As expected, Oklahoma City School Board members voted unanimously Monday to appoint state Commerce Secretary Dave Lopez as interim superintendent of the district.
The Oklahoman reported last week that Lopez, 62, of Oklahoma City, a former telephone company executive, would be picked to succeed outgoing Superintendent Karl Springer on a temporary basis.
“Together with God's help, with the help of the entire community, I think that we can together really make a positive difference for our 45,000 students in the Oklahoma City district,” Lopez told supporters. “All of us see the great ascendancy of Oklahoma City in the last decade or two, but for us to be able to sustain that … we can only do that if the next generation's ready to carry that baton forward.”
Springer's last day is Friday. Board members have selected an Illinois-based search firm to help them find a permanent replacement, which could take up to a year.
Board Chairman Lynne Hardin said Lopez is a trusted member of the community who “meets the needs of all the people that we serve.”
“He understands what we're going through in the Oklahoma City Public School district,” Hardin said. “He has the ability to create systems that will be beneficial for this district and I believe can set a tone for years to come.”
Lopez, who has an extensive business background, will be paid $160,000. He said he is not interested in leading the district on a permanent basis, adding that he plans to retire after the district hires Springer's permanent successor.
“I made it clear that I did not want to be a permanent candidate,” he said. “At this time next year I hope to finally start messing up my wife's lunch schedule.”
Lopez is making $70,000 as Gov. Mary Fallin's secretary of commerce. He previously resigned as executive director of the commerce department, for which he was paid $112,000.
His resignation is effective Friday.
Fallin applauded the appointment and said she is sad to see Lopez leave his cabinet post.
“Dave Lopez is a successful businessman who understands the skills our children need to succeed in the workforce,” Fallin said in a news release. “He's also a proven and capable leader who understands how to manage a budget and a large number of people.”
Lopez, a longtime civic and community leader, is the former president of SBC Communications — now AT&T — in Oklahoma and Texas. He also served as president of the American Fidelity Foundation, a charitable organization that gives grants for economic development, education, human services and the arts.
Before joining the foundation, he served as president of Downtown Oklahoma City Inc.