John Harrington, chair of Oklahoma’s Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, wanted to force out two members of the board who apparently had conflicts of interest in their connection to scandal-scarred Epic charter schools. One is related to a founder of Epic, who made millions; the other received campaign donations from Epic. But before Harrington could act, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt fired him and replaced him with a Christian school leader.
Gov. Kevin Stitt on Friday removed the president of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board who recently led the initiation of termination proceedings against Epic Charter Schools and challenged two other board members about potential conflicts of interest with Epic.
John Harrington was notified Friday morning by Stitt’s newly appointed secretary of education that his service on the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board was over effective immediately.
Stitt’s office told the Tulsa World on Friday evening that the governor has appointed the former president of a private Christian school in Edmond in Harrington’s place.
Harrington said that only two days earlier, he had notified Stitt’s office, as well as the office of House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, of his intent to call a special meeting Nov. 18 so the board could consider voting to force members Mathew Hamrick and Phyllis Shepherd to recuse themselves from any matters related to Epic.
He provided copies of his emails to Stitt’s and McCall’s offices to the Tulsa World...
In late October, Assistant Attorney General Marie Schuble recommended that the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board enter into termination proceedings against Epic, the operator of Oklahoma’s largest online public school, called Epic One-on-One, based on the state’s new investigative audit findings that Epic’s operators might have violated fiscal management standards in their contract and various state laws, as well as for “good cause.”
The board voted 3-1 in favor, with Shepherd casting the lone “no” vote and Hamrick absent from the meeting...
As first reported in the Tulsa World, Shepherd is a relative of one of Epic’s two co-founders, who reportedly have become millionaires through their deal to manage the school, and Hamrick accepted campaign donations from one of the Epic co-founders in Hamrick’s failed bid for a state Senate seat.
In response to the Tulsa World’s reporting about Shepherd’s family tie, Speaker McCall sent Shepherd a letter and provided a copy to the Tulsa World that stated: “As an appointee to the House, my expectation is that if it is found that a conflict does exist for you to vote on matters related to Epic, that you would abstain from all future votes that are or could be encompassed by that conflict.”
In September, Harrington led Hamrick’s censure and removal from the board’s newly formed audit committee, accusing Hamrick of intentionally avoiding public votes by the board in 2019 and 2020 on matters seeking to unmask Epic’s use of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to date budgeted for student learning that Epic is keeping private.