More Oklahoma School Leaders Win Primaries, Prepare for November Election

By Denisa R. Superville — August 29, 2018 2 min read
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In a tough night for incumbent Republican legislators in Oklahoma, more school leaders won their primary runoffs to earn spots on the November general election ballot.

Among them was Sherrie Conley, a school administrator in Oklahoma City, who got 50.9 percent of the vote in a close race against incumbent Bobby Cleveland in the Republican runoff in House District 20.

Cleveland had drawn the ire of many educators. Cleveland voted against the education funding package that the legislature approved, in part, to end the nine-day teacher walkout centered on increasing teacher pay and general education funding. Cleveland has said that he voted against the bill because lawmakers did not have enough time with the bill before voting on it and that he did not think it provided adequate classroom funding, according to News 9.

Of the 10 Republican incumbents who faced runoffs on Tuesday, six lost their races, according to the Tulsa World.

And in a sign of the success that educators and former educators are having so far this election cycle, Conley will face Steve Jarman, a Democrat and former teacher, in November.

After massive teacher walkouts earlier this year—from West Virginia to North Carolina—educators have signed up to run for office in large numbers.

And many are winning: A preliminary Education Week analysis shows that so far 35 teachers have won their primaries, 55 have run unopposed, while 55 have lost.

While teachers make up the bulk of educators running for office, principals, assistant principals, coaches, and other school leaders are also throwing their hats into the ring.

Some of those principals told us last month that they are running because they want a bigger voice in education policy and issues, such as the economy, healthcare, transportation, infrastructure, and the opioid crisis—all of which affect their schools, students, and their families. They said they can bring a wealth of first-hand experience from managing schools and working with different constituencies to their statehouses.

Julie Roach, an assistant principal in Oklahoma City, who spoke with us for that story, lost her run-off to Marilyn Stark, who got 52.8 percent of the vote.

In addition to Conley, Danny Sterling, who retired at the end of the school year as principal of Tecumseh High School, about 45 miles from Oklahoma City, won a run-off in the Republican race in House District 27. Sterling got 54.7 percent of the vote to Dave Spaulding’s 45.3 percent.

Oklahoma principals will have to give up their jobs if they win. In Oklahoma, you can’t work as a principal while serving in the legislature.

Photo credit: Elementary school principal Sherrie Conley, who is running for state representative in District 20, places a campaign sign on a road in Goldsby, Okla., in June.

--Sue Ogrocki/AP-File


A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.