An Oklahoma City school board candidate has blamed a potentially disqualifying issue with her voter registration history on the 2019 Pathway to Greatness school consolidation plan — a claim that actually has little basis.
At a Tuesday night candidates’ forum, Sharri Coleman said she’s lived in her Oklahoma City public school district for years, except for a temporary period.
The University of Oklahoma professor, former schoolteacher and podiatrist is running in the April 5 school board elections for the OKCPS District 5 seat. District 5 covers the eastern end of the school system.
Voter registration records show she changed her address to District 5 on Dec. 3, just days before running for office.
This falls short of legal requirements for school board candidates, who must reside and be a registered voter within the boundaries of the desired seat for six months before running.
Coleman, 50, said Pathway to Greatness, which closed 15 schools and reconfigured 17, took her out of her district.
But the 2019 consolidation plan did not change the boundaries of any school board seats in the Oklahoma City District.
“I lived in the district and I lived in the district for years,” Coleman said at the candidates’ forum. “Because of Pathway to Greatness, I was temporarily out of it. Pathway to Greatness came into effect a few years ago, and I took the necessary steps to ensure I was in compliance.”
Coleman did not return a request for comment for this story.
She was registered at an address in the Lincoln Terrace neighborhood by the State Capitol for several years until December, when she changed her voter registration to a rental home in District 5.
Its longtime Lincoln Terrace address has been in District 4 for at least a decade. The school district confirmed that its school board boundaries have been the same since 2011.
Coleman made the change three days before the opening of the application period on December 6, well within the six-month requirement.
This could have disqualified her from the ballot if her opponent had reported it to the electoral authorities.
His opponent, Adrian Anderson, did not challenge his candidacy. The two-day window to do so in December has passed.
“I will also say that I announced my candidacy in November,” Coleman said during the candidates’ forum. “I filed in December, started my campaign in January. I’ve been running since. We’re here March 29. So all the questions that needed to be asked should have been asked in December.”
When The Oklahoman first asked Coleman about her voter registration history, she said, “There’s nothing else to know” other than that she’s registered in District 5 and that she has a residence in the area.
It was only after The Oklahoman reported the inadequacy of her enrollment record that she blamed school consolidations for affecting her residency.
Board seat limits are reviewed every 10 years after the U.S. Census. The current OKCPS board areas are consistent with the 2010 census because changes from the 2020 census have not yet been implemented, the district said.
Pathway to Greatness did not rearrange council boundaries, but it did change schools within each council district. It also affected schools where children were geographically affected.
A house can be attached to schools in multiple school districts.
For example, Coleman’s old Lincoln Terrace address is zoned to Wilson Elementary in District 4, but the affected middle and high school are in District 5, according to the school locator tool on the OKCPS website. .
The school locator tool clearly shows which school district an address is in. The voter registration information also lists the council district where a person resides.
Doubts have been circulating for months about whether Coleman lives at the District 5 address on his voter registration.
The residence is a dilapidated rental house that neighbors say has been vacant for a long time. Meanwhile, neighbors in Lincoln Terrace told The Oklahoman that a married couple still occupied the home where Coleman was registered until Dec. 3, the same address her husband listed on his voter registration.
Anderson, Coleman’s opponent, said he heard the rumors but thought it was just hearsay.
He previously told The Oklahoman that he believed the Oklahoma County Board of Elections would check each candidate’s address and voter registration record to make sure they met the qualifications.
The electoral authorities accept the information submitted by the candidates as is. It is only when an opponent files an application competition that an address or registration history is investigated.
“I was focused on filing and was ready to campaign for who I was,” Anderson said. “I just thought if that was the case there would be a process for someone to check on that.”
Journalist Nuria Martinez-Keel covers K-12 and higher education statewide in Oklahoma. Do you have a story idea for Nuria? She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NuriaMKeel. Support Nuria’s work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at subscribe.oklahoman.com.