Broken Arrow, Berryhill and Liberty school board posts up for vote; Jenks and Union to decide bond issues
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Sunday, February 03, 2013
2/03/13 at 5:13 AM
Three races for suburban school board posts will be up for voters in Berryhill, Broken Arrow and Liberty, while Jenks and Union patrons will have bond issues to decide Feb. 12.
If no candidate receives more than half the votes, the two candidates with the most votes will meet in a second election April 2.
Theresa Williamson and John Cockrell will face off in Broken Arrow for Office 3, a four-year term previously held by Shari Wilkins. She decided not to run for re-election.
Williamson, 58, has been a teacher and principal in several area school districts. She retired in 2005 but came out of retirement three years later and is now an eighth-grade counselor at Thoreau Demonstration Academy in Tulsa Public Schools.
All three of her grown children graduated from Broken Arrow High School.
Williamson earned a doctorate in public school educational administration and higher learning from Oklahoma State University in 1992.
"As a mother, grandmother and lifelong educator, I know a quality education is the best gift a child can receive," she said.
Board members and patrons must be mindful that the only legal power a board member has is when he or she casts a vote in the boardroom, Williamson said.
A board member's job is "simply to become an ambassador for the school district," she said.
Broken Arrow Public Schools' student population is predicted to reach 20,000 by 2020, Williamson noted.
"With such drastic expansion comes many challenges. It's definitely an exciting time to become a Broken Arrow school board member. There's work to be done in order to maximize our children's future successes," she said.
John Cockrell, 39, is a captain with the Broken Arrow Fire Department. He has lived nearly all his life in the city, and his 11-year-old triplets attend school in the district.
He is president of Broken Arrow Youth Wrestling and the Broken Arrow Firefighters Association.
Cockrell earned a bachelor's degree in fire and emergency management at Northeastern State University.
"I have a passion for Broken Arrow and advocating for the children in this great community," he said.
Cockrell said the school board's relationship with the superintendent must be open and transparent.
"He has to understand what our expectations are, and we have to allow him to do his job," he said. "We are not there to micromanage him but to put him in a position that will enable him to be successful."
Cockrell said he is especially concerned with teachers' benefits and pay. He said he intends to be an advocate for teachers as much as possible.
"These individuals dedicate their life to educate our most precious assets," Cockrell said. "We give them our kids every day without concern, and trust that they will provide our kids with what we cannot. They do it with very little financial reward but continue to provide our kids with a quality education."
Brad Post and Chet Cottom will vie for Liberty's Office 3, which has a five-year term.
Cottom, 50, is employed by RCI Insurance Group in Claremore and has lived in Liberty most of his life. He graduated from Liberty High School in 1980. He has two children, one who graduated from Liberty and is attending Oklahoma State University and another who is a Liberty junior.
"As with many school districts our size, but especially ours, due to the very limited tax base, the budget cuts have really affected our school more than others," he said.
Yet the size of the district is a strength, allowing better relationships with teachers, students and parents, Cottom noted.
He is involved in Bixby Free Will Baptist Church, where he was youth pastor for eight years. He is also serving a third term as president of the Liberty Athletic Booster Club and is vice president of the Liberty Endowment Committee.
Brad Post, 37, is chief operating officer for Lawyer Marketing Services and lead pastor of The Movement Church in Glenpool. He has three children in Liberty schools.
Before moving back to the Tulsa area, Post held leadership positions in the school council at Pleasant Grove Elementary in Stockbridge, Ga. He started a mentoring program at an alternative high school in Stockbridge and served as chaplain to a high school football team in nearby McDonough.
Post said he believes the chief responsibilities of a school board member are to "ensure the safety of our children and ensure they receive the best education."
He also noted the small size of the district is a difficulty and wants to look at hiring or finding staff members with grant-writing abilities to provide more funding for school services.
In Berryhill, F. Darren Francisco, Doc Geiger and Sandra Pirtle are seeking Office 3, a five-year term.
Pirtle, 47, is the incumbent. She was board president in 2011 and 2012.
She is a fund accounting manager for the Bank of Oklahoma.
Both of her children attended Berryhill schools from kindergarten through graduation, which she said allowed her to understand the district from a parent's perspective.
"Our teachers work hard to understand the students' individual needs and learning styles. This touched my heart personally with my children, who have very different learning styles," Pirtle said.
The teachers gave her children the tools to adapt to their own learning styles. "These are tools both of my kids continue to use in college," she said.
Pirtle said she would like to see a continued commitment to technology in the Berryhill district to prepare students for their careers. She also wants the district to continue to adopt programs that will ensure students' success and meet their academic needs.
"I want to play a role in the vision of the district's future by hiring school administrators who foster the same vision for growth for the district," she said.
Francisco, 50, has three children, two of whom are attending Berryhill schools and one who graduated from Berryville High.
He is operations manager at Aerostar Delivery.
Francisco said he wants to give back to his community, bringing his experience running a business to the job.
"I'm glad for the opportunity to be able to run for a position on the school board," he said. "I will provide the time it takes to make informative decisions ... and to help our children, our school and our community continue to be the best."
The former U.S. Army staff sergeant believes the chief responsibility of a school board member is to help school administration "make important and unbiased decisions concerning our school district."
"We have a great community support system," he said.
Multiple efforts to reach Geiger were unsuccessful.
Voters in Jenks will be asked to approve an $11.5 million bond issue Feb. 12 for the purchase of textbooks, school buses, classroom renovations, safety equipment and more.
If approved, the money would go to maintain campus buildings and equipment, including the purchase of more interactive white boards, copiers, and computer hardware and software.
It would also be used to purchase library books, database subscriptions and furnishings for media centers at various schools.
The Union school district is asking voters to approve a $20.4 million bond proposal to expand and remodel the 6th and 7th Grade Center, replace the track at the high school and other projects.
An estimated $5.7 million would be spent to increase classroom space through an expansion, as well as remodel the facility's exterior. That includes completing the fine arts wing and purchasing furniture, fixtures and equipment, and constructing parking lots, driveways and sidewalks.
An additional $4.2 million would let the district replace its track, install a turf infield and pole vault pit at the track, and renovate locker rooms, weight rooms, restrooms, offices, concession areas, bleachers, fencing and the press box at the field.
School officials said $1.4 million would be used to buy computers and software required for the state's latest testing mandates.
State law requires 60 percent of voters approve the bond issues to pass.
The bond issues don't raise property taxes because school districts pay off existing bonds as new ones are added, officials said.
Original Print Headline: Several school board posts on ballot
Kim Archer 918-581-8315