By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
A Democratic candidate seeking to unseat State Superintendent Janet Barresi in November spoke Thursday night at Five80 Coffeehouse.
John Cox, of Peggs, told the dozen or so people in attendance the upcoming election meant everything to public schools.
“We have a leader that I don’t think is a friend of public schools,” Cox said. “This is my 20th year being a school superintendent and I think the reason why I survived is by asking for input.”
Cox has been in education for 28 years, also serving as a principal, teacher and coach.
Cox said his main reason for traveling across the state was to hear what voters wanted.
“My main reason for coming here tonight is to listen to you and see what concerns you and let you know what I’m going to do about it as state superintendent.”
Cox said he supports public education.
“I am working hard to save our public schools and try to help bring those back and allow teachers to be creative in their classrooms because I think that’s been taken away,” he said.
Cox said he was against mandated testing, especially at the third-grade level.
“I think it takes local control away from parents and teachers,” he said of the testing. “I trust the parents to come to me and say, ‘I think this is what we need to do with this child.’”
He said the testing also can cause further problems at schools. If too many third-graders fail to meet they standards they are held back, creating the need to hire more third-grade teachers and shrinking the sizes of fourth-grade classes.
“With the budget, we really can’t hire any more employees,” Cox said. “If it doesn’t hurt them right at 8 years old then it’s going to hurt them in high school.”
Cox said there was too much testing for students, meaning students are only learning what will be on the test.
“What does it really mean to pass a test?” he said. “If I make an A all year in biology and I fail a test because the leadership raised the standard, what does that mean?”
Cox told those in attendance, mostly educators, that everything he says goes back to one thing: local control.
“Every thing I say goes back to local control because you know what’s best for your schools and community,” he said. ‘We over-test. We’re doing too much testing.”
Cox said he wanted to schools’ focus to be math and reading because those subject are the key to everything.
“Algebra is great for students going to college and going into fields like engineering,” he said. “But not all children are going to go to college. It’s not reality.”
Cox said he wanted to see testing developed by Oklahoma educators, for Oklahoma students.
“I don’t want an out-of-state product. What we want is an in-state product made with the input form the quality Oklahoma teachers we have,” he said. “I believe teachers want a quality product. Teachers will be eager to come help with it.”
Cox said Oklahoma needs a superintendent that knows how Oklahoma’s education system works.
“We need to go back to trusting teachers again, that they can do their job,” he said. “We will value teachers and give you back the classrooms you had.
“You hire good people, you keep them in there and you empower them to do their job.”
When asked about parent involvement in schools, Cox said it was again an issue of local control.
“Your community is going to be responsible for how well the parents can come in and work with teachers,” he said. “Every individual is different and we need to start focusing back on what the single student is doing.”
Cox did not shy from answering a question about a Democrat having any chance in such a red state.
“Right now, across the state, Democrats love their public schools. I’m going to out-work everybody, and I’m going to have a good person behind me,” he said. “Really, beyond that, this is a position that should not be political. It really should be a school position.”
Cox said both parties want a public educator in office of state superintendent.
“Ever since I began, they’ve said it’s an uphill battle. People want someone out of the trenches and who can feel what we’ve been going through,” he said. “I don’t have to reinvent myself to win this election. Notice, I haven’t said, ‘I’ll get back to you on that.’”
Cox also is as an adjunct professor of education at Northeastern State University, teaching leadership and administration courses to aspiring principals and superintendents and educational research to master’s candidates.
Cox earned doctorate in educational administration and an educational specialist from Oklahoma State University, and master’s degree in counseling and bachelor’s degree in mathematics education from Northeastern State University. He serves as president of Organization of Rural Elementary Schools and vice chairman of Oklahoma Schools Assurance Group.