OKCPS candidates
Candidates for OKCPS chairperson include Stanley Hupfeld and Paula Lewis. (NonDoc)

I try to limit my writing to what I know: research and practice in urban education.

I also seek to limit myself to policy — preferably win-win programs — and avoid personalizing issues.

In contrast to state and national partisan politics, I’ve mostly stayed away from endorsing school board candidates.

This year, however, I feel obligated to disclose my preferences. First off, here are the candidates for OKCPS office who will be on the Tuesday, Feb. 14, ballot.

Nathan Shirley Justin Ellis Paula Lewis
Charles Henry Rebecca Budd Wilfredo Rivera
Cheryl Poole Nick Singer Gregory Wyatt
Bianca Rose
Stanley Hupfeld

For Offices No. 1 and No. 2 …

Of course, I will support Cheryl Poole for Office No. 1.

Poole is a 36-year teaching veteran who taught for 16 years in the OKCPS. I have first-hand knowledge of her teaching excellence, which was celebrated in 2001 when she was named the district’s Teacher of Year.

Also, I feel honored to endorse Rebecca Budd for the District 2 seat.

I have worked with some of the nation’s best education scholars, and — I’m not exaggerating — I have never met a better education researcher. It was Budd’s research that documented KIPP’s extreme attrition rate for low-income students and its questionable management decisions during the fight surrounding KIPP’s attempt to take over Martin Luther King Elementary School. Budd has a rare ability to place quantitative evidence in a real-world, human context.

And that brings me to perhaps Budd’s greatest qualification: I’ve witnessed her incredible volunteer work at Martin Luther King. I’ve been awed by her ability to diagnose problems and craft solutions. She’s a fantastic colleague who works well with staff, leadership and volunteers.

Above all, I’ve admired her loving relationships with the students. The OKCPS couldn’t find a better combination of head and heart than Rebecca Budd.

For OKCPS chairperson …

I don’t think we could go wrong with either of the two most viable candidates for school board chairperson, Paula Lewis or Stanley Hupfeld. Both would bring fresh eyes and unique talents to the position.

Lewis has brought dynamism to the board. Her leadership during last year’s fight over charter school expansion was outstanding. She quickly diagnosed what was wrong with the charter proposal and set out to study the issue in a tough-minded matter.

Lewis listened. She demonstrated an uncanny ability to read people. Perhaps my favorite memories of Lewis are of the ways she went into the audiences after angry board meetings, embraced patrons who might not have completely understood the way that the board operates, and communicated — human being to human being. After a similar interaction at a school, as Lewis walked away, she heard a previously upset girl say, “Paula’s nice.”

If the OKCPS is going to improve, we must draw upon Lewis’ wisdom, her energy and the energy of her followers.

Many of you may know that I’m closer to Lewis than Hupfeld on the crucial issue of charter expansion. If you believe as I do that Oklahoma City has some good and excellent charters but that their market has maxed out, then what you want is an opportunity to bring that evidence to decision makers.

My chance to make my pitch to Hupfeld began after I congratulated Hupfeld Academy for “being named an exemplar school by The Partnership for 21st-Century Learning (P21), an organization dedicated to advancing curriculum that fosters student success in 21st-century work and life.” Hupfeld Academy remains the only Oklahoma City charter school that serves an entire high-poverty neighborhood.

Subsequent conversations convinced me that Hupfeld the man is a pragmatist and not a true believer in the “magic” of charters. Since Hupfeld is familiar with the data and what it takes to turn around a high-poverty neighborhood school, I expect he will be open to evidence refuting KIPP’s claims that it faces challenges anything like those of neighborhood schools. He will give all sides the opportunity to make their case.

Further, because of his background in health care, Hupfeld would be uniquely qualified to introduce a reliable and valid data-informed accountability system to replace the hopelessly primitive data-driven systems that have undermined teaching and learning since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Last, given his grasp of peer review in the medical sector, Hupfeld will likely be receptive to the best way of evaluating teachers and efficiently removing ineffective teachers: a peer-review system along the lines of the approach the American Federation of Teachers pioneered.

So despite my admiration of Paula Lewis, I will vote for Stanley Hupfeld.

Two big hopes

I have two big hopes for Hupfeld:

First, he is uniquely qualified to lead the expansion of the holistic and humane community-school approach that turned around the lowest-ranked urban elementary school in the state. Second, he has the heft to defend the OKCPS against corporate school reformers who would privatize public education.

If we could leverage his contacts, then the unity that would follow could end our charter wars, in turn creating a common effort to seek the funding necessary for turning around a district that is nearly 90 percent low-income.

Ultimately, Hupfeld could persuade the local power structure to help make education a team effort.