Home > Uncategorized > To Everything, Churn, Churn, Churn

To Everything, Churn, Churn, Churn

September 23, 2012

Let’s go back in time to January 27, 2011. The State Board of Education was meeting with a new state superintendent for the first time in 20 years. Several key positions needed to be filled on the new staff. Superintendent Barresi had submitted her slate for board approval, and was expecting a fairly smooth ride. Among the positions to be filled were:

  • Jennifer Carter – Chief of Staff
  • Damon Gardenhire – Communications Director
  • Jill Geiger – Director of Finance
  • Jessica Russell – Legislative Liaison

With Gardenhire’s announced departure late last week, all of these people – in addition to early hires Lisa Endres (General Counsel) and Chris Caram (Deputy State Superintendent) – are now gone. Some chose to leave; others did not.

Think about that: these were maybe the six top people Barresi hired at the beginning of her administration. This is in addition to the staff that remained in place following the transition and then left. Barresi’s top key staff didn’t even make it to the midpoint of her term in office.

We have seen bungling of every initiative that the new, transparent, service-oriented Oklahoma State Department of Education has undertaken. School districts have always had to deal with bureaucracy at the SDE, but rarely anything on par with the inconsistency of the last 20 months. Maybe the constant churn of key professional positions is one of the reasons.

And maybe – just maybe – this is something of a lesson about the wisdom of filling key leadership positions with political operatives rather than well-versed professionals who are familiar with what it takes to educate the public. Some of the hires were simply outmatched. Others were consistently arrogant to the public they ostensibly served. As a group, they took their lead from Barresi and treated the Education Establishment like dirt (or dirtbags, more specifically).

Maybe this will be something of a turning point. Barresi met Friday with a group of superintendents nominated by their peers. And there seems to be a modicum of caution at the SDE with all things accountability right now. Maybe the replacements to these early hires will be a little less political and a little more professional.

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  1. September 27, 2012 at 6:37 pm
  2. September 30, 2012 at 1:02 pm
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