Student Support Newsletter

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Student Support

In this issue:

An Introduction to Our Team

Happy 2021! We wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to the new members of the Student Support team at the Oklahoma State Department of Education as well as give you an opportunity to revisit our existing staff.  Our office offers a wide variety of expertise, training and technical assistance in multiple areas. Hopefully, you will take the time to read the brief biographies of each of our team members and will find a way in which they can assist your district and schools. If you would like to request a professional learning session from one of our team members, please fill out the form found here and we will reach out to schedule something with you. 
Link to PD sign up: Request Form


Shelly Ellis PHD

Dr. Shelly Ellis

Deputy Superintendent of Student Support

Shelly Ellis’s diverse educational career provides her a wide perspective of the education profession. Experiences include middle school principal, middle school assistant principal and high school counselor for Norman Public Schools. Dr. Ellis also taught middle school science at Lone Grove Public Schools and high school science in the McLoud district. In addition, she also worked for the K20 Center, University of Oklahoma, as the Parent and Community Specialist for the GEAR UP for SUCCESS grant. In this capacity, Ellis traveled around the state working with counselors, principals, superintendents and families. Prior to her Deputy Superintendent role, she served the Oklahoma State Department of Education as the Executive Director of School Support and Improvement and the Executive Director of Counseling. Shelly earned her PhD in Educational Administration, Curriculum and Supervision from the University of Oklahoma, her MEd in School Counseling and BS degree in Biology from East Central University. Dr. Ellis enjoys working with schools on Multi -Tiered Systems of Support, comprehensive school counseling programs, ICAP, college & career readiness and trauma informed schools, just to name a few. Her favorite days of the year are those spent helping schools in any way they need. You can reach Shelly at

Beth Whittle M.Ed., LPC

Beth Whittle

Executive Director of Counseling and School-Based Mental Health Integration, Stop Violence Grant Project Director

Beth is the Executive Director of Counseling and School-Based Mental Health Integration at OSDE. She is also the Project Director of two Department of Justice grants (one providing OSDE and districts across the state with a crisis response team and the other a Bullying Prevention Specialist). Beth also helps advise the work of the Project AWARE grant as previous to her current position she served as the Project AWARE Program Manager. As the Executive Director of Counseling, Beth oversees the efforts of OSDE in relation to increasing school based mental health supports for students. She also informs Social Emotional Learning efforts of schools in Oklahoma. Previous to her work at OSDE, Beth was a high school and middle school counselor. Beth's areas of expertise include bereavement and mental health counseling as well as crisis response and comprehensive guidance and counseling programs. Beth was a previously nominated OSCA School Counselor of the Year finalist and is currently working with veteran counselors throughout the state on a new Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Model for Oklahoma as well as a Comprehensive School Based Mental Health Plan for Oklahoma. Reach out to Beth by email for supports regarding crisis intervention and postvention, comprehensive school based mental health programming, SEL evidence based practices and resources, trauma training and/or comprehensive guidance and counseling program planning at

Elizabeth Suddath MPH

Elizabeth Suddath

Executive Director of Prevention, School Climate Grant Project Director 

Elizabeth is the Executive Director of Prevention Services & School Climate Transformation Grant Project Director at the Oklahoma State Department of Education, where she oversees programs to prevent dating violence, sexual violence, bullying, substance abuse, and suicide in Oklahoma schools. Elizabeth is also the Project Director of the U.S. Department of Education’s School Climate Transformation grant. The School Climate Transformation Grant (OKTransform) has a team of School Climate Specialists across the state who provide schools training on the implementation of positive behavior systems and prevention programs. Previously, in other positions, Elizabeth worked directly with youth providing behavior restoration practices, health promotion, and violence prevention programs. Reach out to Elizabeth by email at for supports or resources regarding trauma-informed schools, positive behavior intervention supports, and/or prevention programming.

Petra Woodard M.Ed.

Petra Woodard

Executive Director of Academic Counseling and Alternative Education

Petra is the Executive Director of Academic Counseling and Alternative Education for the Oklahoma State Department of Education—a new position within the Office of Student Support created to work alongside other state education agencies in serving the academic needs of secondary schools across the state.  Prior to assuming her current role, she served as a high school principal, counselor, and teacher working with students, staff and parents to accomplish the mission of preparing all students academically and socially for lifelong learning and achievement.  As Executive Director of Academic Counseling, she serves as a collaborative resource for Counselors, Administrators and Superintendents helping students persist towards high school graduation.  Her areas of expertise include state reporting, transcript guidance, college/career transition planning, and master scheduling.  Petra also supervises the Alternative Education Department and brings a wealth of knowledge to this role as well, having begun her teaching experience in the alternative education setting and continued work with alternative programs as a Counselor and Principal.  This year marks her 27th year in public education. You can reach Petra at

Marissa Lightsey MSHR

Marissa Lightsey

Executive Director of Career and College Readiness

Marissa Lightsey is the Executive Director of College and Career Readiness and manages ICAP Implementation, Post – Secondary Partnerships, and college and career readiness strategies. Marissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Communications from Oklahoma Baptist University in 2010 and later earned a Master of Science in Human Resources from East Central University in  2014. Passionate about the well-being of Oklahoma youth, Marissa began her professional career as the communications associate for the Oklahoma Institute for  Child Advocacy where she shared the message of Oklahoma youth advocates statewide. She later served as the upward bound advisor for Seminole  State College’s TRiO program as well as an advisor for Seminole  State Colleges GEAR UP program where she provided career and college advising to over 700 students. Most recently Marissa joined the OSDE team from Oklahoma Baptist University where she  served as the Director of Career Development for four years. You can reach Marissa at