Hofmeister visit

State superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister visits with Enid Public Schools Board of Education President Ernie Currier while touring Garfield Elementary. Hofmeister was sworn in as state superintendent of schools Monday, Jan. 12, 2015

State superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister wants to “mend” the A-F report card system, let locals decide whether to install a charter school and restore respect both in teachers and the department she hopes to lead next year, she said Friday.

The oft-criticized A-F grading system implemented by the Legislature and shaped by outgoing Superintendent Janet Barresi is “meaningless,” Hofmeister told the Friday Noon AMBUCS.

“What we should have is a metric that is stable so that when you receive a grade, it really is reflecting back accurate information. We have more of a carnival funhouse mirror that’s reflecting back a distortion,” she said.

She said parents and administrators deserve to know how a school is doing, but warned that putting a single indicator on so many categories muddies the statistics.

It also could be a first step toward public school privatization if consistently underperforming schools are automatically replaced by privately run charter schools, she said.

Instead of that option, she said, the State Department of Education should be the ones replacing administrators and designing curriculum for poorly performing schools.

Hofmeister said charter schools can work if the local school board invites them into the district, and if the charter school is accountable back to the board.

“When we have anybody who wants to can open up a charter and take state money away from the public school that has accountability to the taxpayer, that’s how we erode public schools,” she said. “We will never have a strong Oklahoma if we don’t have a strong public education system.”

That, she said, is why she filed for office.

“My commitment, and the reason I actually ran, is I believe there’s an attempt to privatize public schools,” Hofmeister said.

The Republican nominee will face Democratic nominee Dr. John Cox on Nov. 4. Cox is superintendent of Peggs Public Schools, a small district in northeast Oklahoma.

Hofmeister won the nomination outright in June’s primary election, beating Barresi and another GOP candidate. Because of the incumbent, Hofmeister said, teacher morale across the state is low.

To fix that, she wants to encourage dialogue between stakeholders and the department. Advisory groups made up of current and retired educators would gather information and make recommendations that would be handed down through the halls of government.

“You begin working together. It can’t just be lip service — you have to have a structure, a mechanism in place to have two-way communication and then act on the information you’re receiving as a leader,” Hofmeister said.

Teachers also deserve to be respected, she said.

“Our teachers want respect. They want to be recognized as experts in the classroom, and I believe they are,” she said.

Part of that would be to increase teacher salaries.

“I will be an aggressive advocate for competitive teacher pay,” Hofmeister said.

She noted, however, that raising teacher pay by $1,000 would mean a $50 million hit to the state budget.

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