A school superintendent with 28 years’ experience has joined the race to replace State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi.
Dr. John Cox, a Democrat who leads the Peggs school district in Cherokee County, recently declared his candidacy for the state superintendent’s office. He will face at least two rivals — longtime Oklahoma education official Jack Herron of Norman and Bennington Superintendent Donna Anderson — in the Democratic primary election, set for June 24, 2014.
Cox said Wednesday that he is disappointed with the state’s efforts to implement education reforms such as A-F report cards for public schools. He said the report cards could have been a valuable tool for measuring a school district’s performance, but the current system does not provide a true picture of how schools are doing.
“You can’t cookie-cut every school across the state and say one size fits every school,” he said.
The state released A-F report cards in October 2012, giving all public schools a grade of A, B, C, D or F. The report cards are designed to give students and parents an easy-to-understand snapshot of their school’s performance.
The report cards weren’t the only issue on Cox’s mind. He touched on a variety of education-related issues, including end-of-instruction exams, possible changes to the state’s public school system and his management style.
• End-of-instruction exams: Cox said he thought the state relies too heavily on high-stakes testing to determine whether high school seniors should receive diplomas. He said he thought local school boards should decide whether a student graduates from high school.
“Local boards, local communities know the price that student has paid throughout their educational career,” Cox said. “You need to allow local school boards to be the judge of that student and whether they should receive a diploma.”
• Changes: Cox said if he is elected, he will work with state lawmakers to increase teachers’ pay.
“That’s something I would work very hard for is to get teachers’ pay up,” he said.
He said he would also press lawmakers to boost state aid for public schools and give local school boards more control over school districts.
• Management style: Cox said he frequently consults other school superintendents for advice, and he touted his ability to listen to others as one of his strongest assets.
“I think that is one of the greatest skill sets that leaders should have,” he said. “If you’re a good listener, everything else will fall into place.”
Cox said the key difference between him and Barresi is that he believes in sharing leadership duties with other officials.
Cox has a bachelor’s degree in math education and a master’s degree in counseling from Northeastern State University, and he holds a doctorate in educational administration and an educational specialist degree from Oklahoma State University.
He is entering his 28th year in education and his 20th year as a school superintendent, according to a biographical statement released by his campaign. He also serves as an adjunct professor of education at Northeastern State, where he teaches leadership and administration courses to aspiring principals and superintendents.
Cox serves as president of the Organization of Rural Elementary Schools and vice chairman of the Oklahoma Schools Assurance Group. He is also a member of the NSU College of Education Advisory Board.
Cox has served on the ACE Steering Committee, which considered alternatives to high-stakes testing for hard-working students who have problems taking tests.
He was also a member of the State Superintendent’s Advisory Group with former State Superintendent Sandy Garrett and serves on the current advisory group with Barresi.