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Churchwell, Tolbert to Lead School Administration Task Force

(OKLAHOMA CITY) An energy company executive and an Oklahoma City businessman have been selected to lead a new state task force that will examine the potential financial savings related to reorganizing or consolidating the administrative functions of Oklahoma’s public schools.

Public Service Company of Oklahoma President T.D. “Pete” Churchwell and First Oklahoma Corporation Chairman and President James R. Tolbert III, have been appointed as co-chairmen of the Task Force on School District Administrative Reorganization or Consolidation. The appointments were made jointly by Governor Brad Henry, Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson and Speaker of the House of Representatives Larry Adair.

“There have been a lot of claims made about the high administrative costs of Oklahoma’s public schools. Some people have tried to force changes on our school districts without knowing for certain if those changes will really save any money. This task force, under the leadership of these two highly qualified men, will find out for us if there are savings to be had and will make recommendations to the Legislature and Governor Henry,” said Hobson, D-Lexington.

In addition to his professional experience, Churchwell is chairman of the Oklahoma Education Oversight Board and chairman of the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce’s Council on Education and Workforce Development. He previously served as a steering committee member for Oklahomans for School Readiness, a group whose work was included in early childhood education legislation passed by lawmakers and signed into law by Governor Henry earlier this year.

Tolbert, who also owns Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City, has spent much of his 44-year business management career reorganizing and managing troubled public companies. He was a member of Governor Henry’s transition team. As a member of the Oklahoma Higher Education Task Force he helped formulate the report – often called “The Tolbert Report” – that became the agenda for higher education in Oklahoma. He was also a member of Task Force 2000, the group that outlined the education reforms in House Bill 1017 more than a decade ago.

“I believe we have found two very qualified men to lead this important task force. The word consolidation sparks strong emotions in a lot of communities across our state. This committee’s job is to get past the emotions and analyze the appropriate facts and figures. I’m confident that if there are legislative solutions to be found in this very complex issue, that this committee will find them,” said Adair, D-Stillwell.

Other members of the task force include five appointees each by Governor Henry, Senator Hobson and Speaker Adair.

Henry’s appointees include Richard Dean George, a tax consultant from Waynoka; Richard Michael Gorman, an insurance agent from McAlester; Larry Harrington, a telephone company executive from Cyril; Richard “Rick” Kibbee, an educator from Texhoma; Larry Riley, a physician from Claremore; and Brandi Webster of Oklahoma City.

Hobson’s appointees include Senator Kathleen Wilcoxson, R-Oklahoma City, a former school teacher; Senator Penny Williams, D-Tulsa, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee; Dr. Joe Siano, superintendent of Norman Schools; Terri Silver of Oklahoma City; and Mae Stevenson, a teacher at Millwood Middle School in Oklahoma City.

Adair’s appointees include Representative Tad Jones, R-Claremore; Rep. Ray Miller, D-Whitefield, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education; Lloyd Snow, superintendent of Sand Springs Schools; Ann Weaver, an educator from Muldrow; and Mark Shoffit of Duncan.

The task force was created in the last legislative session by House Bill 1767, authored by Speaker Adair and Senator Hobson. The new law gives the task force a Dec. 31, 2004, deadline by which to make its recommendations.

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Senate Communications Division - (405) 521-5605