Sandy Garrett hopes to have made difference

BY JAMI MURPHY
Former Reporter
01/11/2011 06:56 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Sandy Garrett COURTESY PHOTO
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Born in Muskogee and raised in Stilwell, Cherokee Nation citizen Sandy Garrett was the first woman in Oklahoma to be elected as the state’s superintendent of Public Instruction.

She is also the only woman to hold a statewide office for five consecutive terms. But in 2009, she announced that she would not seek a sixth term.

Garrett said it meant a lot to be the State Department of Education’s chief executive officer, to see the things she has seen, to be given the opportunities she has been given and to make a difference.

She added that being Cherokee has also been important to her having grown up in a highly populated Cherokee community.

“…I’ve worked with all 39 of our tribes in Oklahoma, but of course, particularly with the Cherokees because I am from eastern Oklahoma and was raised in Adair County, Stilwell, Okla. And being of Cherokee descent and a tribal member, that’s meant a lot to me,” Garrett said. “Coming from that area, I never took that out of my mind in making decisions about children.”

After graduating from Stilwell High School, Garrett earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. She pursued her postgraduate education at the University of Oklahoma in Norman and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University before returning to Muskogee and teaching at Hilldale Schools for 15 years.

In the late 1980s, Garrett served as secretary of Education for Gov. Henry Bellman, working with him on the state’s education reform movement. From that movement came House Bill 1017, which Garrett said is “the most major reform effort Oklahoma had ever embarked on in education.” The movement and bill are what encouraged her to run for office, she said.

“…I got the idea that I needed to be state superintendent in order to implement that bill. At that time, that was when I decided to run for office,” Garrett said.

She initially won the seat in 1990 and again in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006.

During those five terms, she said she’s helped accomplish several big achievements, including Oklahoma’s technology efforts in education.

“When I came into office there were rotary dial phones and electric typewriters,” she said. Garrett added that early childhood development is another area she helped grow in Oklahoma. “I think there are other things that I’m quite proud of, but these were things that I knew that were very important and would be very important to Oklahoma future. We are number one in the nation (in early childhood development), and we are also number one in the nation in our teacher of the year program.”

Yet in August 2009, Garrett announced that she would not seek re-election for a sixth term. Her 20 years as superintendent of Public Instruction was set to end Jan. 10.

“Twenty years is quite enough. It was time to move on and do something else, and I will be very supportive of the next person’s efforts.”

She said her plan now is to relax and maybe write. Garrett said she is also interested in charity work, particularly foster care.

“I know Oklahoma is number one in the nation of children in state custody through foster care, and I think that we need to tend to that terrible fact,” she said.
ᏣᎳᎩ

By JAMI CUSTER
ᏗᎦᏃᏣᏢᏍᎩ

ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ. – Sandy Garrett ᎫᏐᎢ ᎤᏕᏅᎯ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏫᏍᎦᎶᎯ ᏧᏛᏒᎯ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎨᎳ ᎠᎬᏱᎢ ᎠᎨᏯ ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᏄᎬᏫᏳᏒᎯ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏍᏗ ᏧᎧᎵᏍᏟ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏗᏕᏲᎲᏍᎩ.

ᎥᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᏩᏌ ᎠᎨᏯ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᏂᎬᎾᏛ ᎯᏍᎩ ᎢᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎤᏴᏞᎢ.ᎠᏎᏃ ᎾᎯᏳ 2009 ᏥᎨᏒ ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᏄᏩᏁᎴᎵ ᎥᏝ ᏑᏓᎵᏁᎢ ᏂᏛᏟᏏᏒᎾ.

Garrett Ꮓ ᏄᏪᏎᎢ ᎢᏙᏳᏃ ᎤᎵᏍᎨᏓ ᎨᏒᎩ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᏄᎬᏫᏳᏒᎢ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏧᎧᎵᏍᏟ, ᎬᎪᏩᏛᏗ ᏂᎦᎥ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎤᎪᎲᏅ, ᎬᏩᎵᏍᎪᏟᏓᏁᎸ ᎤᏓᏁᏝᏁ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎤᏓᏁᏟᏴᏍᏗ, ᎤᏠᏯᏍᏔᏁᏃ ᎠᏣᎳᎩᏃ ᎨᏒ ᎤᎵᏍᎨᏓ ᎨᎲ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏄᎾᏛᏅ ᎤᏛᏒᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ.

“… ᏦᎩᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎸᎢ ᏂᎦᏓ 39 ᎠᏂᎳᏍᏓᏢᎢ ᎠᏁᎯ ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᏗᎵᏍᏙᏗ, ᎤᎪᏕᎢ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎧᎸᎬ ᏗᏜ ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ ᏗᏩᏛᏒᎢ ᏓᏫᏍᎦᎶ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ, ᏍᏗᎳᏪᎵ, ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ. ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩᏃ ᏂᏛᏆᏓᎴᏅᎯ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᎳᏍᏓᏢᎢ ᎨᎳ ᎨᏒᎢ, ᎥᏍᎩᏃ ᏭᎵᏍᎨᏗᏴᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎨᎢ Garrett. “ ᎲᎾᏃ ᏗᏜ ᏅᏛᎩᎶᏒᎢ, Ꮭ ᎢᎸᎯᏳ ᏗᎩᏲᏒ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎦᏥᏯᏅᏓ ᎠᎴ ᏄᏍᏛ ᏕᎫᎪᏗᏍᎬ ᏱᎦᏥᏛᏁᏗ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ.”

ᏓᎬᏍᏆᏓ ᏍᏗᎳᏪᎵ ᎦᎸᎳᏗ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ, GarrettᏃ ᏚᏁᏎᎢ ᏩᎬᎸᎳᏗᏴ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎪᎯᏗᏍᎩ ᏚᏍᏆᏛᎢ ᎲᎾ ᎤᏴᏢᏗᎧᎸᎬ ᏩᎬᎸᎳᏗᏴ ᎾᎿ ᏓᎵᏆ. ᎦᎶᏒᏍᏔᏅ ᏩᎬᎸᎳᏗᏴ ᏧᏕᎶᏆᎥᎢ ᎾᎿ ᏩᎬᎸᎳᏗᏴ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏍᏗ ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ ᎾᎿ Norman ᎠᎴ John F. Kennedy ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏩᏥᏂ ᎲᎾ Harvard ᏩᎬᎸᎳᏗᏴ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ Ꮟ ᏂᏧᎷᏨᎾ ᎫᏐᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏚᏕᏲᏁᎢ ᎾᎿ Hill dale ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ 15 ᎢᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ.

ᎢᎪᎯᏓ.ᎤᎵᏍᏆᏗᏕᎾ ᏥᎨᏎ 1980, Garrett ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎴᎢ ᏗᎪᏪᎵᏍᎩ ᏗᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎠᏥᏍᏕᎵᏍᎩ ᎨᏎᎢ ᎠᏍᎦᏰᎬᏍᏗ Henry Bellman, ᏚᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲᏃ ᎠᎵᏍᏕᎵᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᏃᏝᎯᏏᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᏱᎸᏍᏗ. ᎭᎾ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᎮᎢ ᎧᏃᎮᏓ ᏗᏠᎯᏍᏔᏅ 1017, ᎠᏗᏍᎨᎢ Garrett ᎥᏍᎩ ᏭᎵᏍᎨᏗᏴ ᎪᏢᎯᏌᏅᎯ ᎾᎿ ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ ᎤᏅᎴᏂᏐᏗ ᏗᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ.” ᎾᏃ ᎠᏱᎸᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏠᎯᏍᏔᏅ ᎥᏍᎩᏃ ᏄᏰᏟᏓ ᏧᏚᎸᎮ ᎤᏴᏍᏗ, ᎠᏗᏍᎨᎢ.

“… ᏄᏍᏛᏃ ᎠᏆᏓᏅᏖᏢᎢ ᎠᏎ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᏄᎬᏫᏳᏒᎢ ᏯᏆᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎩᎳ ᏱᏂᎦᎵᏍᏓ ᏯᏂᎶᎯᏍᏓ ᎧᏃᎮᏓ ᏓᏠᎯᏍᏛᎢ. ᎾᎯᏳ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ, ᏥᏓᏬᎪᏔᏅ ᎠᏆᏙᎩᏯᏍᏗ ᎠᎩᏴᏍᏗᎢ,”ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Garrett.

ᎾᏊᏃ ᏚᏓᎩᏴᎢ ᎾᎯᏳ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ 1990 ᎠᎴ ᏏᏭ ᎤᏴᏞᎢ 1994, 1998, 2002 ᎠᎴ 2006.

ᎯᏍᎩᏁᏃ Ꮲ ᏣᏯᎡᎢ,ᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎩ ᎤᎵᏍᏕᎸᎮᏃ ᎯᎸᏍᎩ ᏤᏆ ᏱᏗᎬᏩᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎨᏒᎩ, ᎬᏩᏠᏯᏍᏗ ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ ᎬᎵᏏᎾᎯᏍᏙᏗ ᏱᎬᏁᏗ ᏗᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ. “ᎾᎯᏳ ᏣᎩᏴᏟᏞ ᏗᎩᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ Ꮟ ᏧᏪᏘ ᏗᏟᏃᎮᏗ ᏗᎦᏚᏩᎸᏕᎯ ᏳᏍᏗ ᏥᎨᏐ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎾᎦᎵᏍᎩ ᏗᏂᎩᏍᏗᏍᎩ ᏗᏐᏅᏍᏙᏗ ᏗᎪᏪᎵᏍᎩ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. Garrett ᎠᏠᏯᏍᏗᏍᎬᎢ Ꮎ ᎩᎳ ᏗᎾᏛᏍᎩ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᎠᏙᎷᏩᏘᏍᎩᏃ ᏐᎢ ᎨᏒ ᎤᎵᏍᏕᎸᏗ ᎤᎾ.ᎩᏍᏗ ᎲᎾ ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ.

“ ᎠᏯᏃ ᏂᎨᎵᏍᎬ ᏏᏊ ᏐᎢ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎬᏆᏢᏉᏙᏗ, ᎠᏆᏅᏛ ᎯᎸᏍᎩ ᎨᏒ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏙᎯᏳᎯᏯ ᏭᎵᏍᎨᏗᏴ ᎨᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏩᎬᏗᏗᏒᎢ ᎬᏩᎵᏍᏕᎸᏙᏗ ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ. ᎠᎬᏱᎢᏃ ᏫᏓᎴᎲᏍᎩ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏰᎵᎢ ( ᎩᎳ ᏗᎾᏛᏍᎩ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᎠᏙᎷᏩᏘᏍᎩ), ᎠᎴ ᎠᎬᏱᎢᏃ ᏫᏓᎴᎲᏍᎩ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏰᎵᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏕᏲᏘᏱᏍᎬ ᏗᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎩ ᏱᏗᏛᏁᏗ.”

ᎠᏎᏃ ᎦᎶᏂ ᎧᎸᎢ 2009, Garrett ᎤᏃᎮᏞᎢ ᏑᏓᎵᏁ ᏓᎾᏙᎩᏴ ᏂᏛᏴᏟᏒᎾ.
20 ᎢᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏄᎬᏫᏳᏒᎯ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏧᎧᎵᏍᏟ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏗᏕᏲᎲᏍᎩ ᎨᏒᎩ ᎤᎵᏍᎪᏕᎢ ᎤᏃᎸᏔᏅ, 10.

ᏔᎵᏍᎪᎯ ᎢᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎡᎵᏊ ᏱᎦᎢ ᎨᏒᎩ. ᎾᏊᏃ ᏣᏟᏱᎳ ᎠᏛᏅᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏄᏓᎴ ᎢᏯᏛᏁᏗ, ᎠᎴ ᎤᏙᎯᏳᎯᏯ ᏥᏯᎫᏍᏛᏂᎮᏍᏗ ᎾᏛᏁᎲᎢ ᎩᎶ ᏄᏓᎴ ᎠᏴᏢᎢ,” ᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᏃ ᏄᏍᏛ ᏚᏭᎪᏛᎢ ᎤᏣᏪᏐᎸᏍᏙᏗᏭ ᎠᎴ ᎡᎵ ᏱᎩ ᏧᏬᏪᎶᏗᏭ. GarrettᏃ ᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᎤᏍᏆᏂᏓᏁᎰ ᏧᏍᏕᏟᏗ ᎤᏚᏟᏗ ᏴᏫ, ᏭᎵᏍᎨᏗᏴ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᏗᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗ.

“ ᎠᏆᏅᏔ ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ ᎠᎬᏱᎢ ᎨᏒ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᏓᏂᏍᏕᎵᎲᎢ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᏚᏂᏴᎲᎢ ᏗᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗ ᏄᏲᎢᏴ ᏄᏍᏗᏓᏅᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.

jami-custer@cherokee.org • (918) 453-5560

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