- Ada, Oklahoma

August 14, 2013

Longtime education official joins race for state superintendent

Eric Swanson Staff Writer

Ada —

Jack Herron’s resume includes 18 years as a school superintendent, an 11-year stint as director of regional centers for the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics and 10 months in the state Department of Education.

Now, Herron is hoping to become the state’s top education official.

The Norman Democrat announced recently that he will run for state superintendent of public instruction in the next statewide election. He joins three other Democrats and one Republican who are hoping to defeat Republican Superintendent Janet Barresi in 2014.

Herron decided to seek the position because he believes the current administration has created turmoil for Oklahoma schools, he said Monday.

“I think the teachers are stressed, parents are stressed,” he said. “I think we need some new leadership to give it direction so we can settle the state of Oklahoma down.”

Herron said he believes the current administration is not working with education officials around the state to improve the state’s public schools.


A career in education

A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Herron has worked as a high school principal and teacher, according to information he supplied to The Ada News. He served as superintendent in the Macomb, Mangum, Guthrie and Duncan school districts for 18 years and founded the Edge Academy Alternative School in Duncan.

Herron spent 11 years as outreach coordinator and director of regional centers for the Oklahoma City-based School of Science and Mathematics, a two-year residential high school funded by the state Legislature. The regional centers provide advanced science and math courses for eligible students in their junior year of high school.

Herron said former Superintendent Sandy Garrett hired him as assistant state superintendent for financial services, and he held that position for six months  under Garrett. He remained in office for a short time when Barresi took over in 2011, then went to work for Professional Oklahoma Educators.

For the past two years, Herron has served as the legislative liaison for Professional Oklahoma Educators, a nonunion organization that supports Oklahoma teachers.

Herron touched on a variety of subjects during his interview, including A-F report cards for public schools, possible changes to the school system and the skills he would bring to the superintendent’s position.

• A-F report cards: Herron said he thought the A-F report cards could be a valuable tool if the state works with teachers and others to come up with an acceptable formula for grading schools.

But Herron said he thought the state needed to work with school officials on the formula for the report cards.

“We surveyed our teachers, and it was quite clear to us that every school out there did not totally agree with or understand the formula that was being used for the A-F report card,” he said. “Therefore, if you read what happened, CCOSA (the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration) and the School Board Association had a position paper drawn up, I think by OU and OSU combined, whereby they said that the thing is flawed.

“So I think that all of the entities — the collaboration I’m talking about — the entities need to work together to come up with a formula or a system that most all schools would support. And then I think everyone would jump in behind a grading system or report card.”

The report cards are designed to give students an easy-to-understand snapshot of their school’s performance.

• Changes: Herron said if he is elected in 2014, he would consult teachers and other school officials to devise an education budget for the next fiscal year. That budget would be presented to lawmakers when they convene in January 2015.

“We would go in with a plan to present to the Legislature that hopefully, we could sell the Legislature on,” he said. “And the Legislature would know what we want, so that we don’t have to run the whole legislative session without some idea of what’s going to happen.”

He also said he would push lawmakers to boost teachers’ salaries and pump more money into schools.

• Skills: Herron said his service in the state Department of Education, combined with his experience working with lawmakers, gave him an edge over other candidates.

“In becoming state superintendent, you also become the CEO of a large agency that has many departments,” he said. “And I’ve been there as the head of one of those departments, and while I was there, I studied and became familiar with the others.

“So I would be the only candidate going in who has the experience of being there and being the head of one of those departments who, I think, could best manage that agency, which is extremely important to the state of Oklahoma.”