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Thorough Article on the State Superintendent

August 19, 2013

I encourage people who read this blog to take a few minutes to read yesterday’s piece on Superintendent Barresi in the Tulsa World. I feel Andrea Eger is always thorough and balanced in her coverage of education issues. Apparently, not everybody feels the World gives them a fair shake, though:

Barresi declined to be interviewed for this story. Her spokeswoman at the Oklahoma State Department of Education said she is unhappy with the coverage she has received in the Tulsa World.

“We appreciate the offer. I just don’t think we want to do that at this juncture,” said Sherry Fair.

It’s no secret that much of the loudest criticism of Barresi has come from the Tulsa area. Nor is it a secret that her campaign staff has personal ties to the Oklahoman’s editorial staff.

Eger interviewed a wide range of sources for her article. Nobody – not even her supporters – was completely positive about Barresi’s tenure thus far. To me the most revealing comments were those of Rep. Lee Denney, a Republican like Barresi:

State Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, works regularly with Barresi on budget requests for common education and was a co-author of legislation based on one of Barresi’s campaign platform issues – replacing old school accountability scores with annual report cards with an A-F letter grade for every school in the state.

An intense fight over the method for calculating those grades dominated news headlines throughout the fall of 2012. Eventually, the bill’s co-authors, Denney and Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, got involved to legislate changes to those grade calculations.

At a time when improvement in Oklahoma’s public schools is badly needed, educators have been disenfranchised, Denney said.

“I’ve worked with her just fine because I’ve been brought to the table. I think she’s got some good ideas, but she’s trying to implement change too fast. Also, when you try to ram the battleship for change and you don’t try to bring people along with you, you have problems,” Denney said. “Certainly, she has demonstrated her style of leading is this way because this is how she has led for three years.”

Those last few words – because this is how she has led for three years ­– provide the best overview of Barresi. She promised to make the SDE a service agency rather than a regulatory one. However, during the last three years, she has been ramming new rules into public schools and bypassing legislative authority and the rule-making process to do so. Members of her own party who agree for the most part with her agenda have grown weary of her methods. The interesting part is that they’re not afraid to say so.

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