The race to replace Oklahoma School Superintendent Janet Barresi may be the most hotly contested race this election. After the incumbent came in third in the Republican primary last June, Democrats are sparking what may be their best hope to retake a statewide office.
Barresi was elected in 2010 as the first Republican in Oklahoma history to hold that office. Her policies clashed with state educators, many of whom are Democrats, and she alienated many on the right in her own party by her strong support for Common Core standards which was ultimately rejected by the State Legislature and Governor Mary Fallin.
Cox is receiving a salary as the Peggs School Superintendent-Principal-Coach of roughly twice that of superintendent-principals of similar-sized school districts, details of Cox’s full compensation and operations in the Peggs School District have not been released to the public despite a Freedom of Information Act petition.
Dr. Cox, who is the sole presiding officer over Peggs’ Kindergarten through 8th Grade (K-8) school district, earns at least $141,000 per year. Republican Party Chairman Dave Weston said, “According to our research, Cox’s compensation package could actually top $183,000 when reimbursements and other benefits like retirement contributions are included.”
Weston said, “Dr. Cox runs a school district with fewer than 300 students and his compensation package is higher than any of our statewide elected officials and higher than many superintendents of [much larger] 6A school districts. Cox has campaigned continuously for the last year for State Superintendent, away from his responsibilities to Peggs School. It begs the question: ‘What is he getting paid for?’
For this campaign Dr. Cox has hired Noah Maier of Georgia to come to Oklahoma and work on his campaign’s finances. Cox is paying Maier’s rent from campaign funds at the Scholar’s Inn in Tahlequah according to ethics reports.
Mr. Maier is a left wing activist featured in a Rolling Stone article attacking Christian Schools that hold fast to biblical beliefs on homosexuality. Quoted in the October 10th, 2013 article “The Hidden War Against Gay Teens” Rolling Stone writes extensively of Maier’s sexual history in a Christian High School then brings the story current with this line, “No longer a liability, his sexuality now helps ground him, even guide him. He is currently the finance director for the campaign of a local Democrat.”
Importing a nationally recognized homosexual activist to work on his campaign begs the question of what influence, if any, might Mr. Maier have on Dr. Cox’s policies should he win? Could such staff influence Oklahoma’s children in public schools? As a wise man once said, “Personnel is policy.” In other words, the people you hire, for good or ill, reflect your policy. Should Oklahoma expect brow-beating homosexual-lesbian-transgender curriculum to follow?
Joy Hofmeister is a former public school teacher and career educator. Since 2000, she has been a small business owner that tutors students to get their high school diplomas and prepare for college. She is trained in international curricula for math and reading, serving students in 47 countries. Hofmeister was a member of the Oklahoma State Board of Education who resigned in protest of Common Core and the bullying tactics of Barresi. Hofmeister is currently earning her master’s degree in education administration with an emphasis in education policy and law.
Dr. Cox declares opposition on his campaign web site to Common Core writing, “I do not support common core. I will have teachers, at each grade level and discipline, develop our standards/objectives at the same or higher rigor as other states and this will create buy-in across the state and we will be able to use our professional development that we have already spent millions of dollars on to implement these standards.”
It is unclear as to what Dr. Cox means. Does this mean “New and improved Common Core?” Same duck, different name?
Hofmeister does declare that she supports school choice. In other words, if your local school is underperforming you should be able to send your kids to a better performing school. This is a key point for those that support Charter Schools and Home Schooling which has long and bitterly been opposed both overtly and covertly by Oklahoma’s educational establishment.
The topic of school choice never appears on Dr. Cox’s web site.
What no one is talking about is that education costs are skyrocketing because of administrative salaries, unions and retirement benefits. It is the “black hole” between taxpayers and kids in the classroom.
Oklahoma has continually poured money into common education in the name of reform and it has always been an open question of how much reform we ever receive for the money. We have more School Superintendents than “Carter has oats” and those jobs in rural Oklahoma are significantly better compensated than our teachers. Some call the superintendents position “the best paying jobs in the state” with significant local and state political influence.
The most earnest hope on the heart of all Oklahomans is that quality education for each child will one day soon be realized in Oklahoma.