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District 4 candidate Crystal Hodges touts fiscal accountability, home school experience

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Crystal Hodges, a candidate for the Oklahoma City Public Schools’ board of education post in District 4, believes the top three issues facing local education are, in the views of local teachers, “discipline, testing, and funding.”

In an online interview, she elaborated her response to The City Sentinel’s question, expanding her focus to business interests. She reflected, “Talking with the business community, the top three are: policies that will grow the city, funding, and teacher accountability (pay-for-performance, NBCT [National Board Certified Teacher] stipends, and high-stakes testing).”

Concluding her first response with another focus, Hodges observed, “Talking with the taxpayer, the top three are: teacher accountability, curriculum, and discipline/bullying. I believe we need to focus on educating children, starting with reading, writing, and arithmetic.”

Hodges answered partially when asked if she agreed with Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi’s request to the federal government for a waiver from the requirements of the No Child Left Behind legislation. She said, “NCLB had good intentions. We need to focus on what works and adjust what doesn’t work. We need to ensure we are not testing to the degree of getting money by using our kids. Our goal is to produce well-educated citizens, not good test takers – testing to the degree of getting money by using our kids.”

Asked about the lack of easy access to information on legal fees paid by public school districts, Hodges said, “I am not familiar with the reason why it is not public information. However, I am all for transparency.”

As officials complete the final phases of infrastructure improvements financed by the MAPS for Kids referenda, The City Sentinel asked Hodges what she believes the next major reform effort should be. She answered: “First, I think we should evaluate and measure the effectiveness of this reform and make sure our ROI [return on investment] is acceptable. Have our students shown an increase in reading, writing, and math skills due to this reform? I do not plan on introducing any reform ideas yet, because there are so many new policies being implemented now. I have a wait and see approach now. Let’s see what the data shows.”

Asked to give her views on parental or student choice and education, Hodges limited her comments to charters and traditional schools, saying, “Charter schools are meeting a need in our community. However, by solving one problem, another is popping up. The top performing students across the district are leaving their traditional schools and entering the higher-performing charter schools. This leaves the traditional schools with the same standard, but fewer top-performing students.”
Proposals have been made to move school board elections from February, when participation is always low, to November in order to allow for broader participation and a more representative outcome.

Asked about this idea, recently advanced by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Hodges commented, “Anytime, more people can be heard and have a say in the decision, the better. Moving it to November instead of hiding it in February seems reasonable.”
In campaign literature, Hodges stresses the importance of fiscal accountability in public schools, and her experience in homeschooling her children. Hodges is a U.S. Navy veteran who earned a degree in elementary education from the University of Oklahoma.

The election is Tuesday, Feb. 14, with a runoff on April 10 if no candidate garners a majority in the first round.

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