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Oklahoma Board of Education member resigns, leaving two vacant seats

Former Oklahoma State Board of Education member Suzanne Reynolds speaks to Tulsa Public Schools officials at an August 2023 meeting.
Beth Wallis
StateImpact Oklahoma
Former Oklahoma State Board of Education member Suzanne Reynolds speaks to Tulsa Public Schools officials

A state board of education member is stepping down, leaving the embattled board with two vacancies.

Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office announced Wednesday Suzanne Reynolds was resigning, effective immediately. Reynolds took her seat when Stitt overhauled the board in January after Ryan Walters became the state superintendent.

“After careful consideration, I have decided to transition away from this role,” Reynolds wrote in her resignation letter to the governor. “I assure you, I did not come to this decision lightly, but with careful consideration of the impact my departure may have on the board’s continued work.”

Reynolds served as the board’s at-large member, which means she did not represent a specific district in the state like other members. She formerly worked as a pharmacist and University of Oklahoma pharmacy professor.

As for stances on issues, Reynolds has been critical of Tulsa Public Schools since before taking her seat. She once urged the board to assess the “strongest possible penalty” against the district last year for a House Bill 1775 complaint.

As a board member, she criticized low reading proficiency rates at some of Tulsa’s school sites, questioning Tulsa Public Schools officials at the August Board of Education meeting about students’ pace of learning.

“I’m looking at reading proficiency rates, because with 15 elementary schools [having] a reading proficiency score of less than 5% — I know I keep going back to that — but we can teach a child to read in a matter of a few weeks,” Reynolds said. “Most of us have tutored or volunteered in some form or fashion to help kids, myself included.”

Reynolds has also spoken out against diversity initiatives. At a board meeting last summer, she said she experienced attempted indoctrination from OU for having to “endure” the “humiliating task” of the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion training.

“I was also urged and shamed into using what they call ‘inclusive language,’ a firm belief in the gender unicorn, and explained fabricated genders and experiment with pronouns,” Reynolds said at the meeting. “I found this to be a direct assault on my civil rights, my freedom of religion, speech and thought.”

During her stint on the board, Reynolds supported initiatives steered by Walters to remove the word “diverse” from the state computer science academic standards and for schools to notify parents if children change their gender identities.

At her final board meeting in September, Reynolds reiterated her views on gender during a discussion about students changing gender markers on permanent records.

“I can say that I am a biologist with a degree, a Bachelor of Science,” Reynolds said. “Sex is not assigned at birth, it is determined by chromosomes and genetic code. … So to say that it can just be taken out of your record, just is not consistent with what we are biologically as a binary species.”

In a press release, Stitt called Reynolds a “fighter for parents, a champion for students and a dedicated advocate for education in Oklahoma.” He said he will appoint her to the Board of Regents for the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

Beth reports on education topics for StateImpact Oklahoma.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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