Three candidates will appear on the primary ballot for Office No. 3 of the Putnam City Schools Board of Education: incumbent board member Sky Collins, former educator Judy Mullen Hopper and attorney and former Warr Acres City Councilman Phillip Owens II.
Each has deep ties to the district. Collins and Owens are graduates with children currently in the district, and Mullen Hopper is a former special needs educator.
When determining what school district her children would attend, Collins said she knew they’d find a home in Putnam City.
“Putnam City teachers and administrators really changed the trajectory of my life,” Collins said. “The best thing about this district is the relationship building that takes place. It helps students, teachers and families to be heard and valued.”
As a Putnam City graduate with six children attending school in the district, Owens said his roots in Putnam City helped prompt his run.
“I went to school in Putnam City, and it holds a dear place in my heart as my school district growing up,” Owens said. “I see it facing the same challenges that everybody’s facing these days, particularly with COVID. Dealing with the pandemic, getting kids back in class safely and having it be safe for the kids and the teachers is the biggest challenge facing the district right now.”
Mullen Hopper’s connection to the district comes through her 35 years as a special needs educator before retiring and embarking on political pursuits.
“I taught children with special needs at Harvest Hills Elementary the whole duration,” Mullen Hopper said. “I’m the only candidate that has education as my background, and I would be the only board member with the kind of education background that I have.”
The primary election will take place Tuesday, Feb. 9, with a general election set for April 6 if no single candidate receives more than 50 percent of the Feb. 9 vote. The deadline to request an absentee ballot for the primary election is Feb 2.
The following candidate profiles are presented in alphabetical order and were drawn from publicly available information and interviews.
Profession/background: Collins has worked at VirtualLogger, a software company providing call recording and playback, for the past 15 years.
Political experience: Collins has filled Office No. 3 on the Putnam City Schools Board of Education through appointment for the past four months. In 2016, Collins joined Oklahoma Partners in Policymaking through the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council. She said that’s when she became really politically involved.
“That is where my advocacy started,” Collins said. “At that point, I learned how to advocate with policy makers and gatekeepers, including our legislators. I started working as an advocate at our Capitol and in our community for Oklahomans and people with disabilities, and really for accessibility and inclusion for all.”
Platform: Collins’ platform includes equality in education, providing wrap-around services for students and building community relationships.
“I came from a family that lived in poverty, that often lived in trauma, so I really can understand what some of our students and families face today, and I understand those barriers in education,” Collins said. “I want to take every opportunity that I can to remove those barriers to equity in education to be sure that everyone’s getting that same foundation.”
She said schools are seeing an unprecedented need for more robust mental health care and wrap around services for students.
“I don’t think that every unprecedented need is something that should fall squarely on our teachers’ and staff’s shoulders. I think it’s important to build those community relationships and get those wrap-around services and provide resources,” Collins said.
Judy Mullen Hopper
Profession/background: Judy Mullen Hopper spent 35 years as a special needs educator in the Putnam City Schools District before retiring in 2015.
Political experience: In 2016, Mullen Hopper said she ran for State Senate District 47 to bring a voice to the Capitol for public education. Although she didn’t win that election, she said the experience taught her a lot and eventually evolved into her current run for school board.
“A lot of people I knocked on the doors of, Republican and Democrat alike, public education was their No. 1 concern,” she said. “The following legislative session, I started going down to the Capitol, going office to office, talking to the members and asking them if they had questions about public education. Along the way, I joined up with the Parent Legislative Action Committee.”
Platform: Mullen Hopper’s platform includes better communication between the board and community members and providing as many resources as possible for every school.
“I see my role on the board to be a liaison between the administration, schools and community,” she said. “Communication needs to improve so we can work together to improve our school district. Our goal always needs to be to help every child in our district, no matter where they live.”
She said providing wrap-around social services is absolutely critical for the success of a child.
Phillip Owens II
Profession/background: Phillip Owens II has been an attorney for the past 27 years.
Political experience: From 2008 to 2010, Owens served on the Warr Acres City Council, resigning after he moved out of his district. Owens believes his experience as an attorney and city councilman will transfer over to the school board position well.
“We had to do the budgeting, we had to deal with the contracts. It’s all very similar when you’re dealing with the school board as far as budgeting,” Owens said. “I have experience in union contract negotiations as a city councilman and all the experience that goes along with that.”
Platform: Owens said he doesn’t necessarily have a platform or agenda as a school board candidate other than doing what’s right for the students of Putnam City.
“The main reason I’m running for school board is because I have six kids in the district. We really have a vested interest in seeing that things run as well as they can,” Owens said. “I don’t have an agenda or platform other than doing what’s best for the kids and supporting the teachers. You’ve got to meet the kids where they are and have the resources to do so.”