Gov. Kevin Stitt today named former Oklahoma Employment Security Commission commissioner and former University of Oklahoma football player Trent Smith as his appointment to fill the vacant seat on the State Board of Education.
Stitt is hoping the third time will be the charm for this particular Board of Education seat. He appointed Kingfisher attorney Kurt Bollenbach to the seat in April 2019, but the governor removed Bollenbach from the board in December 2020 after being displeased with Bollenbach’s stance on certain private schools participating in the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program. Stitt quickly announced Enid resident and former teacher Melissa Crabtree as Bollenbach’s replacement, but she withdrew her name from consideration after public frustration over Crabtree’s use of social media to oppose mask mandates.
Now Stitt has selected Smith, a businessman and Yukon resident whose parents and grandparents were educators, to fill the seat associated with Oklahoma’s 3rd Congressional District.
“Trent Smith will put the future generations of Oklahomans first, which is why I nominated him to fill the seat and why I trust he will be critical in helping Oklahoma become a Top 10 state in education,” Stitt said in a statement. “Trent brings a wealth of experience as a businessman, community leader and parent and I look forward to is contributions to our state’s success by putting students first.”
Smith told NonDoc that he resigned from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission on Friday morning owing to his new appointment.
“I’ve got a lot to learn. Education is a really complicated institution that has been around for a long, long time. I’m just looking forward to listening and learning as much as I can for the foreseeable future,” Smith said. “I come from a long line of educators, starting with my granddad. He was a high school football coach and public school teacher. My grandmother — his wife — was also a career public educator. My mother, my father — my dad actually started the alternative school in Clinton. (…) I have an aunt who is a retired public school teacher. I have two cousins who are currently public education teachers.”
A graduate of Clinton High School, Smith said his children are students in Yukon Public Schools. He said he agrees with Stitt’s statements that all students need to have an option for in-person instruction this year despite the pandemic.
“We’ve got to find a way to get kids back in the classroom. It’s healthy, and kids need it,” he said. “Private schools have managed to figure this out by keeping kids in class, and I know the public education system can as well.”
Smith said he is familiar with and supportive of Stitt’s goals for public education in the state.
“The governor and I both agree that if you can somehow raise the bar on Oklahoma education and have better educational outcomes, not only will that raise our status and ranking in the country in regards to public education, but when you have a more educated workforce and educated populace, a lot of the problems that our state has start to disappear,” he said. “Knowledge creates order, not chaos.”
Smith is a co-owner of Sooner Medical Staffing, along with House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (R-OKC). Echols praised Smith as a “fighter” Friday.
“Trent has been one of my closest friends for over 30 years. I know him to be a passionate advocate for Oklahoma and Oklahoma’s children,” Echols said. “Trent will always remember that education exists for kids. He has been a fighter his entire life and I have no doubt he will bring that same intensity when it comes to fighting for Oklahoma schools and most importantly, Oklahoma’s sons and daughters.”
Holla at the Stoops
A graduate of Clinton High School, Smith played football at the University of Oklahoma from 1999 through 2002, catching 16 career touchdown passes as a tight end. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2003 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens, but he never played a regular season game for the franchise after breaking bones in his leg. He played eight games for the San Francisco 49ers in 2005, catching three passes for seven yards.
“Trent is as dedicated to Oklahoma as anyone I know,” former OU head football coach Bob Stoops said in Stitt’s press release. “He is a product of Oklahoma schools and a successful businessman. I know his work ethic first hand. He pours all of his energy into any task he takes on, and I know he will approach the State Board of Education the same way.”