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Oklahoma Gov. Stitt diversifies mostly white, male board of education

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Hernandez
Hernandez

Previously all white and mostly male, the state Board of Education under Gov. Kevin Stitt will see an increase in both racial and gender diversity at a time when Oklahoma's public school system is majority nonwhite.

Stitt's office confirmed Thursday he is appointing Brian Bobek, Estela Hernandez, Jennifer Monies and Kurt Bollenbach to succeed Lee Baxter, Cathryn Franks, Bob Ross and Bill Price, whose terms expired April 2. Earlier this month, the governor appointed Tulsa education leader Carlisha Williams Bradley, who is black, and reappointed Claremore Mayor William Flanagan to four-year terms.

The appointments, which require Senate approval, would give the seven-person board four female members and at least two nonwhite members.

"Each of our new board members is a qualified leader who is passionate about education in our state," Stitt told The Oklahoman. "They will bring strong representation from across Oklahoma in order to help invest in and guide the direction of our public school system. I look forward to working with the entire board as we move toward Top 10 status in education."

State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, an elected official who heads Oklahoma's Education Department, is also a voting member of the Board of Education.

Monies, 37, currently serves as senior director of public affairs for Oklahoma City-based Saxum, an integrated marketing communication firm. She previously worked as a political reporter for The Oklahoman and served in an advisory role for House Speaker Chris Benge and Senate Pro Tempore Brian Bingman. She managed internal and external communications and marketing for the state Chamber and then ran an education nonprofit. Monies has one child who attends public school in the Oklahoma City district.

Monies said she is honored to "serve the state and work with Gov. Stitt and Superintendent Hofmeister to improve education for all Oklahoma students."

"We can’t be a Top 10 state without being Top 10 in education," she said, referring to one of Stitt's campaign slogans. "Our state’s economy depends on it and our students are counting on us to get this right. I look forward to working alongside the new board members to ensure every Oklahoma student has access to a high quality education."

Bobek, 59, helps manage accounts for BP Lubricants USA, which provides motor oils and specialty lubricants for cars and motorcycles. He leads local outreach efforts at Capitol Hill High School, providing snacks for teams before games, mentoring teenagers through hardships and hosting the school's annual fall sports banquet. A product of Tulsa Public Schools, Bobek also partners with Tulsa Hope Academy, which provides new opportunities to troubled students.

Hernandez, 42, has been in the construction and real estate business for 15 years as a small business owner and a licensed real estate agent. She is also known for her role in state politics, serving as vice president of engagement for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, vice chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, and commissioner on the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women. Her three children attend school public schools in the Oklahoma City area.

Bollenbach, 38, an oil and gas operator for Teocalli Exploration, lives in Kingfisher with his wife and two children.

Millwood Public Schools Superintendent Cecila Robinson-Woods said having a more diverse board will give the governor and the state schools superintendent "a greater ability to adequately prepare for the future of Oklahoma education" instead of "just responding to current issues."

"Obviously the more diverse the appointments, the more likely that the state board is going to have the ability to meet the needs of more kids across the state," she said. "When you have board members who have children in the schools today then you have decisions being made by people who are actually consumers of education."

Flanagan will be the only returning board member.

Reached Thursday, Ross, who had served on the board four years, said having "new people and fresh faces and fresh ideas" will benefit the state panel.

"I'm really pleased that there’s going to be new education leaders working with Superintendent Hofmeister to further her goals and the goals of the governor," he said. "I think diversity is going to be great for the board, and I know the governor really wanted people on the board with children who attend public schools."

Baxter, who served eight years on the board, said he understands Stitt’s initiative to "put first-hand users of the public education system onto the board."

"I wish them the very best going forward," Baxter said. "Bob Ross, Cathy Franks and Bill Price have been not only colleagues but great friends and I will miss our efforts on behalf of education in the State. Superintendent Hofmeister is a bright light in State government and I know she will continue tirelessly for the benefit of our kids.”

Related Photos
<strong>Bradley</strong>

Bradley

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-464ca8960090aaa626b56ac0a85e0431.jpg" alt="Photo - Bradley " title=" Bradley "><figcaption> Bradley </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-f9734e0d7e8d7966fefd0a6272c7a6b8.jpg" alt="Photo - Monies " title=" Monies "><figcaption> Monies </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-31e4f40670abb3655611e63561aa4b0f.jpg" alt="Photo - Hernandez " title=" Hernandez "><figcaption> Hernandez </figcaption></figure>
Tim Willert

Tim Willert is a native Californian with Oklahoma ties who covers K-12 education, including Oklahoma City Public Schools and the state Education Department. Before that he covered district, federal and appellate courts in Oklahoma County. Prior... Read more ›

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