An election is scheduled for Feb. 10 to fill three positions on the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education.
Board chairman and District 1 and 2 are the open, four-year positions.
In District 1, three candidates square off for the seat: Sherry Barton, Cordell Jordan and Lyn Watson. The seat is being vacated by Al Basey.
District 1 covers much of northwestern Oklahoma City and represents eight schools: Britton Elementary, Eisenhower Elementary, Quail Creek Elementary, Ridgeview Elementary, Stonegate Elementary, Western Village Academy, John Marshall High School and Oklahoma Centennial High School.
In District 2, Gail Vines did not draw an opponent.
Barton, a political newcomer, said she would like to see John Marshall High School return to greatness.
"If you expect a lot," Barton said, "you'll get a lot." Those high expectations extend to teachers, administrators, students and parents.
Both she and her two children graduated from John Marshall, and, with a grandson at Quail Creek Elementary, she is one of three generations of OKCPS attendees in her family.
Barton is pleased with the new principal at the school, Corey Harris, a Tulsa native who was appointed to the position in July 2007, but said there are still many issues facing John Marshall and the whole district.
A New York Life insurance agent for 22 years, Barton said she could bring a good business sense to the board. "Very often, it pays to have business people serve on a board because we think and make good decisions based on what we're presented."
However, she said she doesn't see this position as a political stepping stone. "This is what I want to do; I want to serve on the school board," Barton said. "I feel I can bring a lot to the deck. I'm willing to learn and fight to make this district better."
Jordan, formerly the communications director for OKCPS, said he has always had a passion for education.
"Every student deserves an opportunity for top-notch education," he said. "Personally, everything that my two kids can get, I want that for every child."
Jordan's children attend the parish school at St. Eugene Catholic Church, however Jordan stressed it is strictly for religious education and they will go to John Marshall when they're older.
Jordan is currently a marketing specialist with Oklahoma City Community College and moved to Oklahoma eight years ago from Missouri. His parents were educators, he said, and he has seen the frontline of education. The biggest challenge facing OKCPS, according to Jordan, is losing kids to other schools, especially charter schools.
But, he said there is not a one-size-fits-all in the district. "The landscape is different from school to school. We need to be able to empower the principals and teachers and give them all the resources and tools available."
He said accountability and empowerment are the keys to moving forward in the district. "Lots of promises made under MAPS for Kids haven't been kept," Jordan said, "and parents deserve an answer as to why that is. Not just parents, but teachers and school administrators. I want to ensure that past mistakes aren't repeated."
"We need to be represented by people who have kids in the district," said Watson, who has two children attending Quail Creek Elementary and Independence Charter Middle School.
"I have been involved in this district's public schools for 10 years," said Watson, who is a corporate consultant, trainer and facilitator who has lived in Oklahoma City for 22 years. "I've seen some excellence in our education and some disappointments."
One of those disappointments, she said, was the opening of the new John Marshall in 2006. Watson was a member of the A+ Alliance, an organization that helped compile a report on what the new school would need to be successful.
"Once John Marshall was opened, my daughter was there for four days " we had talked all summer, we were going to be pioneers, we weren't going to go to any other school " but, when we got there, we saw the disappointment," Watson said.
However, three years later, she said the school is much improved under different leadership. "If we can get standardized test scores up "¦ I'd love to send my daughter there."
The focus for the district, Watson said, should be inside the classroom. "I want to enhance our classroom learning, invest in our teachers and expand the curriculum. I want us to look at creative ways in which we can give every child the opportunity to have an excellent education."
Those creative ways could include charter or enterprise schools, she said. Watson pointed to the success of the district's Western Village, where, as a charter school, test scores have gone up. "Jenny Coon Peterson