Paul Hurst was employed by the Tahlequah Board of Education to serve as superintendent of schools in January 2001. His wife, Nikki, began service as a TPS classroom teacher in August 2001. The couple left Tahlequah in June 2008, and currently live in Oklahoma City.
"Though having been tempted to reenter the workforce, I am blissfully retired," said Hurst, who spent 37 years in the public education sector.
Born in North Texas, his family moved to Midwest City, Oklahoma, in 1955.
From 1968-1972, Hurst attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and earned his Bachelor of Arts in human development. In 1973, he attended the University of Oklahoma and concentrated on special education.
For two years, Hurst served as a special education teacher and a coach at Del Crest Junior High School, and then he was in those positions at Del City High School for five years.
His Master of Education in secondary education was earned in 1982 at Central State University in Edmond.
In 1983, Hurst made a move to administrative duties when he became the assistant principal at Monroney Junior High in Midwest City. After three years, he became principal at Kerr Junior High School in Del City. Staying in the Del City and Midwest City area, Hurst served as director of secondary instruction, 1990-1994, and then assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, 1994-2000.
In 1996, Hurst earned his superintendent certification from Oklahoma State University.
During his seven years as superintendent of TPS, Hurst was named the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators District 11 Administrator of the Year in 2004 and 2007. He was the Oklahoma Administrator of the Year in 2007, and the following year he was inducted into the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame.
He said his memories of Tahlequah are many and varied.
"We reflect fondly on every piece of our lives there, but our memories are primarily focused on the enduring relationships established. We treasure these more than can be expressed," said Hurst.
During his time in Cherokee County, Hurst said he established relationships with many people and organizations: teachers and school staff, community and tribal leaders, Northeastern State University leadership and staff, the mayor, city council members, the city and county staffs, other educational leaders, neighbors and friends.
"I must also say that I was blessed with the finest district leadership team and school administrators that could have been assembled," he said. "Equally important were the observations of student success, instrumental and vocal performances, athletic events, collaborative efforts to bring services to kids, homecoming, Red Fern, bond-sales tax efforts, Boys & Girls Club, and all the other wonderful support systems developed for TPS students."
Hurst said he was proud of the TPS capital improvement projects, and the input from patrons was critical in determining the course of those upgrades.
"From the smallest of renovations to the construction of the TMAC [Tahlequah Multipurpose Activity Center], great growth in the physical environment for the kids was realized. The list of projects accomplished during that time frame is significant and a source of pride for the community," said Hurst. "Growth of school support programs was likewise substantial: enhanced Boys & Girls Club services, Literacy Labs and literacy specialists, therapeutic counseling and interventionists, school-based social services, Boot School, Truancy Court, bullying intervention, Reconnecting Youth program, modification of grade configurations and start times."
He said he was witness to improvements to the physical and cultural aspects of the community due to those who led the changes: Tahlequah Main Street Association, Chamber of Commerce, Cherokee Nation, NSU, hospital leadership and others.
"Progress, growth, and expansion continue to occur in the area. With that, the city has a certain charm that I hope is enhanced. The downtown area is precious to the community," said Hurst. "From a service perspective, it is my hope the collective effort of those in the community will continue to support the youth of the area and provide resources both in and out of the school setting. The physical, educational, and moral growth of the kids requires the support and mediation of the citizens of the area."
The Hursts left Tahlequah so he could serve as superintendent for Putnam City Schools in Oklahoma City. Nikki was also employed by PCS.
After seven years, Hurst was named executive director of the Oklahoma Schools Advisory Council in Muskogee. He held the title until June 2015.
Hurst said he tries to visit Tahlequah as often as he can.
"We have so many significant friendships in the area. I still use financial advisory and accounting services in Tahlequah. Until recently, I also continued my dental care there. Of course, my contact and communication with school officials and former colleagues have been ongoing," he said. "I access other media to stay abreast of developments in the schools and in the community."
He continues to stay informed of Tahlequah community and school developments.
"We miss the people, we miss our friends. We miss the feel of the community and the commonality of purpose displayed. We miss this wholesome community whose citizens supported efforts to serve the youth of the area whether they had children in school or not. We miss a very cooperative, personalized environment," said Hurst.
Paul and Nikki are retired. He has one daughter, Rebecca, who is at Duke University; a son, Adam, who is general manager of Hal Smith Restaurant Group; and eight grandchildren.
A favorite activity for Hurst is spending time with family and friends.
"Whatever I can do to assist my family is my primary interest," he said. "Recreationally, I love to go to the gym and the golf course. I also enjoy cooking and sharing good food and good drink."