Oklahoma's Chiefs of Public Instruction 1890-2015 [paperback]
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Oklahoma's Chiefs of Public Instruction 1890-2015 [paperback]

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A. Kenneth Stern



Subtitle: The Position, The Politics, and The Public Servants (Superintendents)


The state superintendent of public instruction functions as the top education official in Oklahoma’s executive government. Seven appointees served in the territorial period and eleven were elected from the beginning of statehood to 2015. Who were these people, what did they accomplish, and how have the legal eligibility criteria (both facilitative and hindering), the requirements, and the expectations of the position evolved? The book examines the political nature of the office and the 28 election cycles: contestants, expenditures, campaign methods, votes, etc. One chapter is devoted to the federal government’s supervision of tribal schools in Indian Territory from 1899 to 1910 and another to the struggle by women to achieve equity in education leadership positions: principalships; county, local district, and career tech superintendencies; school boards; State Board of Education; and college presidencies. Each Superintendent’s tenure (appointed or elected) is described and analyzed in a separate chapter. Included in the extensive appendix are multiple tables of election results, campaign expenditures, student enrollment and numbers of districts, and summaries of commissions and boards on which the Superintendent has served over the 125-year timeframe of the book. The reader may be surprised at the frequent recurrence of certain problems and issues and the frustration of the insufficient legislative will to provide long-term solutions. In this election year this 444 page book is apropos to aiding one to be a more informed voter.


“This book uses extensive archival sources and interviews with past state superintendents and numerous educational leaders. Descriptions of women’s achievements in gaining suffrage and executive level positions in educational institutions and the state’s minimalist response to the U. S. Supreme Court’s desegregation mandates provide a measuring stick of the progression toward democratic ideals.”

Sharon A. Lease, served as chief of staff and later as deputy state superintendent during Sandy Garrett’s administration.

“From E. D. Cameron, first state superintendent in 1907, to Joy Hofmeister’s election in 2015, from 5,600 school districts at statehood to 520 today, Dr. Stern has crafted an impressive overview of the stories of the men and women who pushed, pulled, and inspired Oklahomans to make education a high priority. This scholarly study carefully shares the difficulties created in the mandates and limitations imposed by a massive state constitution written by populist leaders committed to the “will of the people,’ the challenges of bringing together the varied tribal nation school systems in Indian Territory with the Oklahoma Territory county school systems when the two territories were reluctantly joined together as the new State of Oklahoma. This is a ‘must read’ book for anyone with a link to the education profession.”

Clarence G. Oliver, Jr. was superintendent of the Broken Arrow Public Schools and is Emeritus Professor and former Dean of the College of Education at Oral Roberts University.

About the

A. Kenneth Stern is the author of articles for the historical journals of Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico about the office of superintendent of public instruction during the territorial periods of those states. Born in Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania, he is Associate Professor Emeritus of School Leadership at Oklahoma State University and lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with his wife Lois and near his daughter and her family.


 2022 [ISBN: 1-58107-363-1; 460 pages, 7 x 10 inches, soft cover]