EDMOND — Ramona Paul, a longtime state education official best known for her work in developing the state's early childhood program, died Sunday night. She was 76.
Paul suffered a stroke in Idaho while visiting her brother and died in a hospital in Idaho Falls.
She played a key role in making Oklahoma's early childhood education program the best in the nation, based on the number of children served and the quality of its programs, former state schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett said.
“Early childhood was her major passion,” Garrett said. “We worked together with the Legislature to accomplish something that no other state even knew about at the time.”
Drawing from her experience as an educator, Paul developed the state's prekindergarten curriculum in the early 1980s.
She served as assistant state schools superintendent from 1991 until her retirement in 2011.
Garrett said Paul loved being in the classroom, interacting with teachers and students.
“I tell people that I spent 13 years living with 6-year-olds as a first-grade teacher, and she spent 30 years working in early childhood, which takes a type of person who can share the kids' creativity and sense of wonderment,” Garrett said.
Paul's passion for early childhood education spanned a lifetime.
Paul grew up in a household dedicated to child development research. Her parents both worked at Oklahoma State University. Her mother, Girdie Ware, was a teacher and researcher in the university's child development department.
During her tenure with the state, Paul gained a reputation as a dauntless worker.
“She was tireless, bubbly and always on time,” Garrett said. “I haven't seen that kind of energy in a leader in years.”
In addition to her involvement in the state department, Paul worked as an administrator in Edmond Public Schools and in human resources in Oklahoma City Public Schools from 1988 to 1991.
She served on faculty at a number of universities, including Oklahoma State University, University of Oklahoma, Texas Woman's University and East Central University.
Paul was named Oklahoman of the Year by Oklahoma Today magazine in 2009. She was the first educator and state employee chosen for the award.
She was a member of the 1992 class of Leadership Oklahoma, an organization dedicated to recognizing proactive leaders in the state.
But those in education will most remember Paul for her lasting contributions in the classroom.
“She had a dedication to early childhood and always has, but I think she will have an even greater legacy in that fact that she was just a darn good educator,” Garrett said.
Paul is survived by her husband, Homer Paul, of Edmond, and three sons.