The race for Office No. 1 of the Putnam City Schools Board of Education is underway, with incumbent board member Cindy Gibbs running against retired Putnam City Schools teacher and football coach Steve Burger.
Gibbs has served on the board since 2011. She was re-elected in 2016 after running unopposed.
“I’m a volunteer. I see a need, and if I think I can fill it, I’m going to volunteer,” Gibbs said. “As the school board, we’re not just about the education. We’re about the future, we’re about the bonds. We’re looking down the road. We’re not just educating, we’re building.”
Burger has worked in the Putnam City Schools district since 1985, something he believes gives him insight that would be helpful on the board.
“As a board member, I’m your voice to the administration,” Burger said. “I had one former board member tell me the role of the school board is just to elect the superintendent. I don’t think so. To me, the role is not only the area that elects me but the whole district.”
The general election will take place on Tuesday, April 6. The following candidate profiles are presented in alphabetical order and were drawn from publicly available information and interviews with the candidates.
Profession/background: Burger is a retired educator who began his teaching career in Missouri before moving to Kansas and, finally, Oklahoma. He taught at Putnam City Original from 1985 to 2000, Putnam City North from 2000 to 2014 and Putnam City Academy, with alternative education students, for his last four years of teaching before retirement.
“Public education is sort of getting a bad rap in that we’re trying to be everything for everybody,” Burger said. “There are a lot of avenues you can take to achieve the same thing — I learned that through the alternative education program. Not every kid learns the same way.”
Political experience: Burger said he has no previous political experience.
“I really didn’t have any desire to do anything politically other than trying to select the most qualified candidate through voting, but I’ve always had a desire to be on the school board. I’ve always thought it was a very important give back to the community,” Burger said. “Unfortunately, if you’re a teacher you can’t be on the school board, so I had to wait until retirement hit. This is the first venture into politics, although when you’re a teacher and a coach you’re out in front of the public all the time.”
Platform: Burger’s areas of focus are investing in the community and providing students with avenues to alternative styles of learning.
“Not every kid learns the same way. One of the things I’ve noticed is there aren’t enough avenues for different styles of learning. We need more alternative education and more vocational education. It’s about providing the best opportunity for each student and not trying to make every student one student.”
Profession/background: Incumbent board member Cynthia Gibbs is an educator and what she refers to as a “professional volunteer” in Putnam City classrooms and parent-teacher associations. She was a teacher before becoming a stay-at-home mom.
“During my period of being a stay-at-home mom, I became a professional volunteer because my heart is in volunteering,” Gibbs said. “I volunteered at school for years.”
According to her bio on the Putnam City Schools website, Gibbs’ children attended Wiley Post Elementary, Hefner Middle School and Putnam City North.
As her children got older, she went back to work in an administrative job while continuing her volunteer work in the school district. Eventually, she decided to head back into the classroom professionally.
“I kept thinking, I want to be where my heart is. I wanted a job in the school because I love kids, and I couldn’t work in Putnam City schools because I was on the board at the time. So, I have a job in the neighboring district as a teaching assistant in kindergarten,” Gibbs said.
Political experience: Gibbs has served on the Putnam City Board of Education since 2011.
“I’m a dedicated public servant, and I have the track record to prove that. I’ve been supporting our schools for 10 years, showing up, making hard decisions,” Gibbs said. “I won’t have a learning curve. I’ve been doing it for 10 years, and there is a learning curve.”
Platform: Gibbs said that if she had a platform, it would be doing what’s best for the kids.
“I don’t really say that I have a platform. I’m a dedicated and dependable volunteer,” Gibbs said. “To me, the school board is looking at the big picture. You have a vision of what you want your district to be, and the school board works to make that vision come to fruition. I come, I do the work, I research anything that comes my way, and I’m working to make informed decisions.”
Online: Gibbs does not appear to have a campaign presence online.