Education

Ray Carter | November 6, 2023

Once again, career teachers don’t make hall-of-fame cut

Ray Carter

Officials with the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame have announced this year’s inductees. And, once again, no career teachers made the cut.

Instead, the hall will be inducting two individuals who worked for decades as administrators.

That continues a pattern that has existed since the hall’s creation nearly four decades ago.

This year’s inductees also continue a pattern in which men are more likely to be recognized than women, even though Oklahoma’s teaching workforce is overwhelmingly female.

This year, the hall of fame admitted two individuals—Joyce Henderson of Oklahoma City and Ray Henson of Durant. That brings the total number of individuals named to the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame to 111.

But since the hall first began honoring individuals in 1985, only 10 individuals appear to have spent their entire career in a K-12 classroom working directly with children, based on biographical information posted on the hall of fame’s website.

That means 91 percent of Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame inductees are not career K-12 classroom teachers.

Henderson was a principal in Oklahoma City Public Schools from 1970 to 1996 and then worked as executive director of school and community services at Oklahoma City Public Schools from 1996 to 2006.

Henson began his career working in the classroom but spent most of his career working as superintendent of Talihina Public Schools from 1971 to 2006.

In 2019, Oklahoma Watch reported that nearly eight in 10 certified public-school teachers in Oklahoma were female. But 75 of the 111 Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame inductees—or 68 percent—are men.

At least 60 of the 111 inductees worked as administrators in K-12 schools, based on their biographical information, meaning administrators comprise 54 percent of “hall of fame” educators.

There are nearly as many union leaders in the educators’ hall of fame as there are career classroom teachers.

The union leaders in the hall include Weldon K. Davis, president of the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA); Kate Frank, president of the OEA; Michael Barlow, who served as executive director of the state American Federation of Teachers as well as a director of governmental affairs (lobbyist) for the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration; Kyle Dahlem, president of the OEA; Tommy G. Fulton, president of the OEA; Raymond Knight, president of the OEA; Farris Willingham, a lobbyist and president of the OEA; and Juanita Kidd, president of the OEA and director of the National Education Association.

Several of those honored in the hall are openly identified as lobbyists, while many others served as leaders in lobbyist organizations.

That group includes Joseph Siano, associate executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA); Pamela Deering, executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA); David Pennington, executive director of the United Suburban Schools Association; Randall Raburn, executive director of CCOSA; Jo Pettigrew, assistant executive director and legislative director of OSSBA; William R. White, executive director of CCOSA; Steven Crawford, executive director of CCOSA; Keith Ballard, executive director of OSSBA; Perry Willis, executive director for the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools; Paul D. Hurst, president of the United Suburban Schools Association; Bob Mooneyham, executive director of OSSBA; and Marvin Stokes, who is bluntly identified as a “lobbyist.”

The Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame has also been used to bolster the resume of state politicians, including former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister and former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett, who were both admitted to the hall while still serving in office. Former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Oliver Hodge is also in the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame.

The composition of Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame honorees has drawn criticism in recent years.

In a Feb. 24 press release of response, officials with the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame declared (emphasis in the original): “The beauty of the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame is that it’s never been about political leanings but rather how nominees have advanced education and served Oklahoma.”

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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