Editor’s note: Candidates for state and national offices on the ballot for the August 28 runoff election were invited to respond to questions for profiles in The Ardmoreite. Those who chose to respond will be featured alongside their ballot opponent. For those that did not participate, basic information will be provided.
From an early age I wanted to be an educator. As the daughter of an electrician and steel manufacturer and a homemaker, I developed the drive and resolve to graduate magna cum laude from TCU with a bachelor’s of science in education. Since that time, I dedicated my life and career to helping children reach their potential through education. I was a public school teacher, successful business owner and a collaborative leader who built and led a large team of hundreds of highly skilled, service-driven professionals. My husband, a judge and ordained minister, and I have been married 34 years and raised our four children in Tulsa where they each began and graduated public school.
Why are you running for this office?
Over the past three years, Oklahoma has pulled through some of the most difficult times for public schools enduring an economic downturn, tattered textbooks and teacher shortages. Through it all, I’ve championed the repeal of unnecessary testing, cutting costs by 40 percent. In 2015, Oklahoma ranked 47th, near the bottom of the U.S., for the rigor of its academic standards and received a “D” rating. But after writing new comprehensive academic standards — developed by Oklahoma schoolteachers for Oklahoma students — Oklahoma catapulted to 17th highest in the nation, one of only 17 states to earn an “A” rating. We won landmark legislation to provide long-overdue teacher pay raises and I’m determined to finish the job. We cannot let opponents roll back the collaborative work and accomplishments, only to return us to the failed policies of the past. I won’t stop until our kids have the strong, well-rounded public education they deserve.
What do you think are the top three biggest challenges facing our state?
Many challenges in education still remain and the gains made this legislative session should only be a first step in making Oklahoma regionally competitive. We must focus on the top three barriers that have caused our state to slip to the bottom over the last decade:
· Oklahoma’s crippling teacher shortage
· Oklahoma’s oversized and under-resourced classrooms
· Oklahoma’s eroded public school funding that has not kept pace with our growing enrollment and learning needs. (We are operating on the same dollars as 2008 with 53,000 more students.)
What are your top five priorities to address while in office?
Looking forward, my priorities will build upon the significant accomplishments we worked so hard to achieve for our students over the past 4 years including:
· Attract, support and retain exceptional educators.
· Provide greater transparency and accountability of school funding to ensure student success.
· Ensure students graduate ready for their next steps in learning, whether it be career certification, military service or college.
· Shift time and focus to provide rich instruction instead of teaching for the test.
· Develop a well-rounded education for all kids to include, the arts, music, civics, advanced coursework and STEM.
When faced with a specific situation that puts your personal viewpoint at odds with a great many of your constituents, what decision do you make and why?
At the end of the day, my job is to do what is best for Oklahoma schoolchildren, regardless of political views. However, I believe we can always find common ground and begin at that point to solve immediate needs and lingering challenges. I believe those closest to a problem have the best hope of solving it. It takes more time, energy and effort for leaders, but working alongside local towns, school districts, teachers and families is the only way to build lasting gains for students and a stronger Oklahoma.