Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman said Monday that the reinstatement of Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind waiver ensures the state’s education reform efforts will continue.
“With the federal government’s politics now out of the way, Oklahoma can take the next step and develop high standards that prepare our students to compete in the new global economy. Today’s schools house the next generation of Oklahoma’s workforce. As a result, the academic standards we develop will directly impact our job market and economy for years to come. An education system that fosters student development, engages families and communities, and avoids burdensome mandates will move Oklahoma forward.”
The following is a statement from House Speaker Jeffrey W. Hickman pertaining to the United States Department of Education’s reinstatement of Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind waiver:
“As we said when we passed House Bill 3399 last session, if the Obama administration’s immediate reaction was to take Oklahoma’s waiver from No Child Left Behind, our bill included a safety net. It required a review of our state’s current PASS standards by higher education and CareerTech to determine if they were indeed college and career ready. Once that review was complete, not only were our standards certified as college and career ready but our CareerTech and higher education leaders offered numerous suggestions on ways to strengthen our existing standards.
“Utilizing the academic expertise we have at colleges and universities across our state as well as leaders in best CareerTech system in America to improve education in our state is something which should have been done long ago. I am excited we now have all tiers of education in Oklahoma engaged in improving the educational opportunities for students in our state.
“The action by the U.S. Department of Education to reinstate the NCLB waiver restores the flexibility given to Oklahoma school districts over the expenditure of Title I funds. While some have tried to politicize this issue, since removing Common Core testing from state law, this process has played out as we thought it would which again validates that the action we took in Oklahoma under HB 3399 was about policy that is best for our next generation of Oklahomans. Despite the relief and flexibility this decision provides, I again strongly encourage the State Board of Education to continue moving forward in earnest in the creation of our new rigorous and superior education standards. This is a tall task for our state to undertake and we must not waste a single day working toward development of the standards which will guide the success of our students in classrooms across our state. If we know we can offer a better education to Oklahoma’s next generation, each year that passes under an inferior system cheats our most precious resource, our children, out of a brighter and more prosperous future.”
Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative Executive Director Jennifer Monies released the following statement following the announcement that Oklahoma’s waiver from federal No Child Left Behind mandates has been reinstated:
“While it is good news that schools will have more flexibility on how to spend some federal education dollars, today’s announcement doesn’t change the need for more rigorous education standards in Oklahoma.
“Making sure that every child is ready for college or a career upon completion of high school is the best way to plan for Oklahoma’s economic future. We need to challenge our students to exceed expectations and goals. Settling for the bare minimum requirements is not in the best interest of our students or their future. I am confident Oklahoma students can and will rise to any challenge put before them.
“As Oklahoma starts the standards writing process, the business community stands ready and willing to help so that our education system aligns with our state’s current and future workforce needs. As the process moves forward, I urge the Legislature to set politics aside in order to keep high expectations at the heart of such a critical issue.”
Senate Communications Division
Oklahoma’s school districts can redirect more funding to teachers and classrooms by streamlining and consolidating administrative costs, offering parents more choices for their children and eliminating waste, Senator Kyle Loveless said today.
The Senate Education Subcommittee on Appropriations held an interim study Wednesday spurred by legislation authored by Loveless last session. The bill would have consolidated administrative spending for more than 200 Oklahoma school districts with 250 or fewer students, which Loveless said could have resulted in more than $35 million in savings to be redirected to classrooms.
“Today was just to look at all the efficiencies that need to be improved in public education so that we can get more tax dollars to actual teaching,” said Loveless, R-Oklahoma City.
Heather Kays, a research fellow specializing in education with The Heartland Institute, said school districts can share costs on a regional basis in some administrative functions and capital expenses to provide the benefit of scale.
“Places where that makes a lot of sense are things like payroll administration, human resources, employee benefit coordination, accounting, printing services, state aid planning, textbook and substitute teaching coordination, safety and risk management and staff development,” Kays said.
Kays also outlined in-depth studies that analyzed examples of school choice programs such as charter schools. The studies showed students in public and charter schools achieved educational benefits and taxpayer money was spent more efficiently in a number of existing models available for Oklahoma to follow.
“You have very specific examples of it working well, and the laws already exist elsewhere,” Kays said. “You can model them after that, and you can just make it so that it fits Oklahoma better.”
The panel also heard a presentation from Brent Bushey, executive director of the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center, a nonprofit that provides member school districts with subsidies and other programs aimed to stretch funding dollars and provide better educational opportunities for students.
“We have a very simple mission: to work with public schools, to empower them and to find ways to both improve their school performance as well as drive down costs,” Bushey said.
The resource center assists school districts with programs including financial management, instructor training, technology systems management and legal services.
Loveless pointed to information provided by speakers at the study that indicated school district consolidation and eliminating waste could lead to significant savings by school districts, which could directly benefit Oklahoma students.
“The issue here is the duplication. If there’s just a little bit of waste, multiplied over 500 districts, that needs to be addressed,” Loveless said. “Looking at it and discussing it and not just ignoring the problem is what we need to move forward.”
Joy Hofmeister announced today that she has appointed a team of Oklahomans to advise her as she transitions into the state superintendent’s office.
“I am very honored that such a quality group of people would be willing to volunteer their time to help me as I transition to my new role as Superintendent of Public Instruction,” said Hofmeister.
“These individuals each have some area of expertise that will greatly benefit me as I prepare to lead our state Department of Education. Whether it comes from a lifetime spent in public education, or a career as a business owner, or twenty years of experience as a past Superintendent of Public Instruction—the perspective of these team members will be invaluable to me over the next few months.”
In addition, Hofmeister said she has spoken with Superintendent Barresi, who offered to assist in making the transition as smooth as possible.
“I greatly appreciate Superintendent Barresi’s gracious offer, and I certainly intend to work with her and her staff to ensure the smoothest possible transition.”
The members of the transition team, along with a brief bio, are:
Dr. Phyllis Hudecki. A native of Morris, Oklahoma, Dr. Hudecki has more than 30 years of experience in many facets of education. She currently directs the work of OBEC, a large business-led coalition established in 2000, and served as Secretary of Education to Governor Mary Fallin from 2011-2013. Hudecki received her doctorate of education and baccalaureate in education from Oklahoma State University, an educational specialist degree in education administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and a master’s degree in education from the University of Connecticut.
Dr. Keith Ballard. As the superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, Dr. Ballard oversees the largest school district in Oklahoma with 88 campuses, 41,000 students, 7,000 employees and a $500 million budget. Dr. Ballard began his career in education as a teacher in Coweta, Oklahoma in 1972. Since then, he has served as an assistant high school principal, an assistant superintendent, an adjunct professor at Oral Roberts University, and he was the executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association for eight years.
Sandy Garrett. Sandy Garrett spent 15 years as a classroom teacher before joining the state Department of Education, where she served as the Gifted and Talented Programs coordinator, and then became the executive director of Education Programs. In 1988, she was named Secretary of Education by Governor Henry Bellmon. She was elected to her first term as Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1990, serving five full terms before her retirement in 2010. Superintendent Garrett was inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame in March 2001, into the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame in August 2000, and is a member of the Northeastern State University Alumni Association Hall of Fame.
Peter Markes. A graduate of Oklahoma City University, Peter Markes is currently in his twelfth year as director of orchestras at Edmond North High School. In 2007, he was selected as the Cheyenne Middle School Teacher of the Year, and was also a finalist for district Teacher of the Year. In the same year, he was awarded a Governor’s Commendation from Governor Brad Henry. In 2009, he was selected by School Band and Orchestra Magazine as one of the nation’s “50 Directors Who Make a Difference.” Mr. Markes was recently selected as the 2014 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.
General (Ret.) Leo J. (Lee) Baxter. General Baxter is a native Minnesotan who departed active military service in 1999 as an Army Major General after 31 years. An adopted Oklahoman, he has subsequently served as Vice President of Cameron University, as a market President for BancFirst, one of Oklahoma’s largest banking institutions, as Vice President of Communication Technologies, Inc. in Chantilly, Virginia, and as President and Chief Operating Officer for JB Management, Inc., a Service Disabled Veteran Owned defense business in Alexandria, Virginia. He now devotes his energy to civic and community matters, and to Signal Mountain Associates, Inc., which he founded in 1999. General Baxter currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) and as a member of the state Board of Education.
Dr. Kent Shellenberger. During his nearly 40 years in Oklahoma education, Dr. Kent Shellenberger has been a teacher, a coach and a principal. He has served as superintendent of Bethany Public Schools since 1997, and an adjunct professor at Southern Nazarene University since 1990. This summer, he was honored for his service as an inductee to the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame. Currently a governor’s appointee to the Commission for Educational Quality and Accountability and the Special Education Task Force, Dr. Shellenberger is also the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators’ state representative to its national leadership conventions. In addition, he authors a quarterly column for Better Schools, a publication of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration.
Chuck Mills. The president of Mills Machine Company for the past 35 years, Chuck Mills grew the family business based in Shawnee into a multi-million dollar concern. He is a former Mayor of Shawnee, and he is a board member of the Governor’s Council for Workforce and Economic Development. He currently serves as the chairman of the State Chamber of Commerce, where he is deeply committed to creating an environment for business to thrive in the State of Oklahoma in order to provide wealth creation and a better quality of life for all citizens.
Jeremy Needham. Mr. Needham started his education career in 1978, serving as a classroom teacher at Eufaula and Checotah Public Schools through 1984. He has been employed for the past 31 years at Oktaha Public Schools, serving one year as high school principal and 30 years as superintendent. Mr. Needham is currently president-elect for the Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administrators (CCOSA). He has spent 23 years on the Board of Directors and as president of the Oklahoma Schools Advisory Council (OSAC), and 20 years on the Board of Directors and as president of the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS). He has been selected four times as the district administrator of the year by the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators (OASA) and twice as the Oklahoma Schools Advisory Council ( OSAC) Administrator of the year.
Carolyn McLarty. Currently serving her second four-year term as national committeewoman representing Oklahoma to the Republican National Committee (RNC), McLarty has been a recent, but strong voice in education. She is responsible for writing the resolution opposing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for the RNC and played a pivotal role in repealing Common Core in Oklahoma. McLarty also served as a member and as president of the Board of Directors for OETA for seven years, from 1997-2004. McLarty and her husband, Tom, reside in Mutual, Oklahoma, and she owned her own veterinary practice in Woodward before retiring in 2007.
The most-contested statewide race appears to be that for superintendent of public instruction, pitting runaway Republican primary winner Joy Hofmeister vesus Democrat school administrator Dr. John Cox.
The latest poll makes this a 2-point race, advantage Hofmeister, meaning anything can happen.
Hofmeister, former State School Board member who resigned in disfavor with incumbent Janet Barresi, blew the incumbent away in the primary, relegating her to a weak third-place finish.
Cox, with the backing of much of the educational establishment, is said to be strong in some rural areas while Hofmeister appears stronger in the urban areas.
The campaign has focused on attacks. Hofmeister and her supporters have gone after Cox for his high salary ($141,678) in a small school district (Peggs).
Cox and his backers have gone after Hofmeister for her lack of public school experience and they have pushed allegations that Hofmeister and a campaign consultant were involved in expenditures by an independent group, an allegation both deny.
The Peggs school sits near the end of a forelorn stretch of Hickory Road in Peggs, Oklahoma, population 813. Peggs Superintendent John Cox is drawing criticism for taking $141,678 in yearly salary from the Peggs district.
(Editor’s Note: This is in circulation from a site entitled The Waterloo Republic without further identity.)
Democrat John Cox repeatedly failed to remedy multiple audit reports showing his school district to be out of compliance with Oklahoma State Department of Education standards.
These findings were published in the Peggs school district’s annual audit for the 2011 fiscal year. In his citation, CPA Alan Chapman wrote that “the combined financial statements referred to above do not include the general fixed asset account group, which should be included in order to conform with accounting and financial reporting regulations prescribed or permitted by the Oklahoma State Department of Education.”
Following the release of the report, the district appears to have taken limited or no action to remedy the findings as Chapman incorporated a similar citation in his audits for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.
The reporting of the general fixed asset account group accounts for the property, plant and the equipment owned by the district. Without this accounting the true financial picture becomes skewed.
Deprived of this information, Chapman did not include any accounting of the district’s capital assets such as buildings, land, furniture and equipment or construction in progress leaving local taxpayers unable to quantify the true value of the district’s holdings.
This type of citation isn’t uncommon for small districts such as Peggs some of which appear to show little inclination to come into compliance with the accounting standards.
Few doubt that Cox, who has been employed as the Superintendent of the Peggs school district, for the past 20 years, represents Oklahoma Democrats’ best chance to score a victory on next month’s general election ballot.
The disclosure of the audit findings join an array of concerns which have been raised by leading Republicans and Cox’s general election opponent Joy Hofmeister.
Hofmeister and state legislators Todd Thomsen and Lee Denney are publically questioning Cox’s salary of $141,678 per year; an amount purportedly nearly twice the state average for an administrator and especially questionable considering Peggs appears to employ just 15 faculty members.
State records show Cox receiving just $115,347 per year as recently as 2011.
Those wanting to identify and hold Peggs school board members to account for Cox’s sudden rise in pay shouldn’t attempt to use the Peggs website; the names of school board members are not posted.
State Republican Party Chairman Dave Weston has criticized Cox for the failure of the Peggs website to comply with the 2001 era state law which mandates the placement of meeting agendas and the names of school board members. On October 10th, Cox responded with the defense, “While the site is live, it is still under construction. We will work immediately to get our agendas, etc. up on the site”.
As of October 25th, the site hadn’t been updated.
Records show the current Peggs site was initially registered in 2012. The first recorded content appeared on July 1st of 2013 according to the Web archiving site, The Wayback Machine.
As State Superintendent, Cox would preside over a large Web presence with numerous transparency components including Oklahoma’s OCAS financial accounting system.
Voters will go to the polls on November 4th.
Republican Joy Hofmeister continues to target opponent John Cox’s huge salary as a school superintendent as they battle to become the state’s new superintendent of public instruction: