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Editorial: Endorsement: April Grace the best choice for GOP state superintendent nomination

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State Superintendent candidates at Oklahoma PTA forum (copy)

Candidates for Oklahoma's next Superintendent of Public Instruction appeared at a recent forum hosted by Oklahoma PTA and moderated by the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma. They are Jena Nelson (top left), April Grace (top right), John Cox (bottom left), and Ryan Walters. A fifth candidate William Crozier, did not attend. 

Of the Republican candidates seeking to become the next state superintendent, April Grace stands out as the most qualified person to fill that post.

Grace, who has served as superintendent at Shawnee Public Schools since 2016, has more than three decades of experience in education.

Her time in the classroom and many years as an administrator give her the background to understand what Oklahoma’s schools need as well as how to manage complex budgets with multiple funding sources.

Grace has been recognized in her community and across the state for her work, including being named the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators’ Superintendent of the Year in 2021.

In 2020, she was lauded for creating a student health program using telemedicine clinics at each school in the Shawnee district. Shawnee Public Schools was the first district in the state to provide telemedicine clinics in its schools.

This is the type of innovative thinking we need at the state Department of Education, and it earned her the National School Boards’ Magna award.

Among her goals is to incentivize experienced teachers to remain in education. She also hopes to lobby for more investment in public education, saying that one-time funding followed by budget cuts is holding schools back.

Grace knows that attracting people to the teaching profession is important, and she is advocating that student teachers — college students working in internships at public school districts — should be paid for their work, which would help ease the path toward that career.

In her view, these elements would help fulfill one of her main goals as state superintendent — the recruitment and retention of public school teachers.

Grace said she plans to seek grants to have mental health counselors in schools and create partnerships between schools and providers — an important effort to meet a growing mental health crisis among students.

She opposes school consolidation and wants to streamline the processes that the state uses for obtaining federal funding.

Grace is competing against Peggs Superintendent John Cox and state Education Secretary Ryan Walters for the Republican nomination. Among the candidates, Grace is the only one who has overseen a pre-K-to-12 district.

Oklahoma’s public school system is at a crossroads and needs someone with a history of collaborative leadership. The state is suffering from a deepening teacher shortage, and there is significant pressure to see improved performance from Oklahoma’s 700,000 students in an environment of tightening budgets.

To meet these challenges, the state needs a chief public schools advocate who knows education from the classroom level on up and understands the nuances that come with diverse student populations.

We believe that Grace has the needed breadth of experience to manage Oklahoma’s public school system and is the best choice for Republican voters looking for our next state superintendent.

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