Oklahoma State Superintendant Race: Actual Public School Experience

That’s me at the Education Rally on April 30th. Not a great sign, but it echoes the sentiment of most of the “oppressed”. (Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman)

Experience is something highly prized in the realm of employment, at least in the real world of employment.  It seems that, at least in the state of Oklahoma, people don’t care all that much about electing completely inexperienced people to public office.

If I develop brain cancer, I would most likely want to seek out the most experienced oncologist in the country, or at least the best one in my state.  It would be absurd to go to my dentist and ask him to operate on a brain tumor.

Recently I posted a fire-storm of a blog post about current Oklahoma State Superintendent Janet Barresi and that firestorm has had some rather good commentary posted by some very concerned people.  One of them happens to be Brian Kelly who was kind enough to set the record straight about himself.  I’m glad for it.

This got me to thinking, however, about the experience that each of these candidates for State Superintendent might have in the actual public school classroom, specifically public school experience.

Charter school experience does not count because public schools must educate everyone in their district.  Unlike charter schools, we cannot refuse to serve an under-performing student.  Charter schools can refuse to enroll whomever they choose.  Of course they are going to be successful if they only admit students who are high performing.

Another thing to consider is that every teacher knows that even though we took tons of methods classes in college, those classes usually were useless in understanding the amorphous nature of the real public school classroom.  There are tons of candidates with “credentials” but little to no public school experience.  If we were to hire a plumber to plumb our brand new house, would we hire a kid right out of vocational school or would we hire a master plumber with years of experience who is bonded?

After some research, mostly by looking at their Linkedin accounts (those who have them), I discovered some interesting facts.  Here they are for your perusal, primary voters (NOTE: to view some of these Linkedin accounts you will have to get a membership which is free.  I also put the Dem candidates in this list to be fair):

  • Janet Barresi (R) – According to her own Linkedin account, our current State Super has a total of 1 year and 10 months logged in at Harrah Public Schools as a speech pathologist way back in 1980.  This means that she has absolutely no classroom experience in a public ed.
  • Dr. John Cox (D) – Dr. Cox has much experience in public ed, a whopping 28 years as a teacher, coach, principal and superintendent.  He is current superintendent of Peggs Public Schools and is on the board of trustees of OSAG (Oklahoma School Assurance Group) which provides workers compensation to Oklahoma Schools.
  • Freda Deskin (D) – According to her Linkedin profile, Freda school hopped for 15 years as a teacher and as an assistant principal (longest term 7 years at Whitebead in Garvin County), but the last time she was in public ed Marty McFly was driving Dr. Emmet Brown’s DeLorian time machine (1985 for you non-geeks).  Her claim to fame is being the CEO of ASTEC Charter Schools.
  • Dr. Jack Herron (D) – Dr. Herron has been in public education for 18 years, but according to his Linkedin profile there is no evidence of actual classroom experience.  He coached basketball from 1972-1980 (at the university level) and then he was a superintendent from 1980-1998 at 5 different schools, his longest term at Duncan for 7 years. He was also Assistant State Superintendent – Financial Services from 2010-2011 (during Barresi’s first year in office).  He has an MA in Education and a Phd in Philosophy with an emphasis in curriculum supervision and administration.
  • Joy Hofmeister (R) – According to Joy’s Linkedin account, she had a brief stint as an elementary teacher (which I found out on her website) before owning a franchise: Kumon Math and Reading Center in Tulsa.  Kumon is a national franchise tutoring company.  She was also on the Oklahoma State Board of Education.  I’m not sure what qualifies her as an experienced candidate for State Superintendent, but a lot of people like her.  I actually have more experience in public ed than she does (as far as I can tell).
  • Dr. Ivan Holmes (D) – Dr. Holmes is a retired professor who has, of all the candidates, the most experience in public ed (40 years teaching experience at all levels of education from high school to university). He doesn’t have a Linkedin profile, but his website has much information about his experience as an educator.  He also holds a Phd in Education and Journalism in School Administration, was chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party in 2007, and is nationally published in the New York Times and other such publications.
  • Brian Kelly (R) – Mr. Kelly has, according to his website, 20 years of unspecified education experience.  His Linkedin profile also doesn’t have any specific public school experience listed.  Recently, Mr. Kelly posted about his education experience on this blog:”I have three Oklahoma State Department of Education administrative credentials including Superintendent, Secondary Principal, Elementary Principal, and 14 instructional endorsements. I have a graduate degree in Education Administration, Policy and Planning from the University if Oklahoma.” Having credentials and having experience are two separate things entirely.  I would like Mr. Kelly to give us specifics about his public school experience.  Maybe he’ll post a comment on this article.

I want it to be known that I am a registered independent.  I changed my affiliation to Republican to vote in the upcoming primary, however, and I will change it back to independent after the election. This is not voter fraud.  It is my right to vote as I choose.  I simply wanted the voters who read this blog to know the truth (as far as I could see) about the candidates’ public school experience.  If any of the candidates want to provide additional specifics about their public school experience, please do so in the comments line.


Charter schools are not public schools.

I would not presume (as a parent) to tell my child’s special needs teacher how to teach my special needs child.  I do not have the experience teaching special needs children that he or she does.

I wouldn’t hire a dentist to test whether or not my children learned to read, write or do math either.  I’d trust that the teacher took the certification tests and passed the courses necessary to teach my child those necessary skills.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

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