Union Superintendent Kirt Hartzler to retire in June
Superintendent Kirt Hartzler announced today that he will be retiring from Union Public Schools, having served in the role for the last 11 years. His retirement will be effective June 30, 2024.
In a letter to Union employees, he said, “Over the past 37 years, I have had the opportunity to live out a professional dream as a member of the Union family. I have been blessed to work with incredible teachers, coaches, staff, administrators, and board members who allowed us to be innovative and transformative in our continuous school improvement efforts. The many state and national recognitions we have garnered is indeed a testament to our work, and I know we will continue to build on what we have created.”
In May 2023, Hartzler was named OASA Oklahoma State Superintendent of the Year by the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators (OASA) and was recognized this month at the national AASA School Superintendents Association conference in San Diego.
Under Dr. Hartzler’s guidance, Union Public Schools has led the district in the pursuit of excellence, resulting in some notable achievements, including:
Union High School math teacher Rebecka Peterson being named 2023 National Teacher of the Year in April 2023. (In 2022, she served as Oklahoma’s State Teacher of the Year).
Being recognized by writer David Kirp in the New York Times as a district that “shows what can be achieved when a public school system takes the time to invest in a culture of high expectations, recruit top-flight professionals, and develop ties between schools and the community.” [Who Needs Charters When You Have Public Schools Like These?, April 2017] Kirp later featured Union as one of three districts in a book called Disrupting Disruption: The Steady Work of Transforming Schools(Oxford University Press, 2022).
In 2017, piloting one of the first early college high school programs in Oklahoma in partnership with Tulsa Community College, the EDGE (Earn a Degree, Graduate Early) program. EDGE offers high school students the chance to earn an associate degree at no cost while receiving their high school diploma. EDGE focuses on first-generation college-goers and families who qualify based on income. Union’s first cohort of 28 students graduated in May 2021. Union recently welcomed the seventh student cohort into the program.
Expanding Union’s community schools initiative with the opening of Ellen Ochoa Elementary as a Community School Village in 2017. The first of its kind in Oklahoma, Ochoa was designed to be a full-service community school, while also serving the healthcare needs of the northeast Tulsa community. Ochoa Elementary is a $32 million school serving 1,100 students in grades K-5, which has been paired with a $12 million comprehensive medical facility that was funded by a partnership with the City of Tulsa and Community Health Connection. Purposely built in one of the most economically challenged parts of the district, this medical facility offers primary healthcare, dentistry, mental health services, as well as a pharmacy.
Creating Union’s Career Connect program in 2014 to provide high school students with valuable work experience, job shadowing and internship opportunities in areas such as Automotive Technology, Child Development, Manufacturing, Construction, Culinary Arts, Sports and Community Medicine, and Teaching. Over 300 students participate in this program every year.
In 2014, Dr. Hartzler was recognized as a ConnectED Future-Ready Superintendent by the U.S. Department of Education and the White House. District Superintendents that sign the Future Ready District Pledge commit to foster and lead a culture of digital learning in their district and to share what they have learned with other districts.
“Serving as your superintendent for the past 11 years has been an uncommon privilege, and it is something that I will treasure forever,” said Hartzler. “I cannot overstate my gratitude to all the current and former colleagues and board members who have been with us on this journey. I believe we have accomplished remarkable things together in our never-ending mission of ‘100 percent graduation, college and career-ready.’ Our journey to this goal has not been easy, but accomplishing great and worthwhile things never is. Our brightest days are yet to come.”
Hartzler said that he and Union’s Board of Education have been working on a transition for the past two years and “we will be announcing this plan soon. Thank you again for the honor and privilege of serving as superintendent.”
Union Public Schools has been Dr. Hartzler’s home for 34 years, having served as superintendent since 2013. His other roles have included deputy superintendent (2011-2013), where he led the development of the district’s 5-year strategic plan; associate superintendent (2009-2011); assistant superintendent (2003-2009); and director of secondary education (2000-2003). He got his start as a social science instructor and coach at Union in 1986. Outside of a three-year stint at Bixby Public Schools, most of his education career has been at Union. Hartzler has also taught future educators, having served as an adjunct professor at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma’s College of Education.