State Board of Education
The State Board of Education holds a regular meeting on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021.(Screenshot)

The State Board of Education unanimously approved changes to the Oklahoma Administrative Procedures Act regarding teacher certification revocation during Thursday’s regular board meeting. 

Assistant General Counsel Lori Murphy presented the proposal to the board, which has the authority to issue and revoke teaching certificates in the state.

Currently, causes for revocation or suspension of teaching certification include a teacher being convicted of certain crimes, willfully violating rules and regulations of the State Board or U.S. Department of Education and willfully violating state or federal law. A certification can also be revoked for other proper cause. 

“The proposed amendment that we’re asking you to approve today adds specific clarification that other proper cause includes violation of the Oklahoma Standards of Performance and Conduct for Teachers,” Murphy said during the meeting. “Those do exist in rule, so they’re already substantively covered as a willful violation of a rule, but the issue is these professional standards keep arising in almost all certificate suspension and revocation actions. Explicitly calling attention to those standards is meant to emphasize for educators how important it is to maintain those standards to maintain your licensure.” 

Murphy said these professional standards include teachers making reasonable efforts to protect students from conditions harmful to health and safety and not intentionally exposing a student to embarrassment or disparagement. 

“That has come up historically in instances where whatever the original basis for the revocation is, in the materials, it’s revealed that this is a teacher who has historically called a student ‘stupid’ or has told entire classes ‘you’re in the stupid class,'” Murphy said.

“That’s never appropriate. It’s appropriate zero times to tell a student that,” Murphy said. “This standard makes that clear and working it into the revocation rule makes it explicit, how important those professional standards are.”

‘We all understand that schools are under a tremendous amount of pressure’

The board also approved a motion that will allow school districts in the state to apply for a one-year waiver from the school term length requirement outlined in State Statute 70 Section 1-109.

Department of Education general counsel Brad Clark told the board that, according to the statute, beginning with the 2021/2022 school year, school districts’ annual calendars must not be less than 165 days or 1,080 hours, unless the State Board grants a waiver.

“Due to the disruptions that we’re all familiar with and experiencing to this day … a proposal is being put before you today to grant a waiver, for one-year period, of those requirements,” Clark said.

Board member Jennifer Monies spoke in favor of the waiver during the meeting, saying it would provide flexibility to school districts, but she also urged districts to look at their calendars over the next year to find ways to make sure students are in school and receiving meaningful instruction for at least 165 days.

“We all understand that schools are under a tremendous amount of pressure, given the pandemic, but emphasizing that 165 (days) is frankly a fairly low standard when you look across the country,” Monies said during the meeting.

Board member Brian Bobek supported Monies’ statements.

“Many of our neighboring states, many other states have a minimum requirement of the 180 days per school year, so, again, this somewhat low bar shouldn’t even really be a conversation, in my opinion,” Bobek said. “I would also challenge the superintendents, the school district board members to find a way to get to 165 or more and make a difference for the kids. As she said, they have another year now to do that.”

Trent Smith sworn in as new board member

During Thursday’s meeting, Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister also introduced Gov. Kevin Stitt’s newest appointment to the State Board of Education, Trent Smith

“He also comes from a long line of educators, and I know you will be drawing on things you have heard and seen in your own life in that way,” Hofmeister said.

Smith is a businessman, a former Oklahoma Employment Security Commission commissioner and a former University of Oklahoma football player with children in the Yukon Schools district. He will fill the seat for Oklahoma’s 3rd Congressional District.

“I’m looking forward to learning and working with all of you, contributing in anyway that I can and trying to better the outcomes for all of Oklahoma’s school children, including my own,” Smith said during the meeting.