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Letter to the Editor

Feb. 24, 2023


For nearly 40 years, the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame has celebrated those who have dedicated their lives to Oklahoma’s children and their futures. We honor their expertise, commitment, sacrifice, leadership, and service every year. We will continue to do so.
Since the non-profit organization’s incorporation in 1984, OEHF has partnered with the Oklahoma State Department of Education to honor and recognize these individuals who collectively represent the best of a noble profession.
State schools Superintendent Ryan Walters recently ordered the removal of the portraits of Hall of Fame inductees from a corridor of the state Education Department. We read through the media that he referred derisively to the inductees as “union bosses” and “bureaucrats.” He made this change without notice to the Hall of Fame, which retains ownership of the portraits. The inductees or the persons who nominate them pay for the portraits, and the Hall of Fame has them framed professionally for display.
We have reached out to Superintendent Walters and the State Education Department for conversation. We respect his commitment to parents and students. Every educator knows that education is most effective when it is a partnership between schools, educators, families, students and the community.
We are hopeful a dialogue will result in Mr. Walters’ reconsidering his decision, and that he will place the portraits on display at a location in the Oliver Hodge Building (named for an inductee) that is accessible and visible to the public and honorees’ families, that will protect the craftsmanship of the portraits, and that will dignify the honorees’ individual and collective service to Oklahoma.
We firmly believe it’s possible to honor and recognize parents, students and esteemed educators who spent their professional lives working with and for young Oklahomans.
Over the years of selecting honorees, OEHF selection committees have engaged in vigorous debate over nominees. The beauty of the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame is that it’s never been about political leanings but rather how nominees have advanced education and served Oklahoma.
Collectively, Hall of Fame honorees have served tens of thousands of Oklahoma students in pre-K-12, career technology, and higher education. They have broken racial barriers, shattered glass ceilings, challenged the status quo, changed hearts, and filled many, many young minds with the confidence they needed to pursue their hopes and dreams. Many of their names are found in Oklahoma history books and on buildings throughout the state.
Many inductees are no longer with us, but their colleagues, former students and families hold their loved one’s Hall of Fame induction as a cherished memory and evidence of an enduring legacy. That legacy and history are part of us as a state and as an education community.
The Hall of Fame inductees earned this recognition over decades of service. The very least we can do is honor them in a manner befitting their leadership, service, and legacy.
For additional information, contact OEHF Executive Director, Dr. Sharon Lease at (405) 692-3190; President Eugene Earsom at (405) 306-2135, or Vice-President Dr. Deena Fisher at (580) 254-3237.

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