Stillwater News Press

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July 16, 2014

Oklahoma's CareerTech director resigns

STILLWATER, Okla. — State education officials will need to hire a director for the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education and a secretary of education and workforce development for the second time in approximately 18 months.

Robert Sommers resigned both positions Tuesday, citing family responsibilities in Ohio.

Sommers was named CareerTech director Jan. 30, 2013, and joined the department April 1 of that year. In July 2013, he was named to a post in the governor’s cabinet.

“My tenure has been personally rewarding, and I have worked with some exceptional educators and political leaders,” Sommers said in a release to news media. “I’ve grown to genuinely appreciate the governor’s commitment to Oklahoma, and the desire to assure Oklahomans are well-educated and economically productive.”

The Department of Career and Technology Education is headquartered in Stillwater. The system offers its programs and services in nearly 400 Oklahoma public school districts, 29 technology centers with 57 campuses and 16 skills centers in correctional facilities.

Each technology center works closely with local industries to make sure students learn the skills needed in their community workforce.

“CareerTech’s work is about ensuring a job for every Oklahoman and a worforce for every company, and a workforce for every company,” Sommers said. “That is the value propostion for CareerTech, and I feel confident the great work of this system will continue.”

Gov. 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.”

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.”

Sommers served as CEO/superintedent of an Ohio career-technical district – Butler Technology and Career Development Schools in Hamilton, Ohio – for nine years before accepting the Oklahoma CareerTech post.

Sommers replaced Phil Berkenbile who had been CareerTech director since 2004. Berkenbile retired in 2012.

A timetable to replace Sommers, who will leave office Aug. 15, was not announced.

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