By Mindy Ragan Wood
Yukon’s Board of Education appointed police Capt. Chris Cunningham Monday night to serve the remaining term of a vacancy created by the resignation of Don Rowe.
Cunningham was one of two candidates who applied for the vacant board seat. Terry Niles, mother of five children, was the second applicant. Cunningham and Niles have children in the school district.
After more than an hour of interviews with the candidates, the board chose Cunningham.
The typically quiet board member, Jeff Behymer, thanked the applicants.
“I don’t usually say much but I want to say thank you to both candidates that came out,” he said. “Both had great answers to our questions. Both bring different perspectives to the position so thank you to you both.”
The new board member was immediately sworn in and abstained from voting on all remaining agenda items.
Cunningham said he decided to apply because he wanted to give back to his community.
“I have been interested in the school board for a while. My kids have grown up in Yukon. I’ve lived in Yukon for 20 years,” he said. “I was looking for a way to give back to the community and a city that’s been really good to me.”
When he saw that Rowe stepped down, he decided it was time.
“I thought what a good way to give back,” he said. “I really would like to see that Yukon Public Schools be not one of the best, the best. I think it is already one of the best, so I think I’d really like to see it be the best school on the western side of Oklahoma.”
Cunningham said he believes the board is “heading in the right direction” and praised the progress of the new school, Redstone Intermediate in Surrey Hills.
“I went by there three, four weeks ago and it looked like a big pond. I went by there two days ago and it’s starting to look like a school, like it just came right out of the ground.”
His application for the position shows he is a 1996 graduate of Guthrie High School. Before joining the Yukon Police Department 17 years ago, he was an officer in Piedmont and Edmond.
With his background, he believes his perspective as a member of law enforcement could be helpful.
“I think I have unique perspective,” Cunningham said. “I think everyone on the board brings a little bit different perspective, but me being from that element, safety and security is a priority but being involved in that for 20 years and having children that go to the schools for the last 10 or 12, when you combine that living in this community, knowing the different crime areas and things like that I think it can bring a unique perspective.”
Applicants answer a list of questions. One of those requested them to list the qualities and behaviors of a board member.
“A board member should be held to higher standard of behavior, similar to that of a Police Officer,” he wrote. “Good communication skills and the ability to think outside the box, while contributing to teamwork, are vital qualities to the role of a board member. It is also equally important to possess the ability to compromise. Board members should display respect for others, and good manners at all times.”
He further answered in the application that the most important responsibility of a board member is to “make educated and informed decisions” and those decisions must be “based on the needs of our students and always come first,” Cunningham wrote.