EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of two profile stories featuring the two candidates for the Edmond Public School District 4 board seat. Cynthia Benson’s story appeared Jan. 14. Look in the Jan. 25 Weekender edition of The Sun to read how the candidates handle questions from the public at a Thursday night forum. The forum will be from 7-8 p.m. Thursday at Summit Middle School’s cafeteria, 1701 N.W. 150th St.
Stephanie Bills is running for the Edmond School District 4 board seat. Edmond residents will go to the polls in District 4 on Feb. 11 to decide who will fill the board seat for the next five years.
The District 4 spot is currently filled by Bills, 49, who was appointed by the seated board members when George Cohlmia stepped down early in 2013 so his daughter might fill a district teaching position. Bills is running against Cynthia Benson for the seat.
Elected board members serve a five-year term with one member’s term expiring each year. The board has oversight concerning the district’s budget, policies, construction projects, purchases, contracts and reviews personnel matters such as hiring and firing.
“I believe the role of a board member is one of servant leadership,” Bills said. “I believe it was my duty to apply for the position in order to use my knowledge and mindset.”
Bills received a bachelor’s degree in education at the University of Central Oklahoma, a master’s degree in educational administration at the University of Oklahoma and is currently working on a doctorate in district leadership at Southwestern College in Oklahoma City.
She is a certified teacher and principal and is completing her superintendent’s certification. Bills taught in both Moore and Edmond for many years as well as served as a coach and currently serves as the executive officer in Human Resources at Metro Technology Center.
Bills has worked at Metro Tech for 13 years and said her job is all about training.
“I believe in providing skill sets to empowers students,” Bills said. “Most of my work is in the instructional side.”
Bills has worked with a board of education in her position at Metro Technology Center.
Bills said a board member must display open mindedness and be willing to build trust.
“A board member gives oversight and helps set the budget,” Bills said. “We hire administrators to do their job, and state statutes are put in place to protect teachers.”
“I believe a school board has to follow due process, and there is some information a school board member should not know — personnel information specifically,” Bills added.
Bills said this is the first time she has run for an elected office.
“I think it is my duty to run,” Bills said. “… and I value being part of a team.”
Bills said she believes Edmond has a quality system and as a benchmark school district there are numerous award-winning schools.
Bills said there are some areas in which she would like to see improvements including in state funding.
“I think we need to start some collaboration in that area,” Bills said. “I believe there is some dysfunction between the state level and the schools. If districts aren’t going to be funded, then we need to put in a contingency plan.”
She said she sees ahead days of 35 students or more in a classroom and with larger class sizes comes additional problems with classroom management.
“I think we need to have leadership training in place for future problems our teaching staffs may face,” Bills said. “We are seeing a ripple effect as so many teachers are leaving the classroom, taking early retirement or just not going into education.”
Bills added, “It is almost like our hands are tied. We might need to accept the fact that money may not be coming and start thinking more systematically.”
As to district growth, Bills said, “We have done so much with little. We’re going to have to be creative and innovative with expenditures. The first thing we will have to do is cut personnel. When positions become open they won’t be filled. We will have to identify the fat and cut more fat.”
Bills said in education the mindset is always implementing something.
“Common Core in theory is not a bad idea,” Bills said. “We want to exceed standards. Although, none of the mandates have been funded, therefore, we must do more with less.”
Bills added something must be done to get more students to go into education.
“We need to get more teachers,” Bills said. “We have to tout our results. A quality system has to be a marketing piece. I believe people move to Edmond for the schools.
“Parents have the loudest voice of all,” Bills added. “With 10,500 voters in the district (4), 500 voted in the last election.”
Bills said she is aiming at non-registered voters to register and encouraging all voters to get out and vote.
Bills is married to Staff Sgt. Robert Bills. They have three children. One child graduated from Santa Fe High School and one currently attends Santa Fe. They also have a child at Charles Haskell Elementary.