Home > Uncategorized > Reason #9 to pick Dr. Grace over Mr. Walters: Communication

Reason #9 to pick Dr. Grace over Mr. Walters: Communication

August 7, 2022

Words matter. I’m not just saying that as a former English teacher. I’d feel that way even if life had taken me in a different direction.

Your words can paint clear pictures or they can be inexact, leaving room for interpretation and leading to consequential misunderstanding. Words can also uplift people and groups. Conversely, they can be weaponized. Worst of all, words can be tools of distraction – a smokescreen masking intent.

Political campaigns are terrible when it comes to the use of words. Whether you agree with my choice of candidates or not, can we all just admit that? I have several friends who are elected officials. I have others who have previously served or who have run unsuccessfully. Campaign language often lacks precision, specificity, and honesty. 

The race for State Superintendent here in Oklahoma illustrates all of these qualities. For example, the Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee (OK-PLAC) sent each campaign a series of questions to allow the candidates to describe their plans if elected. Dr. Grace responded. Mr. Walters did not. 

The fact that April responded matters as much as what she said. When asked about how she would approach her first year, she said, in part: 

“…I want to dive right into how we begin to shore up our teacher pipeline. I want to advocate for the reinstatement of the National Board stipends. I have been working with a group on how we can develop our own Teach for Oklahoma program. Additionally, I want to dig into the A-F report card and calibrating some aspects…. To be sure we have a lot of work to do to restore the respect of the profession.”

You can read more in the graphic below, courtesy of OK-PLAC.

Dr. Grace goes on to say that we need to continue to spotlight the good things our teachers and students are doing. While Walters didn’t respond to the questions, his car videos and social media outbursts give us some insight.

Here, Walters goes on one of his many rants about teachers and woke indoctrination of our students.

In this tweet, Walters seems to forget that it was Governor Stiitt’s appointees to the State Board of Education (SBE) who closed Oklahoma’s schools in 2020.

Walters even had an editorial in the Oklahoman this spring expressing outrage about teachers unions and insisting that teachers shouldn’t be required to join them. As someone who has been a classroom teacher, he obviously knows that union membership isn’t mandatory. 

It was a completely dishonest attack meant to divide rather than inform. And he knows that.

Even his attempts at word play fall flat.

Listen, I love good puns. “Oklahoma not Wokelahoma” is objectively terrible.

Sometimes, his word choice doesn’t even make sense. When the SBE sanctioned Tulsa and Mustang a couple of weeks ago, Walters spoke during the public comment period. When he puffed his chest about it later that day, he claimed he had “testified.” Testimony is when someone asks you to be there and speak. Public comment, on the other hand, is when you just show up and speak your mind. During the public comment period, a candidate’s voice carries no more weight than that of any other citizen. 

He’s overstating the importance of his actions – probably since the “job” he has as Secretary of Education has very little authority over anything.

My biggest personal beef with Walters came in January. As the Omicron wave knocked students and teachers out of school, we were trying everything imaginable to provide instruction. We had cleared out the central office to the extent we could and even had a state senator covering classes. Eventually, we made the difficult decision to cancel classes for two days and make the MLK Holiday a five-day weekend. As soon as we announced this, Walters lambasted our decision.

His response showed no understanding of what schools were fighting or how they were trying to manage the crisis. We were dealing with 25% student absences and almost 20% teacher absences. Our substitute fill rate was lower than ever. Did he call and ask for clarification? Of course not? Did he or any other member of the Stitt administration offer to help? What do you think?

Naturally, I responded. As you can see from the comment-to-like ratios, I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. Good leaders seek first to understand. Then they speak and act. This exchange made it clear to me that Walters, if elected, would not. 

For what it’s worth, after making that announcement, I received zero negative emails from parents or staff. That was a first during the pandemic era. That makes me think I’m more in touch with the parents in this community than the Secretary of Education ever could be.

Walters either does or doesn’t choose his words carefully. I honestly don’t care. Whether his gaffes are intentional slights or accidental slips of the tongue doesn’t matter to me. His statements show that he doesn’t respect the work that teachers and leaders are doing. Those of us who still vividly remember the Barresi years know why that’s dangerous.

Words matter. They let us see you for who you are. They show that Dr. April Grace is a serious person who has thought about the problems facing public schools that serve 700,000 students. They show that Mr. Walters is dead-set on vilifying educators and fueling the culture war that paints public education as a bad thing.

Previous: Reason #10: Leadership Experience

Next: Reason #8: Showing up

  1. August 7, 2022 at 12:33 pm

    It is so unethical to use his official social media accounts to rile up and further anger those jackhammer parents long enough to get them to the polls. Thank you for doing these and thank you for the shout out to OKPLAC. I am reposting on my personal page and on the Educators for Grace page. Would you want to do a one minute or less video of yourself and why you are voting for April? We are making our own commercial for social media.

    Sherri Brown

    Sent from my iPhone



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