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Question Everything

September 25, 2012

In case it hasn’t become just perfectly clear, there’s a lot of frustration in schools and beyond about the manner in which the SDE has been conducting their business. We’ve reached the point now where everybody in the Education Establishment looks askance at the True Believers and vice versa. Everybody is working for the children, or nobody is. It depends who you ask. And what day you ask it.

Two articles today – one in the Tulsa World, and another in the Oklahoman – typify this problem. In short, school districts are fed up with the lack of straight and consistent answers that a service agency should be giving them. While captains are being forced from the ship (or jumping off voluntarily) at the SDE, somebody continues steering the ship directly into the iceberg.

In all matters education reform, the SDE continues to expect the public to accept the unacceptable. A commenter on the Tulsa World article points out that when questioned:

Damon Gardenhire’s response is typically combative. The discussion here IS about the process, not the rules, and should not be dismissed. Barresi’s office never misses an opportunity to take an antagonistic posture toward local districts.

Combative is one word; maybe evasive is a better one. Here were Gardenhire’s comments:

That’s actually in the rules that were approved by the state board and the Legislature last spring. We can have disagreements, but there’s another discussion about the process, and I would like to keep them separate. The Legislature passed the law; the board passed the rules; and the governor signed those rules. 

Do you notice how Gardenhire completely abdicates responsibility for the A-F rules? The Board and Legislature approved the rules, and the governor signed them. Who wrote them, Damon? Keebler elves? Is that why they’re so tasty?

Teachers and administrators are mad. School boards and legislators want answers. Nobody is buying what the SDE is selling anymore, and it’s causing quite the tone at meetings across Oklahoma. Wherever an SDE official goes to meet with professional educators, the tone quickly turns caustic. Even last week’s leadership summit between Barresi and school superintendents turned into something other than what they signed up for.

They’ve brought this on themselves. They have earned no benefit of the doubt. The fury and outrage will continue until they begin to operate with a modicum of understanding of what it’s like to work in public education. At this point, the Education Establishment is right to question everything: accountability reports, budgets, new interpretations of federal guidelines, and the integrity of those remaining at the SDE.

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  1. Teacher's Husband
    September 26, 2012 at 8:36 am

    “Even last week’s leadership summit between Barresi and school superintendents turned into something other than what they signed up for.” It would make an interesting article to see your perspective on what did occur there.

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    • September 26, 2012 at 9:00 am

      Something tells me that could be arranged 🙂

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    • September 26, 2012 at 10:33 am

      I’d like to know who the names and districts of the “superintendent leaders” who were invited to this “summit”. I know Dr. Burden of Union was not. (who would make an excellent next state superintendent)

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      • Teacher's Husband
        September 26, 2012 at 11:25 am

        I wondered the same when it occurred. I could not find a list anywhere on the web. Neither of the Supt that I know were there.

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