Education & Workforce Sec. Robert Sommers to retire

OKLAHOMA CITY — Secretary of Education and Workforce Development Robert Sommers, who also serves as the director of the Oklahoma Department of Career Technology Education, announced today that he will be resigning both positions on August 15 to spend more time with his family in Ohio.

“I am extremely proud to have served under Governor Fallin and to have helped implement policies that I believe will strengthen schools, empower students, and ultimately make Oklahoma a better and more prosperous state,” said Sommers. “Unfortunately, with my mother’s passing last year my wife and I have increasing responsibilities to family that requires our return to Ohio. I wish Governor Fallin and all Oklahomans continued success as they work to raise the bar in public education, Career Tech and higher education.”

Governor Mary Fallin praised Sommers for his commitment to education and his ability to work with a variety of partners.

“Bob is someone who inspires confidence and is able to pull together the diverse set of stakeholders that affect public education: administrators, teachers, parents, school board members and legislators,” said Fallin. “He will work with anyone and everyone if the end result is a policy that benefits Oklahoma children and students. I greatly appreciate his service to the state of Oklahoma and wish him and his family the best.”

As the governor’s chief education advisor from July 2013 to August 15, Dr. Sommers joined Fallin in focusing attention on what they call the “new minimum” for success in today’s economy: education beyond a traditional academic high school diploma.

“Governor Fallin has done an enormous service to Oklahomans by highlighting the need for our education systems and workforce training programs to keep up with a quickly changing economy,” said Sommers. “A traditional high school diploma just isn’t enough to get and keep a job that can support a middle class lifestyle anymore. High school students today need to plan on either going to one of our great CareerTech programs or to college. As a state, we need to use every tool and technology at our disposal to make those educational opportunities easily accessible and affordable. I’m proud of the work we did, both in Oklahoma and through the National Governors Association, to move forward on this issue.”

Sommers said one of the biggest challenges ahead will be to develop new, higher standards that will replace Common Core.  Legislation was passed and signed earlier this year that replaces the Common Core standards with standards designed by the State Department of Education in Oklahoma.

“Regardless of how you felt about Common Core, it is absolutely essential that Oklahoma now develops better, stronger standards here on the state level,” he said. “We need input and buy-in from everyone. Parents, teachers, administrators, employers, community leaders and lawmakers all need to be involved in developing academic benchmarks that boost classroom rigor and ensure our children are getting the education they deserve.”