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Ed Allen, president of the American Federation of Teachers – OKC for 17 years, confirmed his retirement plans last week resulting in the immediate announcement of a new contender for the post. Allen’s term will end May 30.

The teachers union local represents all teachers in Oklahoma City Public Schools, the state’s largest school district.

Allen was a key figure along with the Oklahoma Education Association president Alicia Priest in organizing the Teacher Walkout in 2018 where many public school districts, including OKCPS, agreed to close school and allow teachers to come to the state Capitol Building in Oklahoma City to demand higher pay and more money for classrooms.

teachers union
Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City local of the American Federation of Teachers delivers a fiery speech before thousands on the first day of the Teacher Walkout in 2018. (file photo by Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press)

Torie Shoecraft, a 32-year-old field representative with the union, has already announced her candidacy for the position.

AFT-OKC members may file to run for leadership positions, including president, at the March 12 general membership meeting.

Voting will be held through the U.S. Mail. Ballots will be mailed to members April 9.

Representatives of the campaigns will be allowed to accompany the elections committee to the post office for returned ballots to be picked up April 30 and may observe counting.

The results will be announced later that evening.

Long-term president

In an interview with Free Press Thursday, Allen said that he had been a member of the local for 28 years and president for the last 17 years.

He was elected once under the old two-year term rule. Then, when they changed the bylaws to three-year terms for president he won five more times.

Why is he retiring now?

“I was going to retire three years ago,” said Allen. “And then the district showed an inclination to look into my passion, which is you’ve got to change the culture in this district for this district to turn around.”

So, members and leaders of the local encouraged him to stay on to help develop that culture change under Superintendent Arora Lora who had promoted it. But, Allen said that not long after he decided to stay on it was obvious that there was not going to be a culture change. And then Lora was out.

“I’ve pushed changing culture every day, every week, every month since then but the district is looking at things differently,” Allen said.

He told us that he thinks current Superintendent Sean McDaniel is the “best one we’ve had in my 28 years” and has made good decisions and brought in some “good people.”

“But, they aren’t going to outsmart the dysfunction in this district,” he said.

So, now he’s ready to let a new generation of leaders take on the challenge.

“You know, at some point, you need younger folks to bring their perspective to look at a situation and say, well, here’s how I see it and not the way that someone’s been looking at it for 20 years,” said Allen.

Shoecraft background

teachers union
Torie Shoecraft discusses her run for the President of the AFT-OKC local president with Free Press 2-21-20. (Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press)

Torrie Shoecraft has been a field representative for the local since Fall 2018.

She applied for that position during the Teacher Walkout in April 2018.

Shoecraft’s last classroom duties before joining the union staff were at Nichols Hills Elementary for seven years in Pre-K and Kindergarten.

She was a worksite leader for the union there and served on the board of AFT-OKC before being hired to work as a field rep.

Gains in membership

The local saw gains in membership during the walkout in 2018 and every fall during the sign-up period after, Shoecraft said.

She said one of the challenges for the future is to take that membership that has been strengthened in numbers and get them more active.

“I want to get them active,” she said. “I want to inspire them to be activists. And yeah, we can do a lot.”

With the strengthened membership numbers she believes the union can have a stronger bargaining position and push for the district to use better time management for its teachers.

teacher walkout
The third day of the Teacher Walkout teachers, administrators and supporters fill the second floor of the Oklahoma Capitol. (file photo by Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press)

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