Sandy Garrett, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Sandy Garrett is the only woman in Oklahoma history elected to the constitutional office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction. In November 2006, she became the only Oklahoma woman elected to a statewide office for a fifth consecutive term.
As Chief Executive Officer of the State Department of Education, Superintendent Garrett has led the timely implementation of the mandates of Oklahoma's landmark Education Reform Act of 1990, the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, and the state Achieving Classroom Excellence Act of 2005. Since taking office in 1991, she has downsized the Department, saving taxpayers a cumulative $50.5 million. Constitutional posts include chair of both the State Board of Education and the State Board of Career and Technology Education, and membership on the State Board of Equalization, the School Land Commission and the Board of Regents for the Regional University System of Oklahoma. The state superintendent serves numerous other statutory roles both state and national.
A hallmark of Superintendent Garrett's administration has been development of Pre-Kindergarten programs throughout the state to the extent that Oklahoma is recognized as a national model by the National Institute for Early Education Research. In 2008, she was named national chair of the Council of Chief State School Officers' Early Childhood Task Force. Raising academic standards, improving reading skills, bringing technology to the classroom and making schools safer also are priorities Superintendent Garrett continues to pursue.
With her fellow members of the State Board of Education, school deregulation has been initiated, a uniform financial accounting system for schools enforced, and the state's first core curriculum was adopted along with aligned assessments for accountability. Among Superintendent Garrett's initiatives is the nation's first statewide school safety hot line (1-877-SAFE-CALL, ext. OK1), which has provided to local officials anonymous reports of suspicious or potentially dangerous activity in schools since 1998.
Sandy Garrett was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and graduated from Stillwell High School. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Northeastern State University and pursued postgraduate studies at the University of Oklahoma and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. After 15 years as a classroom teacher and gifted programs coordinator in Muskogee County schools, she joined the State Department of Education as Gifted and Talented Programs Coordinator then became Executive Director of Education Programs, which included rural education, technology, satellite instruction, media applications, and library resources. In 1988, she was named Cabinet Secretary of Education by Governor Henry Bellmon. In 1990 she was elected to her first term as State Superintendent.
On April 28, 2009, the Oklahoma Alliance for Geographic Education awarded Superintendent Garrett the "2009 James M. Goodman Friend of Geography Award." Earlier in the same month, she received the "Vision Award" from the Oklahoma State Teachers of the Year Association. In November 2008, Superintendent Garrett was presented the "Equal Opportunity Award" from the Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City in honor of her "leadership and contributions to improving urban education." Among numerous other honors, she was named a "Woman of Distinction" by the Girl Scouts Sooner Council in 2007 and one of "Fifty Making a Difference" in Oklahoma by The Journal Record in 2004.
Superintendent Garrett was inducted into the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame in March 2001, into the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame in August 2000, and is a member of the Northeastern State University Alumni Association Hall of Fame. In 2001, she received the prestigious Silver Beaver Award from the Boy Scouts of America for her work promoting character education. In November 2000, she received the First Lady's Leadership in Literacy Award for her statewide efforts to improve reading instruction for children and expand literacy programs for adults.