Monday, June 16, 2014

Setting the Record Straight On Janet Barresi - OK Supt. Of Public Schools


During the local KFOR-TV show, FlashPoint (approx. minute 2) which aired on Father's Day, Dr. Barresi clearly uses me personally (Jenni White) as a pawn in her political game of tall tale telling by explaining to the audience that she has met with me/us (ROPE) to hear our concerns.  This made me angry enough to respond.  In the following blog, you will find the history of Jenni/ROPE and Superintendent Janet Barresi.  I hope you will come away with a clear understanding of why ROPE could never support her as State Superintendent again.

In the spring of 1999, I accepted a job at Independence Charter Middle school teaching 7th grade science on the same team where my mother taught 7th grade English.  Dr. Barresi had created the school and maintained a supervisory capacity, having worked very hard to create an environment where students (including her two sons) would be provided a rigorous curricula (we used E.D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge curriculum - not Common Core) and parents would be accountable for their children's behavior.

By the time we left in 2002 (my mother formally retired after decades of teaching and I left to stay home with our first son), we believed our voices no longer appreciated in the present and future plans of Independence.  Nevertheless, I was impressed Dr. Barresi could work so hard and organize so well as to create an entire school.  ROPE fully backed Dr. Barresi believing she could provide the accountability our former Superintendent had not seemed to do.  I personally staked out campaign signs, wrote blogs, marched in parades and spoke across the state to help Dr. Barresi's campaign for election.

My thought process changed immediately after Dr. Barresi won her election and by December 2011, I had written the following blog,  Marveling at The Nuclear Fallout Of Partisan Politics.  I urge you to read this post.  It details how Dr. Barresi used partisan politics and her friendship with Governor Mary Fallin to create a situation in which she could gain complete control over the Department of Education - neutering the State Board.  

Here are specific reasons ROPE will NOT support Dr. Barresi again:
  1. The week (or so) after her election in November 2010, I was granted an appointment with Dr. Barresi at her campaign headquarters.  At that time, I told we needed her help to stop Common Core.  In a very domineering tone, she told me she was moving forward with Common Core (begun under DEMOCRAT Brad Henry).  I shouldn't worry because she could "control it".  She would control the Feds.
  2. Though I tried to engage her via email, continuing to make my case against Common Core - even after she took office - I got the same 'assurances' for a few exchanges and then no further correspondence.
  3. In 2011, Representative Sally Kern wrote the first bill to stop Common Core in Oklahoma, which was blocked by both the Senate and House Education Committees.  ROPE engaged in a letter writing campaign to Dr. Barresi asking her to help give the bill a hearing.  In attempt to solicit the superintendent's aid, Representative Kern made an appointment to see Dr. Barresi and took me along because she had not responded to my requests for a meeting.  I clearly remember sitting across her desk from her as she gestured to her computer screen and said with great exasperation, "Why are you having these people email me? You are not even giving them correct information. They don't even know what they're talking about."  That was followed by further assurances she had it covered - she knew what she was doing when it came to implementing Common Core.
  4. That fall (2011) Representative Kern was allowed an Interim Study on the Common Core.  She asked ROPE and Lindsay Burke of the Heritage Foundation to speak.  Dr. Barresi and a Senator from Arizona were allowed to speak following our presentations.  As she took the microphone, the first words out of her mouth were, "We are all entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts."  A clear insult aimed at moms - moms with advanced degrees there on their own dime and their own time.
  5. Dr. Barresi was asked to refute our comments to the Interim Committee after the 2011 study.  Representative Kern had to ask repeatedly for the response
Since that time, there have been continuing efforts to belittle our organization and demean mothers and others interested in public education, making nearly every battle partisan - as though she personally represents every Republican in the state and we all want exactly what she wants.  While Joel Robison, Barresi's Chief of Staff, has made several attempts to stay in contact over the last several years, Dr. Barresi herself has gone out of her way NOT to.
  1. During the March 2013 Board Meeting, several of us went to speak against the A-F grading system. I was cut off rudely though I was finishing a sentence.
  2. During the June 2013 Board Meeting, we were told we couldn't speak at all - we were not even allowed our 3 minutes because we wanted to address the board on Common Core and it wasn't on the agenda - though Common Core testing was addressed in the meeting.
  3. During the July 2013 Board Meeting, I began to give my thoughts on Common Core and Dr. Barresi left the room.
  4. During the August 2013 Common Core Forum in Tulsa, Dr. Barresi stopped taking questions as soon as I got to the mic. 
  5. Dr. Barresi has had any number of times made available to her in which to debate me if she had really wanted to 'listen' or engage our concerns.  She has never taken one.   True, there are scheduling issues, but if she really wanted to debate me, she could have made time in four years to do it.
In closing I would like to create a list of reasons why ROPE asks you to vote AGAINST Dr. Barresi June 24th.*
  • Though seemingly determined to frame every argument about education in a partisan issue where she is a "conservative" and everyone who does not agree with her is a "liberal":
  • Hires John Kraman - a previous employee of Achieve (the offspring organization of parent National Centers on Education and the Economy started by known liberal Marc Tucker - which produced "Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring US Students Receive a World-class Education" - the precursor to the CCSS), further cementing into place a 'liberal' agenda
  • Actively, personally fought allowing parents to voluntarily put their kids into kindergarten two months later in the year. Barresi fought such a change based on the perennial liberal argument that such legislation, "would discriminate against low-income families 
  • Instead of working with parents, has fought parents
  • Fought changes to the Reading Sufficiency Act that would bring parents into the graduation decision from 3rd to 4th grady by saying,  "It is unconscionable that anyone would think it’s too much to ask that a school teach a child to read", implying that government knew better than parents as to whether a child was prepared to read. 
  • During the End of Instruction Exam appeals in 2012, Dr. Barresi opened the private records of those students requesting an appeal to public scrutiny over the State Department of Education's website.  In addition, the entire EOI process - Dr. Barresi's requested legislation - cuts out the role of parent, reducing graduation from high school to a series of tests.
  • Made excuses for her Chief of Staff, Jennifer Carter, calling superintendents in Union and Jenks, "dirtbags". Carter, though possessing no experience in classroom education on any level, was instrumental in state Department of Education budgetary issues such as the removal of National Board Certification as alleged by the Oklahoma Truth Council.
Honestly and sadly, I could go on.  I feel like one of the Founding Fathers enumerating the various acts of tyranny by King George.  No public official is 'perfect'.  That's not the issue.  The issue here is, does the candidate respect the authority of those she serves?  In this case, I believe the facts show the answer to be NO.  

*Though ROPE can not endorse candidates for public office or support their campaigns, I personally will be voting for Joy Hoffmeister for State Superintendent on June 24th.