The Ripley Board of Education has named Ripley Elementary Principal Lisa Pitts to serve as interim superintendent.
She takes the place of former Superintendent Kenny Beams, whose resignation was accepted by the Ripley Board of Education in a special meeting on Thursday. Beams was arrested on a complaint of soliciting prostitution after being named in an affidavit late last week that followed a multi-agency sting of a prostitution network in Oklahoma.
“I am a Ripley Warrior with all my heart and soul. I have spent the last 31 years of my life as a Ripley Warrior. My children, and now grandchildren, were and are Ripley Warriors and we wear that title with pride,” Pitts wrote in a statement published to the district website. “Nothing is ever perfect, but it is the love, pride, caring and achieving that makes this school so special... different than any other.
"The one thing that has been evident about our community is the fact that we always bounce back when we have lost loved ones or have been kicked down. We join hands and wrap ourselves closer to each other and come back stronger than we were before.”
A Ripley support teacher, Kacey Williamson, was also arrested last week in connection with the sting. Williamson was accused of helping administer the online social media network for prostitution, and was reported in the affidavit to have been trying to change her life but was keeping a few select clients.
The school board fired Williamson at the same special meeting. She had been employed for less than a year and was not entitled to a due process hearing, Board of Education vice-president Brett Morris said.
Beams was named in the same affidavit as Williamson, which stated he was “known to solicit acts of prostitution in the Tulsa Metro Area.”
The scandal involving Beams is costly for the district in a variety of ways.
Bryan Drummond, a Tulsa-based attorney who represents Ripley Public Schools, said Beams had been paid only $30,000 per year by the district because he was collecting a full teacher's retirement and was limited in how much he could earn. His eventual replacement will cost the district more, Drummond said.
Pitts wrote that during the special board meeting she was asked to be interim superintendent. She was also named as the district's authorized representative and designated custodian for all federal, state and school programs.
Pitts will be paid $3,750 per month as part of her extra duty contract, the Board announced.
“This is not a task that I was seeking, but I will do my best for our little school,” Pitts wrote. “I will need guidance and lots of positive support to make it through. It is easy to be negative about things, but it is hard to be that positive beam of light to always support your community and school.
“Facebook, and other social media platforms have the capability to damage others or to lift people up in times of need, and I hope that in this time of need we can all use it for the positive support of our school.”
Pitts’ hope is that the parents and community can move forward in a positive manner.
“Our staff is the best in the state and they have hearts of gold! Again, we are not perfect, but our love and care for our students is great,” she wrote. “Please help us to encourage, support, and work in a positive direction for our kids. Our kids are the best and they are my babies and I love them dearly. We are the Ripley Warriors and we are the best.”