The current representative of District 1 on the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education, Charles Henry, is running for the job of chairperson, leaving his seat up for grabs in the April 6 election.
Two candidates are seeking the seat: Oklahoma Department of Human Services Director of Behavioral Health Integration Brett Hayes and retired OKCPS educator Carole Thompson.
“Every kid deserves a high-quality education,” Hayes told NonDoc. “Who are the kids and the families within these schools? And what are the needs of not only the kid but the needs of the family? How can we begin to support families differently so that kids can come to school to learn and truly begin to set that strong foundation of success into adulthood? My goal is to really work with the schools, the kiddos, the families that attend, the district leadership and the board to really begin to create and develop transformational plans to help these kids be successful into adulthood.”
Thompson did not respond to NonDoc’s multiple contact attempts for an interview, but her Facebook campaign page does provide insight into some of her goals for the OKCPS district.
“I realized as an educator in the district for over 20 years, I have something to offer and could help the district during and after this pandemic,” a post on Thompson’s campaign page states. “Reports are showing that our scholars are falling behind and struggling. Families are asking, how will the district respond? If elected, I will use my experience and love of the community that raised me to help develop strategies and opportunities that will put our students back on the road to academic success.”
In addition to District 1, OKCPS District 2 and the chairperson position will have elections on April 6. The candidates for District 2 are Lori Bowman and James McHenry.
Henry, the current District 1 board member, is challenging incumbent Paula Lewis for the chair position after nearly unseating her in the Feb. 9 primary election.
Mitigating COVID trauma for students, families
In his position at the Department of Human Services, Hayes leads efforts to better identify, plan and coordinate evidence-based programming to improve behavioral health outcomes for children and their families. He believes his extensive work with children and families will be an asset to the school board.
“I want to work with that board and that district leadership to really begin to change the perception of Oklahoma City Public Schools and change the trajectory of the kiddos,” Hayes said. “What I love about this district is that every single individual in this community cares about Oklahoma City Public Schools. I think what that says to me is that we have the buy in to really start to do some transformational work within this district. The willingness is there.”
One of Hayes’ campaign platform points is to work to mitigate problems students and their families are facing owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Right now, I think we’re facing, across the nation, the impacts of COVID and what has happened,” Hayes said. “We have to, as district leadership and board, look at how we begin now to mitigate some of these effects from COVID. The trauma from this with our families and our kiddos.”
Another platform point is to reduce transfers through initiatives that work to meet the needs of OKCPS families in their local schools.
“I truly believe in this idea of community schools in a sense of [being] where families get their needs met. We start asking families and care givers, ‘What are your goals? How do we help you?’ What that will do is transform into a kiddo being able to learn better in the school system because the family’s needs are being met, too,” Hayes said. “You start to see a trajectory change, you start to see families get what they need so that perception truly begins to change there.”
Hayes is also a firm believer in the “science of hope,” a framework that includes establishing person-centered goals and developing realistic pathways along with sustainable motivation check points to achieve those goals.
While this will be his first time running for office, Hayes believes his ability to collaborate with others is what sets him apart.
“There’s one thing that I am in life and that’s definitely a collaborator,” Hayes said. “If we want this district to be successful, we have to collaborate. We have to partner together and come up with solutions that work for everyone. I think it’s okay to have constructive disagreements. I feel like at the end of the day that’s something that I’m really good at, bringing people together and developing a plan that works for everybody, and what that will do is truly impact outcomes for students and families within our district.”
‘The education of our scholars has to become the top priority’
According to her Facebook page, Thompson is a product of the OKCPS district. She attended Thomas A. Edison Elementary and Taft Middle School before graduating from Northwest Classen High School in 1974.
Thompson holds a B.S. in elementary education and is a retired educator of 25 years. She spent five of those years in the Muskogee Public Schools district, but the rest of her career as an educator was spent with OKCPS, working at various school sites and in various teaching positions.
Thompson also holds a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Central Oklahoma. Prior to her career in education, Thompson studied microbiology and chemistry before heading into the private sector, where she worked for Ocean Spray and Fansteel Metals.
“If elected, I will start on day one, working with other board members, the superintendent and OKCPS staff to implement strategies and plans that will catch our students back up and make the educational opportunities the district has provided better than ever. The education of our scholars has to become the top priority in our community,” a post on Thompson’s campaign page states.