Home > Uncategorized > How the REAC3H Coaches Heard the News

How the REAC3H Coaches Heard the News

June 11, 2014

A few hours after I posted Reason #11 last night, a reader forwarded to me a copy of the letter each REAC3H coach received in May, letting them know their jobs were being eliminated. I never liked the DJ who talked over the song, so I’ll post the letter below and then add a few words.

From: Teri Brecheen

Subject: Supt. Barresi

May 27, 2014

Dear REACH Coaches:

I am writing this letter to you with a heavy heart. When I spoke with you earlier this year, I told you that the REACH Coach program would be fully funded for the next fiscal year. At the time we met and I shared this information with you, I had been told that my Activity Fund Budget would be fully funded without any increase. Little did I know that funding for your program would be zeroed out and the money applied to other areas within the Activity Budget. The disappointment and sadness I feel as a result of this decision is palpable. I am truly disappointed because you and your wonderful work became the victim of politics. There are those in and around the state who oppose our work grossly, and they mischaracterized your mission. I am saddened because I wanted to see the remarkable work you are doing continue.

As much as I do not want to say this, I must release you from your duties for the next school term. Funding for your program ends with the end of the fiscal year. The contract between you and your districts will expire at that time. Whether you decide to go back to the classroom or take leadership positions within schools, the children at those schools as well as the teachers will be the lucky ones. Needless to say, if you need letters of recommendation, all you need to do is ask.

Teri and I have been hard at work trying to plan for the future. Essentially, we are trying to make lemonade out of lemons. Although the Legislature eliminated the $5 million REACH Coach line item in the budget, the Department did receive some additional funding for RSA implementation. We are working hard to develop a plan focused on using this additional funding to provide targeted services to the districts most in need. One of the options we are considering is to utilize individuals (former REACH Coaches) in a full-time capacity to focus on low performing districts that have a high number of students who scored unsatisfactory and limited knowledge within certain subgroups. We are also considering making professional development a focus of this plan, offering professional development to schools on weekends, after school, and in the summer, regionally throughout the state.

As we finalize this plan, we will be in touch regarding future opportunities within the Department. Obviously, if we move forward in this direction, all applicants for these positions will go through the normal hiring procedures established by Department policy. Certainly, the training you have received as a REACH Coach would serve you well in this capacity, and I hope this is a position some of you will consider once the plan has been finalized.

I know this is hard for you, and I want you to know how proud I am of each and every one of you. You are a blessing to teachers and children in Oklahoma. I do not know what God has in store for Oklahoma education, but I remain committed to follow His path and to only work for the good of His will. I will continue to pray for you and to offer thanksgiving for the opportunity to work with you.

God bless you,

Janet

The first paragraph is self-serving drivel. Barresi asked for funding increases to several line items of the Activities Budget in her October budget request for FY15. She got some. Others were cut. She also asked for $65 million to be added to the funding formula. She got about 2/3 of that. She asked for an increase to the instructional materials budget. She didn’t get it.

She also fails to mention that in 2012 (for FY 13) and in 2014 (for FY15) the legislature assigned the amounts within the Activities Budgets. The commonality is that those are election years. In 2011 and 2013, legislators gave the SDE that fund as a lump sum and allowed Barresi’s people to categorically assign the money.

Barresi states that the REAC3H coaches are a victim of the politics of the people who mischaracterized their mission. The general public really didn’t understand their mission. The SDE threw the REAC3H label onto so many loosely connected initiatives, that the word really lost meaning. Educators, on the other hand, who worked closely with the coaches, understood their purpose. At that point, the characterization probably depended on the quality of the coach. There were 60 of them. I assume some were spectacular and others were in a different range. It happens. We can’t all be the best.

When it comes to shaping education issues for political purposes, nobody is better than Janet Barresi. With the RSA law alone, she has mischaracterized:

  • What the 3rd grade “reading” test actually tells us
  • Dr. Seuss and Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The strength of the safety net for special education students and English language learners
  • The movement to allow parents to have input in retention decisions
  • The efficacy of retention in other states

I’ve probably missed something there. In addition to RSA issues, just off the top of my head, I can think of several more things she has mischaracterized:

  • Special education placement
  • Poverty
  • Teacher preparation programs
  • Common Core
  • Contracts with testing vendors
  • Test results
  • The Education Establishment
  • “Researchers”

Again, I’m sure that’s not a complete list.

On the other hand, I definitely agree with the second paragraph. The REAC3H coaches have received a tremendous amount of training. Their knowledge base about literacy instruction strategies is without parallel. They have also seen the inner-workings of the machine that has brought us all of the reforms that their boss (or more accurately, their boss’s boss’s boss) has championed.

Whereas the rest of the letter reads like tract literature that someone might have handed you on your porch just as you were about to eat dinner, the second paragraph shows reveals the flaw in the design. As the Rev. Lori Allen Walke stated Sunday at the candidate debate (not attended by Barresi), “the system has no clothes.” The REAC3H coaches have seen that as well as anybody. They’ve had a foot in both worlds for the past two years. They were technically employees of one of the districts they served, but they were selected by the SDE. They received their orders from the SDE. Any decision to keep them (pending funding) would have been made by the SDE. Of the ones I know, none will be voting to retain the current state superintendent.

Based on a comment on last night’s blog post, at least one of the coaches feels like their story is being told correctly.

Thank you for giving a fair and honest opinion of the Reac3h Coaches. When asked what my job was, I always replied, “I serve and honor teachers and schools.” Yes, our focus was pre-k – 3rd literacy; but if a district needed help in other areas, many of us did our very best to get them help. When I was an administrator, all I had to do was ask myself this: IF IT’S BEST FOR KIDS, THEN WE DO IT. Reac3h Coaches were best for students, teachers, administrators, parents, and those who love education. Again, WE SERVED AND HONORED TEACHERS AND SCHOOLS!! Again, thanks for being fair!!

That’s all I’ve ever tried to do when it comes to this group – tell the story right. At first, I was simply trying to figure out what we had and if we really could use it. I tend to follow policy, policy makers, and the highest level officials directed with executing the policies. The REAC3H coaches didn’t fit into any of those categories.

Hopefully all the coaches will find good jobs that satisfy them personally and professionally. Hopefully they’ll also get a chance to put all that training to use in an environment where they don’t have more territory to cover than they possibly can. Hopefully, what we’ve invested in them the last two years will continue helping children.

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  1. It's 1939
    June 11, 2014 at 8:46 am

    The coaches got great training alright. They were brought into the SDE every few weeks for training, complete with catered meals that the rest of us employees weren’t allowed to touch. The “management”, whose demeanor completely changed whenever the REA3CH coaches came into the building, treated the coaches very well. So, the coaches had a very positive view of the SDE and its inner workings, when the reality was much different. What great ambassadors the REA3CH coaches were for the SDE! That was a smart move on Janet’s part, and I remember a certain WWII leader who used the same strategy to spread his propoganda.

    Like

    • June 11, 2014 at 8:56 am

      I’m not a big fan of leaping straight to Nazi parallels, but I hear what you’re saying. Unfortunately for the SDE, the REAC3H coaches I’ve encountered have been candid in their comments of the decision-makers above them. Maybe they were supposed to serve as ambassadors. I certainly wouldn’t say they all did, though.

      As for the spreads to which they were treated, again, the coaches didn’t decide that for themselves. I blame those making decisions for elevating one group and treating the rest of the SDE’s staff as less. It’s inexcusable.

      Like

      • panhandlereac3h
        June 11, 2014 at 9:36 am

        I was posting a response to the Barresi’s little soldiers reference and decided that I was just fighting an uphill battle and deleted it. As a former Reac3h Coach I must thank you okeducationtruths for your support. You “hit the nail on the head” about the fact that, for the most part, we were not brainwashed clones spouting propaganda. Each of the 58 – 60 ladies who called themselves Reac3h Coaches were highly educated prior to their time with the SDE. Each took their new understanding of the SDE and assisted their districts to the best of their abilities with anything and everything. No matter what the directive might have been there was no question that our districts and teachers could call, email, text any one of us and be treated with respect. Questions would all be considered equally and answers would be found in a timely manner. This is what most of my 17 districts have stated they will miss the most about having a Reac3h Coach.

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  2. Kelli
    June 11, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Coaches went to OKC once a month for training. Only a few of the trainings were held at the Hodge Building, none of which were held there for 2013-14. Yes, meals were a part of the “deal”. In most working capacities, if you are sent somewhere for training, you are provided meals or reimbursed. Meals were brought to us as opposed to 60 people leaving for an hour. And, truth be told, there were several times that we had “working” lunches. People spoke to us as we were eating.

    The training received was amazing, and I look forward to continue sharing with teachers in different capacities.

    Like

    • It's not 1945...yet.
      June 11, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      The Reac3h coaches were no more highly educated than the rest of the staff at the SDE, but they were paid much more than we were. They were given the job of going out into the schools, while the actual directors responsible for providing schools with professional development had their travel frozen. They may, or may not, have become brainwashed clones, but that was the intent of the regime in power. Regardless, we never really needed Reac3h coaches. They duplicated the jobs of those already in the agency. We were quite capable of providing everything schools needed for a whole lot of years before the Barresi Reich moved in.

      Like

    • Nicole P.
      June 11, 2014 at 4:49 pm

      Wasn’t your original purpose supposed to be Common Core training coaches? How did they get away with funding the Reac3h program with that grant when the coaches were switched from Common Core to early literacy training? Isn’t that a violation of the terms of the grant?

      Like

      • June 11, 2014 at 8:20 pm

        The first year was funded by a grant while the second year was state funded.

        Like

      • Nicole P.
        June 12, 2014 at 2:37 pm

        Interestingly, the re-purposing of that Federal money was done during that first year. I wonder if the Feds know about it? Someone should tell them. By the way, the SDE has distanced itself from the C3 logo. You might want to update your profile pic.

        Like

      • panhandlereac3h
        June 12, 2014 at 4:02 pm

        Funny how the Reac3h Coach program was zeroed out of the budget due to the description including Common Core as a focus. Here is the exact description from HB 3513 signed by the governor on June 3, 2014:

        Funds shall be used to support the REAC3H Coaches to conduct professional development training, instructional modeling, and mentorship to teachers and principals for the purpose of providing best practices for implementing the Oklahoma C3 Standards which include the Common
        Core State Standards;

        Your understanding that the directive to Reac3h Coaches changed within the first year came from where?

        Also, you’re correct on the avatar. I noticed it when I posted but it wasn’t bugging me so I left it. Happy now?

        Like

  3. It's not 1945...yet.
    June 11, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    And…let me add that the only reason Janet needed an army of coaches was because the institutional memory, who knew all the answers schools needed, left during the course of her term. Those who didn’t were silenced, so as not to provide schools with the correct legal answers.

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  4. Really??
    June 11, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    If you are going to make a comment on something you should be informed of all the details. Sounds like you are a disgruntled previous employee. Know the facts before you speak up.

    Like

    • Nicole P.
      June 12, 2014 at 7:54 am

      He knows the facts better than most. Only employees who have actually seen the stupidity that went on from the inside are informed of all the details. Really.

      Like

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