April Grace, John Cox
Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent April Grace and Peggs Public Schools Superintendent John Cox have formed committees to run for state superintendent of public instruction as Republicans in 2022. (NonDoc)

Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent April Grace formally announced today that she will be running for state superintendent of public instruction in 2022 as a Republican. Grace registered her campaign committee with the state Ethics Commission in January.

John Cox, the superintendent of Peggs Public Schools, registered his campaign committee in late April. Peggs is a 199-student pre-K through eighth grade district between Tahlequah and Locust Grove in Cherokee County.

Current State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, who has served in the position after ousting incumbent Janet Barresi in 2014, will reach her term limit in 2022.

“I have always believed it was my job to serve the students and families in my school community in a way that allows every single student to find success,” Grace said in an email announcing her run Tuesday. “I look forward to the opportunity to take my experiences and use them in serving the more than 700,000 students and their families across the great state of Oklahoma.”

Cox was the Oklahoma Democratic Party’s nominee for the office in 2014 and 2018, but he is running as a Republican in 2022.

“I appreciate those of you that have encouraged me to run for this leadership position,” Cox wrote on his campaign Facebook page. “It’s time to stand up for the great things we are doing in public education and continue to work hard for the betterment of our children. I look forward to having conversations with the people of Oklahoma about the future of public schools and quality public education.”

The state superintendent position chairs the State Board of Education and functionally serves as the face of public education in Oklahoma.

Background on the candidates

Grace has been part of the education community for more than 30 years as a classroom teacher, building administrator, assistant superintendent and superintendent of Shawnee Public Schools since 2016.

In June, Grace was named 2021 state superintendent of the year by the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators as well as OASA District 9 superintendent of the year. By the April filing of Grace’s most recent Ethics Commission report, she had raised more than $58,000. Neither she nor Cox’s second quarter report had been posted online by the publication of this article.

“As state superintendent I will work to ensure our families’ voices are heard and our children’s educational needs are met,” Grace said in her email. “Understanding that critical race theory has no place in our [pre-K through 12th grade] classrooms, I will ensure strong unbiased curriculum standards for our students and work to keep educators focused on meeting the needs of students and teaching our standards. I look forward to traveling throughout Oklahoma in the upcoming months and hearing from the people of our great state.”

Cox is an educator with 35 years of experience in Oklahoma Public Schools, and he has spent the last 27 years as Peggs’ superintendent.

According to his campaign website, Cox serves as president of the Organization of Rural Elementary Schools, chairman of the Oklahoma Schools Assurance Group and treasurer of the Oklahoma Schools Insurance Group. In the past, Cox has also served as president of the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators.