School Controversy Could Cost Thousands

Monday, November 10th 2008, 9:44 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, News On 6

BROKEN ARROW, OK -- The latest controversy tied to the Broken Arrow school board could cost the district thousands of dollars in donations.

This weekend the district kicked one of its Partners in Education out of the program, over his push for a grand jury investigation into the school board.       

This all stems from an e-mail about a grand jury petition and it's turned one time partners into foes.

The Taco Mayo near 71st and Lynn Lane doesn't just serve up Mexican food. It also serves several Broken Arrow schools, as a Partner in Education. At least, it used to.

"The losers are the kids, the losers are the school teachers," said John Lare, Partner in Education.

Taco Mayo franchise owner John Lare is the man behind the petition asking for a grand jury to investigate the Broken Arrow School board.

He claims they've neglected their duty and wasted tax payer money by hiring a new more expensive law firm.

He's gathered hundreds of signatures at his business and he sent out an e-mail to ask other partners in education, if they would do the same. Some agreed, others didn't.

"I got a couple back from certain partners that do business with the school district, who sent back and said no we're not interested. Don't send this to us," said Lare.

Lare said that was expected, but he didn't guess what would come next.

Interim superintendent Dr. Gary Gerber responded with an e-mail of his own, calling Lare's actions "disturbing."

It goes on to say the list of addresses were not to be used for political or personal purposes and while there was no legal recourse, the district was "free to immediately disassociate itself with any partner using email groups for a political agenda."

A day after the e-mail, Lare got this certified letter, dissolving his partnership with Broken Arrow schools.

"If they would say, 'hey we don't want you to do that.' I'd be fine. I'd stop. I wouldn't use it for that purpose. But there was no rule. One way or the other. And I've done it before," said Lare.

Lare claims he did the same thing several years ago, when he was trying to fight the tax increment financing or TIF district, near Bass Pro.

"I even got a thanks from Gary Gerber for taking my action to fight the TIF," said Lare.

Now the man honored as a partner of the year, who posts Westwood fifth graders drawings in his restaurant, can no longer help the schools he's adopted.

"Free activity, free support for the kids. I'm not sure. I'm not sure your priorities are in the right place," said Lare.

Broken Arrow schools only comment was the copy of the e-mail. Dr. Gerber claims in that e-mail he got a number of complaints about Lare's petition email.

John Lare says he only received about four or five out of 70. He estimates he gives away about $5,000 worth of free meals to Broken Arrow students and teachers every year.