Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame Pictures Removed at State Department of Education Building

News 9 - February 20, 2023 6:42 am


State Superintendent Ryan Walters said he chose to take down the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame photos at the Oklahoma State Department of Education building because he wanted to highlight parents, students and other teachers. But the decision caused some educators and their families to be upset.

The portraits of more than 100 inductees in the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame had been hanging on the walls of a hallway leading to the board room. The Hall of Fame began inducting educators in 1985.

But on Thursday, Eugene Earsom, board president of the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame, learned the portraits were all taken down.

“I understand how when there’s a transition, there will be changes that will occur,” Earsom said. “I was not pleased when I heard that they’d been taken down, again, particularly since we hadn’t been notified that that was going to happen.”

Walters’ decision to take down the Hall of Fame portraits caused concern for people on social media. One poster said she was “very sad” because her father’s picture was on that wall. Another called the move “so disrespectful.”

Walters said he wanted to use the space to put up pictures of parents, students and teachers instead.

“I want to highlight here in the agency our parents. I’m here to work for parents. I’m here in the education system, as we all should be, to make sure that parents have the best education system possible for their kids,” Walters said.

Walters said he has not made a decision on what to do with the Hall of Fame portraits that were removed.

“We’re trying to find ways to highlight families. We’re trying to find ways to highlight our students. We got so many high-achieving students. We just had the National Merit Scholar list,” Walters said.

Former State Superintendent Janet Barresi also had the Hall of Fame portraits removed from their original location. But Earsom said the portraits were eventually reinstalled.

Earsom hoped this time around, both sides can find common ground.

“It will be a matter of our discussing it and coming to an agreement, I hope,” Earsom said. “We actually have a meeting next week with some of the personnel at the State Department to see what we might be able to work out.”


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