Dr. Rick Cobb
2019 Medal for Excellence in Elementary/Secondary Administration
The winner of the Medal for Excellence in Elementary/Secondary Administration is Dr. Rick Cobb, superintendent of Mid-Del Public Schools since 2015. From his leadership of the passage of a recent $130.6 million bond issue to implementing districtwide trauma-informed instruction, Cobb was praised for his servant leadership style and his inclusion of all voices in district policy-making, especially student voices.
When Cobb began planning for a much-needed bond issue, he reached out to students first. Their ideas for improved public spaces – auditoriums, stadiums, field houses – as well as the need for improved technology, school safety and instructional materials formed the framework for what would become the largest bond issue in the history of the school district. Cobb sought input from teachers, parents and community organizations in the planning process and rallied 75 percent of voters to approve the “One District, One Family, One Bond” campaign.
“Students are actively involved in the strategic planning for the district, just as Dr. Cobb is actively involved in their lives,” said Jami Rhoades Antonisse, president of the Mid-Del Public Schools Foundation. “His ‘office’ is wherever the kids are, and they are always welcome to snap a selfie with him or text him a question. Mid-Del students clearly see Dr. Cobb as an approachable, caring administrator and not just a ‘suit’ in the admin office.”
Antonisse said the best example of Cobb’s commitment to putting students first is Mid-Del’s adoption of trauma-informed instruction, which trains staff to recognize trauma and help students build resilience. More than 70 percent of the district’s 14,600 students qualify for free and reduced lunch, and 13 percent are homeless. “School personnel are encouraged to look beyond a ‘discipline problem’ and see a child who is suffering,” Antonisse said. “By his example, Dr. Cobb leads the response. Perhaps the best measure of Mid-Del’s focus on the whole child was when one of our homeless students graduated as valedictorian. Dr. Cobb was there, leading the applause.”
Cobb was also praised for his support of teachers and communication efforts with families during the Oklahoma Teacher Walk Out. His blog, OKeducationtruths, which discusses issues impacting public education, has nearly 7,000 followers. Cobb’s advocacy efforts on behalf of public schools have earned him the Powerful VOICE Award from VOICE OKC and the Oklahoma Education Association’s Friend of Education Award.