CareerTech State Director History
James B. Perky
June 6, 1941 – 1967
The late J.B. Perky worked 44 years in vocational education. During this time, he was a vocational agriculture teacher, district supervisor, state supervisor, state adviser of the Future Farmers of America and state director.
Perky was born in Cleburne, Texas, in 1901. He began his career in vocational education in 1923 as a vocational agriculture instructor in El Reno. In 1941, Perky was appointed state director.
In 1961, he was appointed to President John F. Kennedy’s Panel of Consultants on Vocational Education to review and evaluate vocational education. That work led to the Vocational Education Act of 1963, which greatly increased appropriations.
Perky was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1962. He retired as state director in 1967 and died in 1970.
Perky was inducted to the CareerTech Hall of Fame in 1990.
Dr. Francis Tuttle
1967 – Dec. 31, 1985
The late Francis Tuttle was director of Oklahoma's State Department of Career and Technology Education for almost two decades. He pioneered the way for career and technical education nationwide.
Prior to coming to CareerTech, Tuttle taught vocational agriculture and served as superintendent of schools at Gotebo, Muskogee and Holdenville.
Following his retirement from ODCTE, the governor appointed him director of the Oklahoma Department of Economic Development. He subsequently was appointed secretary of commerce when his agency merged into the Department of Commerce.
Tuttle’s service to education includes consultations for Sweden, Thailand, the Soviet Union and China. He also served as president of the American Vocational Association.
He was one of the first three inductees into the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame and received the Henry G. Bennett Distinguished Service Award in 1992.
Tuttle was inducted into the CareerTech Hall of Fame in 1990.
Tuttle's time as state director included several firsts:
- In his first act as state director (and five years before any federal law required it), he ordered that salaries be equalized at all levels without regard to gender.
- By a legislative act made effective on July 1, 1968, governance of vocational education transferred from the State Board of Education to the newly established State Board for Vocational and Technical Education. The same statute also established the State Department of Vocational-Technical Education as an independent executive agency.
- The first Skills Centers offered vocational training classes to inmates under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Corrections.
Dr. Roy Peters Jr.
Jan. 1, 1986 – Feb. 10, 1999
Roy Peters was born June 3, 1942, the son of lifelong educators Mr. and Mrs. Roy Peters Sr. After graduation from Alex High School, Peters attended the University of Oklahoma, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business education. He later earned a master's degree in technical education and a doctorate in occupational and adult education from Oklahoma State University.
Peters' contributions to career and technology education began in 1964 at U.S. Grant High School, where he taught and was a coordinator of distributive education and business education. He sponsored DECA and FBLA at the school until leaving in 1971. From 1970 to 1972, Peters taught cooperative vocational education at the University of Central Oklahoma for prospective teachers and administrators around Oklahoma.
From 1971 to 1973, Peters served as adult education specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Vocational and Technical Education (now CareerTech). He was responsible for planning, organizing and conducting specialized adult education programs. Peters served as assistant superintendent for instruction at Moore Norman Area Vocational-Technical School from 1973 to 1979 and as superintendent of Canadian Valley Area Vocational Technical School from 1979 to 1984.
Peters continued to climb the career and technology education ladder, serving as associate state director at the state department from 1984 to 1985 and finally taking over as state director in January 1986. In his first year as state director, he oversaw the development of 21 bid assistance centers, which help Oklahoma companies collect $200 million in federal government contracts. During his tenure, the Oklahoma Department of Vocational and Technical Education became the ninth largest state agency and served 300,000 students a year.
By the end of Peters' term in February 1999, 1,200 comprehensive high school programs were operating in more than 500 comprehensive high schools in Oklahoma. The system also had 54 technology center campuses.
After leaving the state agency, Peters served as president and chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Alliance for Manufacturing Excellence, a position he held until retirement. He has also stayed involved with the CareerTech System by leading the effort to raise money for the Francis Tuttle Endowed Chair at OSU and serves as chairman of the CareerTech Foundation.
Peters was inducted into the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame in 2012. He was inducted to the CareerTech Hall of Fame in 2001.
Dr. Ann Benson
Feb. 11, 1999 – Dec. 31, 2002
Ann Benson launched her career by teaching home economics in her hometown of Coyle. She served as curriculum specialist and assistant state director of ODCTE before being appointed state director in 1999. She led the initiative for basic skills integration in CareerTech courses to strengthen academic performance.
In her first year as state director, she championed the system’s name change from vocational education to career and technology education to more accurately reflect how career and technology education is delivered. Gov. Frank Keating signed House Bill 2128 on May 19, 2000, renaming the Oklahoma Department of Vocational and Technical Education as the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. The governing board was similarly renamed the State Board of Career and Technology Education. Not needing statutory permission, all area vo-tech schools already have substituted the term technology center in their names.
Benson was inducted into the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame in 2003 and the CareerTech Hall of Fame in 2005.
ODCTE also received a $2.2 million grant to manage the national career clusters initiative during Benson's tenure.
Pete J. Buswell
Jan. 13, 2003 – May 21, 2003
Pete Buswell was a businessman from Boston, Mass., who developed global training programs for companies such as IBM, Drake International and Data General before being named director of ODCTE.
Buswell received his master's degree in training and development from Lesley College in Cambridge, Mass. He earned a bachelor's degree in education from Northeastern University.
Dr. Phil Berkenbile
Jan. 7, 2004 – Feb. 7, 2013
Phil Berkenbile began his career in Oklahoma as an agricultural education instructor for Morrison Public Schools and later became the superintendent of schools in Morrison. He served in various positions at ODCTE, including agricultural education northwest district supervisor and curriculum specialist, agricultural education assistant state supervisor, associate state director for education services and chief of staff.
He served on several boards and task forces, including chairman of the Governor’s Taskforce on Healthcare and chairman of the Oklahoma Education Technology Trust Foundation. He received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in agricultural education from Oklahoma State University, and in 2006, he received the OSU Graduate of Distinction Award in Agricultural Education.
He has held several national positions including president of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium. Berkenbile assumed this role at a pivotal time, as national and state leaders in education, including those at NASDCTEc, implemented a range of strategies to prepare students to compete in the global economy.
Berkenbile received the prestigious 2012 VIP Award from the Oklahoma FFA Association and the 2010 VIP Citation from the National FFA Organization. The VIP Citation is one of the most prestigious awards a person may receive for supporting FFA and its programs.
During Berkenbile's tenure as state director, ODCTE embraced the National Career Clusters initiative to help students create a strong pathway to careers and created science, technology, engineering and mathematics academies, including those for pre-engineering and biomedical studies, as well as offerings in biotechnology.
Dr. Robert Sommers
March 29, 2013 – Present
On April 1, 2013, Robert Sommers became the seventh state director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. In July 2013, Gov. Mary Fallin also named Sommers the secretary of education and workforce development.
Sommers previously served as CEO and managing member of Carpe Diem Learning Systems, an organization created to replicate the high-performing, cost-effective Carpe Diem personalized blended learning model.
For nine years, Sommers served as CEO and superintendent of an Ohio career-technical district, Butler Technology and Career Development Schools, in Hamilton, Ohio. Under his leadership, the district doubled in size, became the highest performing career-technical district in Ohio and became known for creative educational programs, including blended learning schools. The district served more than 26,000 high school through adult students and provided customized training to companies.
For 15 years, Sommers served in several capacities with the Ohio Department of Education. He served as an agricultural supervisor, state FFA adviser, assistant director of program evaluation services and associate director for career-technical education.
Sommers’ teaching experience includes agricultural education in London, Ohio.
Sommers served as Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s education policy adviser, covering elementary through university education policy. During his tenure, Ohio implemented reforms for increased school performance transparency, teacher evaluation, school choice, digital education options and failing school transformation.
While in Detroit, he served as CEO of Cornerstone Charter Schools, where he designed the Cornerstone Health High School, a blended learning school that opened in fall 2012.
Sommers earned a doctorate in educational administration and leadership from The Ohio State University, Columbus, where he also completed his master’s degree in agricultural education. He earned a bachelor of science degree in education at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, and has received several education and business awards in Ohio. He has also served in leadership positions in numerous state and national organizations, including chairman of the Performance Taskforce for the National Association of Career and Technical Education.