For the second time this year, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is looking for a new state secretary of education.
Just three months after Stitt appointed Oklahoma State University professor Katherine Curry to succeed Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters as the education liaison in his Cabinet, Curry submitted her resignation Monday.
In a press release today, Stitt thanked Curry for her work.
“I deeply appreciated Dr. Curry’s service to Oklahoma and its students and families,” Stitt said. “The insight she brought as an educator was invaluable. I wish her all the best as she departs this position and returns to the classroom at Oklahoma State University.”
In the same press release, Curry cited the “political environment” as reason for her return to her former position as an OSU assistant professor.
“It was an honor to be asked by Gov. Stitt to serve Oklahoma,” Curry said in the release. “I valued my time working alongside him and the rest of his Cabinet, but the complexity and political environment have led me to the conclusion that I can better serve Oklahoma’s students and future teachers by dedicating my time and energy to the classroom. I thank Gov. Stitt for this honor and I trust that he will continue to fight for what’s best for students across Oklahoma.”
Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Curry reiterated her praise for Stitt and his work on education, but she declined to provide more details about the “political environment” referenced in her statement.
“I am so appreciative of Gov. Stitt for the resources, the time, the energy he’s put into education, and I fully support his goals for making Oklahoma a top-10 state,” Curry said. “And I’ll continue to work toward those goals through my position at Oklahoma State.”
Curry also said she plans to resume teaching at OSU for the fall 2023 semester. She had been on sabbatical while serving as secretary of education.
Curry sent her resignation email (embedded below) to Stitt Monday morning. In it, she acknowledged her short time in office.
“Please accept my sincere apologies for the shortness of my tenure in this role,” Curry wrote. “I recognize that being selected from among the many talented educators in the state was a tremendous honor.”
Stitt had appointed Curry to replace Walters on April 11. Walters had held the position since Sept. 10, 2020, but questions arose about the legality of holding two public positions after he won election to the state superintendent job.
On March 7, Attorney General Gentner Drummond had sent a letter to Treat advising that Walters simultaneously holding the secretary and superintendent positions likely violates a state law prohibiting a person from holding dual offices. The letter, while non-binding, cited multiple state statutes and prior court cases.
“It is my conclusion that Mr. Walters cannot simultaneously serve as secretary of education and state superintendent,” Drummond wrote.
Treat did not release the letter until after Stitt removed Walters as secretary, more than a month later.
The education secretary position draws a maximum salary of $65,000 and acts as a liaison between the governor’s office and 40 executive entities, including the State Department of Education and the State Regents for Higher Education.
In the press release, Stitt said he will begin the search for a new secretary of education immediately. All Cabinet appointments must ultimately be confirmed by the State Senate.