Edwyna Synar, Ed.D., Muskogee

In 2014, Rafe Watkins accepted the head coaching position at Muskogee High School. He came with impressive credentials from Guthrie – 12 trips to the playoffs and four state championships as well as three unbeaten seasons. Last week, Watkins, athletic director Jason Parker, and superintendent Jarod Mendenhall decided the Watkins era at MHS was over.

Being a high school coach in Oklahoma can have many challenges but nothing greater than the COVID-19 virus that severely hampered athletics and education this year. The departure of Coach Watkins also results in the departure of one of the best administrators I have had the privilege to work with – his wife Karen.

I met Karen Watkins in 2017 when she was principal of Pershing Elementary. I was a facilitator with the Indian National Council of Boy Scouts. I taught a character education program called Learning for Life to kindergarten and first-grade students at Pershing, Irving, and Whittier.

There were some additional challenges in Muskogee Public Schools that year because Harris-Jobe Elementary had closed, and some of the staff were now teaching at Pershing. To put it mildly, it was not the most ideal situation and there were some tensions at Pershing among staff that year. As I entered the building each week for my lessons, Karen was always professional and treated me with respect.

In 2019, Muskogee Public Schools revised their schools and added the 6th Grade Center at Grant Foreman. I was not really sure that I wanted to subject my child, who had already attended Ben Franklin Science Academy and Tony Goetz Elementary, to another school environment. When it was announced that Ms. Watkins was moving from Pershing to Grant Foreman, I felt she had the leadership and communication skills necessary to guide this new school.

I appreciated Ms. Watkins’ leadership in the success of Grant Foreman. It was not an easy year, but she showed why she has been one of the top administrators in our district. Muskogee will miss her leadership and compassion for the students of Muskogee. I wish the Watkins success in the future.

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