McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

November 2, 2013

Former chair of Democratic Party seeks state’s top education post

Eric Swanson Staff Writer adanewsreporter@cableone.net
www.theadanews.com

Ada — When Ivan Holmes talks to voters, he uses a hula hoop to emphasize one of the key themes of his campaign.

Holmes is one of five Democrats hoping to unseat Oklahoma’s state superintendent of public instruction, Janet Barresi, in 2014. The hula hoop illustrates his complaint that Barresi leaves school officials out of the loop on education issues.

“There are no lines of communication between the schools, the superintendents and principals, and the superintendent’s office,” Holmes said in a phone interview Thursday. “They’re just not there.”

Holmes will compete against fellow Democrats Donna Anderson, John Cox, Freda Deskin and Jack Herron in the June 24, 2014, primary election. The victor will face the winner of the Republican primary, which may pit Barresi against Tulsa resident Joy Hofmeister.

Hofmeister is a former member of the state Board of Education who resigned to explore the possibility of challenging Barresi in 2014. She has not formally announced her candidacy, but she has raised money for a campaign.



‘Education at every level’

Holmes’ career began at Northeastern Oklahoma A & M College in Miami, where he handled public relations and taught English, speech and journalism. While he was working in Miami, he earned a master’s degree in journalism and education from Oklahoma State University.

He later moved to Tulsa, where he earned a doctorate in education from the University of Tulsa and taught history at a local high school. After earning his advanced degree, he went to work at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, where he established a journalism program and handled publicity.

Holmes’ resume also included a stint as the athletic marketing director at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he taught public relations.

“I’ve been in education off and on for about 45 years at kind of every level in teaching and administration,” he said.

Holmes also served as chairman for the Oklahoma Democratic Party for two years.



‘A Democrat can win’

Holmes said he hadn’t planned to seek the state superintendent’s office, but two developments made him change his mind. He said he knew that Cox and Anderson had thrown their hats in the ring, but he did not think they would give up their day jobs to mount a full-time campaign.

Holmes said he also realized that Barresi was unpopular with school officials, which raised the possibility that a Democrat could capture the office.

“That’s part of my platform,” he said. “A Democrat can win this because of the timing right now. It’s just perfect for it.”

Holmes said he is running a grassroots campaign which will take him to every county, where he will meet with voters and school officials. He added that his campaign emphasizes his experience on the campaign trail and in the classroom.



Goals

Holmes said if he is elected, he will push lawmakers to pump more money into public schools until it reaches pre-recession levels.

“What we’re asking for is the $200 million mark that they took away from us five years ago,” he said.

Holmes said he wants to educate people about private and charter schools, because he thinks they are taking money away from Oklahoma’s public schools. He added that he does not oppose private or charter schools, but he believes they should not seek taxpayer dollars.

“They shouldn’t be taking our money out of public education,” he said. “Let them finance and fund that themselves and don’t take away what dollars we have to run the public schools, which is still the great majority of students.”