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The Race for Superintendent

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Joy Hofmeister (left) and Dr. John Cox (right)

A new person is taking the reins of the State Department of Education this January after the current leader was defeated in primary elections.

The race to be the new Superintendent began with seven different candidates, but now it’s down to just two.

Democrat John Cox and Republican Joy Hofmeister are working hard in the final hours to get out the vote on November 4.

The winner is replacing Janet Barresi who was defeated by Hofmeister in the primary election.

One of the main issues facing the winner of the election is how to deal with a new set of school standards.

The Republican-led legislature repealed Common Core and gave the Board of Education less than two years to come up with something new.

Dr. Cox says this can be done with the help of educators with the skills and expertise throughout Oklahoma.

“The millions of dollars we’ve already spent for professional development, we can use that to implement this, and really we can be at a level that is above all these other states across the nation as far as rigor, as far as the level of intensity.”

Hofmeister agrees it’s time to create something exceptional never before seen in our state.

“Sometimes we have buried our heads in the sand in some spots in Oklahoma. We have to appreciate the fact that our graduation rate is too low, our remediation rate is too high and there is a widening skills gap.”

There are a lot of areas where the two agree such as supporting pay raises for teachers.

They also oppose some of the controversial subjects like A-F grading for schools, third grade reading retention and high stakes testing.

Hofmeister says years of mandates and bureaucracy from the state government need to be examined while creating a road map for education.

“It takes a plan, and I would propose we need an eight year plan. One that is going to address rigorous standards, those that have higher level thinking as well as depth of knowledge that are accomplished in those standards.”

Cox goes a little further in saying Oklahoma simply needs to eliminate some of those more controversial topics which he says are keeping teachers from teaching.

“Our public schools are doing a great job across this state, absolutely phenomenal job with, I guess, our hands tied behind our backs and no money in our wallet, so I absolutely need to be out there for an advocate for us.”

The biggest difference between the two lies in experience.

John Cox has spent nearly 30 years in education including the past 21 as superintendent and principal of the Peggs Schools in Northeast Oklahoma.

He says this makes him better able than his opponent to run the Department of Education.

“She has no administrative experience and very limited teaching, so it’s really tough to talk about public ed. when you don’t live it. That kind of resonates out there in Oklahoma, because they see I live it every day, and I can feel these reforms that they’re bringing on to us that really aren’t doing any good.”

Joy Hofmeister works as President of Kumon Math and Business Centers in Tulsa and serves as President of the Board of Directors for Jenks Public School Foundation.

She was also appointed to the State Board of Education by Governor Mary Fallin in 2012, but resigned a year later to run for Superintendent.

Hofmeister says she doesn’t believe Cox has the experience since Peggs is a school district of Kindergarten through Eighth graders.

“Understands the K-8th grade school districts in our state, and is an important voice, but it is not the same type of experience that I think the position of state Superintendent requires.”

Neither candidate received endorsements from primary opponents.

OSU Tulsa is hosting a debate between the two candidates on October 28 at 7 p.m.

The election is Tuesday, November 4, with early voting at county election offices this Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Michael Cross is the host of KOSU's Morning Edition.
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