By Robert Medley
It is the first time since 2012 that there has been a race for a school board seat in the Yukon district.
But a pandemic, virtual and remote learning, masks and in-person learning became hot topics since COVID-19 hit in March 2020, and school board members drew challengers this year.
Now there will be two school board races for voters in the district to decide their future district leaders.
The Yukon School Board elections are set for Tuesday, April 6, 2021. The winners will be sworn in at the May 3, 2021, board meeting.
One candidate has already been sworn-in. Brian Coulson had filed against Michele Hawthorne, but Hawthorne had to withdraw when it was found her address was outside the area represented by the seat.
School Board President Suzanne R. Cannon, Office 1, of Oklahoma City, and Office 5 board member Don Rowe are in races to keep their seats on the board in April.
Filing at the Canadian County Election Board for Office 1 were Cannon and Andrew Lewis, of Yukon.
Lewis said he has worked in the oil and gas industry in the past.
“Due to the market downturn, other avenues have presented themselves and I am currently a small business owner in Yukon. I have two children currently enrolled in YPS, and have been a Yukon resident for the past 4 years,” Lewis said.
He said he is a conservative, with conservative values.
“I do have strong conservative values, however, those are far outweighed by my Christian values. I believe in hard work, honesty, integrity, and love. I believe that to get true understanding and to come to common ground, all parties/perspectives need to be heard,” Lewis said.
He said he wants to have an open ear to parents and taxpayers.
“I stand behind my honesty and integrity and my voice and decisions will reflect as much. I believe that to get the best for our students, we must first bleed into the school staff.
They need our support more than ever, and passionate teachers produce well-rounded, educated children, which we are all after.,” Lewis said.
The pandemic has been hard on children, he said.
“We have all had a very rough 12 months almost to the date…the least we can do is present our best for our children in our school system and not leave this next generation behind.” Lewis said.
Cannon was elected as board president by the board members in July.
It is Cannon’s third time to serve the board as president. She has been on the school board for 10 years.
In Office 5, the unexpired term is open for election, and incumbent Rowe will face challenger Cody Sanders, of Yukon.
Rowe was appointed to the board at an August school board meeting to fill the vacant Post 5 seat.
Rowe, who previously served as the board’s Post 3 representative, was sworn into office at the Sept. 8 board meeting.
The Post 5 seat was vacant after Rex Van Meter did not seek re-election to a second term and no eligible candidate filed earlier this year to succeed him.
Rowe reported in a social media post that he has experience as a teacher in-person and has helped his own children with their online learning.
“I am running for a full term on the school board and would appreciate your vote. Two of my children have graduated from Yukon, I have two children still in the district, and I am a graduate of YHS. So as a parent and alum, the success of our students, teachers, staff and district is very important to me,” Rowe said. “I am also a high school teacher and college adjunct instructor, so I fully understand the challenges our teachers and students are facing. I have experience teaching in person and virtually while helping my own children manage online learning.”
Brian Coulson has been appointed to the school board after filing for the April 6 election and incumbent Michele Hawthorn withdrew after finding out she did not live in the area for the Office 4 seat.
Sanders said his platform will focus on solution-based and open-door conversations for the betterment of Yukon Public Schools.
“I have a deep desire to improve Yukon Public Schools,” said Sanders. “Once my daughter entered the school system, I quickly realized there is a need for a representative voice of all parents and students in Yukon on the school board.”
Sanders will represent Yukon Public Schools parents, teachers and students through opening schools, conservative spending, supporting teachers and advocating for parents.
A small businessman and firefighter, Sanders said he knows how important resources are to have success.
“The needs of Yukon’s teachers are not being met, and I intend to change that,” said Sanders.
Sanders’s business, Bright Beginnings Daycare, is a childcare facility with 19 employees and 120 students. Running Bright Beginnings has given Sanders the opportunity to interact with many of the students in Yukon Public Schools which has deeply influenced his desire to run for the school board.
Sanders resides in Yukon with his wife,Hayden, and their daughter. Hayden is a PTA member and homeroom mom within Yukon.
Cannon, Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Alcohol/Drug Counselor is a 45-year Yukon area resident, has served two terms on the BOE and is seeking re-election. She has served as President of the Board three times stating, “Being President of the Board requires strong leadership skills. I have been privileged to lead our district through some really hard times, the pandemic being the latest.
“Listening to different perspectives is as important as leading with integrity. Representing the parents and staff of our district means doing the right thing for our students. Our students are the bottom line for every decision I make.”
Cannon said she has a history of volunteer work starting with teaching Sunday School, youth group leader, homeroom mother and Girl Scout Leader. Her daughters attended YPS from Kindergarten to graduation.
Her grandchildren are currently attending YPS. When asked why she felt it was important to serve on the Board of Education, Cannon said, “I was always involved in everything my kids did. I want to make a difference for my grandchildren and the other students in our district.”
She and her husband, Gary, are charter members of HALO, a therapy dog organization. Gary, a VietNam Veteran, took their dog Sophie to Parkland Elementary every week for 7 years. Suzanne served with Sophie at the Military Welcome Center and Will Rogers World Airport in addition to crisis situations. Cannon also serves on the Board for the Canadian County Health Access Network, Pets and People and volunteers for the Oklahoma Board of Nursing PEER Assistance Program.