Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Joy Hofmeister - In My Opinion - Jenni White


Seriously, who doesn't love Three Dog Night?  Who doesn't love Jeremiah the Bullfrog?  Yes, I am dating myself, but seriously, you're humming the song right now, I know it!

Though I could wax philosophic about late '60's music, we need to discuss Joy Hofmeister.

In late summer of 2012, ROPE decided that, since our Superintendent had no intention of listening to a word we had to say on Common Core, we would try to speak with each State Board Member.  Consequently, we drove to Enid to see then-member Brian Haden, we traveled to Lawton to speak with General Baxter, I personally drove downtown to Bill Price's law office and met with him and then-ROPE Board member, Danna Foreman and I met Joy Hofmeister at Starbucks in Edmond near one of her Kumon franchises.  (We never seemed to be able to catch up with Bill Shdeed and from our observations at State Board Meetings, we believed a meeting with Amy Ford would simply be a waste of time for all of us.)

Bill Price is as intractable in his opinions of school 'reform' as Amy Ford.  Brian Hayden listened, but we didn't believe he really understood our concerns (he has since left the Board).  General Baxter was a lot of fun to talk to and we thought maybe he was hearing our concerns, but it became obvious he served "at the pleasure of the Governor" and not long after our meeting , it seemed clear he had done his due diligence and moved on.

Joy Hofmeister was another story.  As Danna and I met with her that day, I found her instantly likable.  She listened, took notes and asked questions as we talked.  She took our materials gratefully and warned us she didn't know much about Common Core at all - a fact clear from our chat.  It was also clear she was an independent thinker - she wasn't on the school 'reform' train - she seemed as though she wanted to do what was best for kids, not simply what was expedient or trendy.  We talked about local control of education and how she had seen the effects of parental involvement through her work at Kumon and how important it was to engage parents in their children's education directly.

To me, Joy appeared warm and open and willing to listen.  Consequently, we kept in touch.  She would call or text asking my opinions about various issues the board was addressing or to ask questions about Common Core and other 'reforms'.  Not long after we met, I found our youngest son had a type of mathematical dyslexia.  Among other things, he was reversing his numbers (90 became 09), making it very frustrating for he and I to do math at home.  Knowing Joy owned several Kumon franchises, I called and asked her opinion.  She gave me several ideas, we chatted for a bit and hung up.  Three days later, a learning tool Kumon uses to help kids get their numbers straight appeared in my mailbox.  Sam and I used it, he showed improvement quickly and Joy and I developed a friendship.

Over the course of the last year and a half, I have watched Joy change.  When I met her, she was fairly ignorant of a lot of the new 'reforms' our superintendent, governor and legislature had adopted for our state, but she knew she didn't like the imperious nature of our superintendent or the adversarial feel of the board/superintendent relationship.  She never balked at any education we attempted to give her, but instead read our materials and frequently contacted me with follow-up questions, seeking to broaden her view.

No, Joy did not come out whaling away against Common Core when she began her campaign for superintendent.  This frustrated many of our ROPE friends.  I understand their perspective, but it's important to remember what perspective is and that there are frequently multiple views of the same issue.  As I talked to Joy about Common Core, it became very clear she was not going to move the way a group wanted, she was going to continue researching until she could make the decision on her own.  The implied hypocrisy in the statement "She was for it before she was against it" is completely ridiculous.  I was an atheist at one point in my life.  Now I am a follower of Jesus Christ.  So, I can't grow into a relationship with the Lord?  This argument is sound for anyone who considers themselves to be an educable individual on any issue at any level.

Our current superintendent has shown she is not educable.  She knows what's right and by Hell or high water, she's going to do that/those thing/s.

That is not Joy.  Joy will study, deliberate, debate and discuss before she comes to a conclusion.  In my experience she's not going to be led around by the nose, or decide she has the only solution, she's going to work to find her true north and move in that direction.  This is why I was so disappointed to see Charlie Meadows of OC-PAC repeat misinformation about Joy in his latest "Charlie's Picks" email.  He said the following:
Let me suggest the differences, when Janet ran 4 years ago she was a strong advocate for school choice. Much of her ideas for school choice are charter schools, a form of school choice for which I am not a huge fan. However Janet is also favorable to home schooling and other forms of school choice. On the other hand I believe Joy was encouraged to run by many in the education establishment, especially the Tulsa area school superintendents who most likely despise Janet. I believe Janet is more committed to school choice and thus children, while I believe Joy is more committed to school systems. I have a trust problem with both of them and may not vote in this race. If I decide to vote, I am leaning toward Janet. 
He "believes" Joy was encouraged to run by Tulsa area school superintendents.  So?  As ROPE followers know, I'm not necessarily a fan of administrators (certainly on the Common Core issue), but what difference does that make?  The education of children isn't about ideology, it's about finding practical solutions to help all children learn the most they are able in the best environment we're able to provide as Oklahoma taxpayers.

The ladies of ROPE are not 'school choice' proponents per se.  We don't support charter schools (schools with private boards using public money), but we like Education Savings Accounts - FOR EVERYBODY not just minorities and those below the poverty line.  To us, this is true school choice - choice that will bring about real competitive market results.  I have talked this out with Joy.  Joy is committed to education competition and local control - not school systems or state systems or out-of-state systems.  In fact, she has LOST funding since coming out against the Common Core and a restoration of local control - yes, she has had donors request their funds to be returned.  THOSE would be the 'education establishment'.

When I chose to support her in 2010, I knew  Dr. Barresi was authoritarian and brash - I had worked under her long enough to know that.  I simply hoped those traits would be used to clean up the State Department of Education as she promised during her campaign.  Obviously, the brash authoritarianism turned against us as she strove to implement the programs statist Republicans (the 'education establishment'?) ordained in lockstep with their counterparts in the Obama Administration.

Charlie says he doesn't trust either Republican candidate for state superintendent.  Well, many of us 'trusted' Janet and look where that got us - Common Core, A No Child Left Behind Waiver, 3rd Grade Reading Retention; more and more and more 'edicts' with which state schools can shove parents out of the picture. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again expecting different results.  If you've been unhappy with the last two years, further supporting Dr. Barresi then, seems insane.

If you're a voting Republican in the Oklahoma primary elections on June 24, that leaves Joy Hofmeister.  Joy is not authoritarian or brash - she has shown herself to me to be just the opposite.

Instead of repeating hearsay and 'believing' a candidate to be one thing or another - either talk to the candidate themselves or to someone who knows the candidate - as a person will, at some point, reveal their true selves during the course of a personal relationship.  Joy has revealed nothing to me that indicates she doesn't deserve a stab at the job of State Superintendent, and I for one, am willing to give her the chance.  Wouldn't you rather have a listening, learner than a know-it-all?  I know I would.