Letter From Superintendent Barresi to Moore Schools Employees
I’ll let this email forwarded by a reader speak for itself:
Dear Moore Public Schools Employee:
As you know, we’ve passed the one-month mark since the May 20 tornado ravished Moore and southeast Oklahoma City. I know that you have been working hard, focusing on recovering, rebuilding or helping others to do so. It is important for me to communicate directly with you to let you know Moore Public Schools is and has constantly been in my heart and prayers as well as those of the entire staff at the State Department of Education. I also want to update you on what the SDE has done to help your district and what plans are ahead to help further.As you know, we’ve passed the one month mark since the May 20 tornado ravished Moore and southeast Oklahoma City. I hope this letter finds you well as many of you are recovering, rebuilding or helping others to do so. It is important for me to communicate directly with you to let you know Moore Public Schools is still in my heart and prayers as well as those of the entire staff at the State Department of Education. I also want to update you on what the SDE has done to help your district and what plans are ahead to help further.
Just days after the tragedy, the State Board of Education unanimously voted to waive the remainder of the district’s instructional days as well as end-of-year deadlines for state required reports. This was done to help the administration focus on recovery in the aftermath of the tornado. In the days that followed, I announced that our teacher certification department would waive the usual fees for duplicate certified personnel certificates for any teachers or support staff who lost their certificates in the tornado or the storms that followed. I’m pleased to say that some teachers have already taken advantage of this offer. If you are in need of a new certificate, please call 521-3337. The fee is waived until May 2014.
I want to address reports claiming I refused to release the district’s state aid a month early so the district would be able to cover up-front costs for recovery before the start of the new school year. I want you to know that I am personally committed to helping Moore Public Schools in any way I can, but it is simply not possible for me to grant this request. It is against state law (Title 62. Public Finance, Chapter 1, Section 34.46) for the State Department of Education to release money to school districts before August and those funds must be distributed on an 11-month basis. I regret that I was not able to grant this request made by your incoming Superintendent Robert Romines, but I have to abide by the law.
After being met with that red tape, I looked aggressively for other options. One option included using the Emergency Cash Management System that has been set up to help schools with cash flow problems. Private lending companies extend these loans and they come with fees and interest as is associated with any loan. Neither I nor the state has the ability to waive these fees and interest. Your administration did not want to incur the extra cost that comes with these loans so they declined this offer. I fully support and understand that decision.
Continuing on our pursuit, I reached out to the director of the state’s Office of Emergency Management, Albert Ashwood, to inquire about what could be done to help your school district. He assured me he would work to take care of every affected school district that had any needs arising from the tornadoes or storms. I encouraged Mr. Romines to contact the Mr. Ashwood.
The Commissioners of the Land Office, of which I am a member, provides monthly distributions to school districts. I found out today that Moore Public Schools will be receiving $518,810 this month. That is almost $400,000 more than you received last year in the month of June.
As we move closer to the first day of school, I continue to work with my staff at the SDE to make sure the new school year starts well. Mr. Romines has asked me to send a letter to all district superintendents asking them to cooperate, not just with Moore Public Schools, but all school districts that have families requesting emergency student transfers for their children. This is so their children may attend school at their home schools while their families rebuild. I will be sending this message out later this week. It is very important for students whose families have had to move out of their home district while rebuilding to attend school with their friends and teachers in the fall so they can all support each other during what maywill be a difficult year.
When I spoke with you at the district meeting held shortly after the tornado, I promised to help meet the classroom needs of those who lost so much to the tornado so they would have what they need as teachers, administrators and support personnel on the first day of school., and I stand by that promise. Many caring and generous individuals, businesses and organizations have donated school supplies to you already, but I know there may be additional needs. I have directed my staff to create a process where school staff can send a “wish list” to the SDE for what they need. We’ll post those needs on our website for the public to review and make donations. The SDE staff will deliver those supplies before the start of school. You will be hearing more about this project we call “Project Meet the Need” in the near future.
Lastly, I wanted to share with you my goals for Moore Public Schools as they relate to you:
The district should not be forced to spend General Fund (Classroom) dollars on response to the tornado and storms,
My intent is for teachers to have what they need for the classroom to begin the school year, and
For the 2013-14 school year to begin in the most positive way possible.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to address you directly. Please know that you can always contact me by phone at (405) 521-3301 or email at email@example.com. It is an honor to serve as your state superintendent.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction