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.
Winning the primary, Republican Joy Hofmeister, a business owner and former school teacher from Jenks, is now battling Democrat Dr. John Cox Superintendent of Peggs Public Schools in Cherokee County.
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.
In the end, voters will decide next Tuesday who will lead the state superintendent’s office. The winner will have the responsibility to create new standards in public education in Oklahoma.
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.
I’m a public school teacher that works for another rural district(not Peggs).
Here’s the deal with rural superintendents and their salaries. Our superintendents do the same job as the big schools: balance budgets, work with their school boards, hire staff etc.
The difference between a rural superintendent and a large school supt. is that my superintendent is also a principal, meaning he takes on the role of discipline actions, he does teacher evaluations, and all of the paperwork and responsibilities that goes along with being a principal. Our rural superintendents also coach sports. They drive buses, take care of custodial issues and any other issue that arises in our districts. Our rural superintendents personally know and deal with their staff. If I have an issue, I can go to my superintendent directly. That is not the case with the big schools.
So while the bigger school districts delve out more administration responsibilities (and the salaries that go with) our rural schools have the privelege of having our administrators be hands-on and truly invested in our school communities.
My superintendent is the first one on site and closes up the building at night.
This means a job entails responsibilities from 7 am- 10 pm especially in the thick of basketball season.
As a result of this hands-on, small school enviornment our students have accountability. We all know each other and work with each other for the betterment of our students. With the bigger districts, more money goes to admins. that are not hands-on because the district sizes are, well, huge!
We have smaller classroom sizes and yes, we have more parental involvement and more local control.
It is my opinion being a graduate of a bigger district and working for/ having children in a smaller district that more schools should model themselves after our rural schools. Our k-8 students turn out more valedictorians for your big districts, than the students that attend those districts from the get-go. We lay a good foundation of teaching the whole child and that includes citizenship.
Taking districts and modeling them after smaller, rural schools would create a true school community, and the admins would know the students, as well as the parents of the district they serve. Right now the big government has created circumstances that classrooms are crowded and underfunded. Kids are numbers, not individuals.
Our state also needs to mandate that if you are running for the office to be in charge of public schools, than you should have to hold the same certifications and qualifications that school superintendents are required to hold.
That’s just common sense.
If I am required as a classroom teacher to be highly qualified and certified, so should the person that is in charge of the whole department of education.
Stop demonizing educators and administrators!
The man earned his doctorate degree, he puts in the hours and the Peggs community obviously supports his bid to run.
What exactly qualified Joy for anything having to do with Oklahoma education???
She hasn’t even completed her masters in admin. and what experience with school finance has she had?
She claims a “lifetime teaching certificate” which is not honored in Oklahoma.
In Oklahoma you HAVE to take Oklahoma certification tests.
But what do I know?
I’m just a rural school, certified 5th grade teacher.( one of the few grades mandated to test my students in all of the subjects taught).
This article is the perfect example of unresearched claims and taking flawed numbers and skewing them to say whatever you want.
You compare Dr. Cox’s salary (he serves as the Sup, Principal, and Director of Fed programs) to the average “administrator” salary of the state. Lower elementary assistant principals, counselors, etc all fall under “administrators”…you are not comparing apples to apples.
According to the state website, Dr. Cox’s total compensation is in the $130k range, nowhere near the $180k that you presumed. If Peggs were to hire a separate principal & director of federal programs, and pay each administrator the “average” salary, it would cost their district significantly more than what they pay Dr. Cox. Also, his salary is determined by the local school board. LOCAL CONTROL. He has built up to that salary over the last 21 years as serving as the sole administrator.
As for him getting his work done while he is campaigning, he is able to perform many of his duties through email, phone, teleconferencing, etc. He also does check in from time to time. If he wasn’t getting his job done, it would be up to his locally elected school board to decide if they wanted to keep him or lot. LOCAL CONTROL.
He has publicly fought against CC and other harmful “reforms” since the very beginning; whereas, Joy strongly supported CC during her time that she served on the State Board of Education, working with Janet Barresi. She continued to support CC during her campaign until very near the primaries when she realized how politically toxic it was. I heard her tell a room full of teachers/voters that she felt CC was good as late as Feb 2014.
It is no secret that our public education system is in a financial crisis, so we cannot afford to give another dollar to private entities through expansion of charters & vouchers. You want school choice? Then take financial responsibility for your choice. You want free education? Go to public school. While serving on the board, Joy voted yes on a bill to expand virtual charter schools in OK, which have “virtually” NO accountability measures that public schools just follow. If a school is accepting public/state dollars, then they need to be following all the same rules, and right now, they don’t.
Dr. Cox has the comprehensive knowledge base and experience for this position as well as the support of over 400 public school superintendents. They trust that he will lead public education in a positive direction.
I just get very frustrated when conservatives attack a candidate who is clearly the conservative. Local control and no state and federal meddling is what Cox is all about. That is the essence of conservatism.
Um… You do realize school choice is a federal program unde Arne Duncan and Obama? School choice part of the reform movement.
Joy is actually the liberal here. I’m a republican and am voting for cox because he believes in local stakeholders having control- NOT the federal government. I’m a teacher and this has ended up being a really odd election cycle, the democrat is more conservative. So he has my vote! (Besides, I was at the debate and Joy made zero sense. She was throwing around “fancy” words to look impressive- didn’t work for me.
PS who peed in your Cheerios Brendan Jarvis? Dang!
And yes, “school choice” is a very popular phrase among reformers.
I appreciate that you published my comment. Read Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch and you will understand. My snarky tone is a response to the incredibly biased tone of this piece. Hofmeister is the reformer here. Cox is for good public schools and local control. Cox is the conservative. Joy buys into the same ideas that make Obama the worst education president this country has ever had. Accountability is important for schools. School boards exist for that purpose. State level reforms have only burdened students with testing. Students are losing the ability to think critically, because they are only taught what is on the test. Schools are put in the position to teach to the test because they will be publically embarrassed if they don’t.
Thanks for your comment, but just to be clear on your snarky – You believe school choice does not equal reform? If so, please feel free to elaborate on the no choice, no freedom, goose-stepping government control system you think best.
Well, this article sets a new low in “journalism”. Congratulations. School choice = Reform, moron.