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Revisionist history by state board members won’t whitewash their deplorable actions

State Superintendent Janet Barresi February 2nd, 2011

Tim Gilpin’s description of the recent State Board of Education meeting counts as a classic in “Photoshop” history.

But Gilpin’s revisionist picture is clearly refuted by the facts, as anyone who attended the meeting (or listened to the recording online) knows.

The recent meeting was not only dominated by the partisan obstruction of board members, but also by the misogynist actions of Herb Rozell and Gilpin.

As everyone now knows, Rozell referred to one potential employee as "worthless" because she was pregnant, while Gilpin “joked” about trying to delay the birth. In multiple media interviews since, Gilpin continued to belittle the woman as being an "individual in a less than full capacity."

The two men have offered two defenses for those statements: 1) It’s okay to belittle pregnant women if you give them a job/money, and 2) it’s okay to belittle pregnant women if you are trying to publicly ridicule them.

What garbage.

Sadly, those comments were the rule and not the exception to both men’s behavior throughout the meeting.

The board refused to hire Jennifer Carter as my chief of staff, even though Carter is an attorney with a solid background in education. She previously worked as an Assistant Insurance Commissioner for Democrat Kim Holland and as Director of Legal Services/Government Relations for the Association of Professional Oklahoma Educators (APOE), where she was active in passing Oklahoma’s Achieving Classroom Excellence law. In that position, Carter also mediated and filed grievances on behalf of teachers and represented educators at board hearings and in lawsuits.

In a nutshell, Gilpin’s argument boils down to this: A man with a master’s degree is qualified to be a chief of staff, but a female attorney with significant expertise in the law and education policy…isn’t.

And then he wonders why everyone thinks he is sexist.

Board members also refused to hire Jill Geiger for Director of Finance even though she worked for former Democratic Gov. Brad Henry on education finance for the past six years. She has been a Deputy Director at the Office of State Finance and is clearly qualified.

But she is also female, which seems to be a real sticking point with the Gilpin/Rozell method of employee evaluation.

Obviously, Gilpin and Co. also refused to hire Damon Gardenhire as my communications director, but those who listen to audio of the meeting will notice Gilpin and Rozell behave far more professionally in their interactions with Mr. Gardenhire than they do with any female applicant.

As he admits in his column, Gilpin wanted to conduct personnel issues in secret, behind closed doors in executive session, and I refused to allow him to hide behind a veil of secrecy.

Given how he and Rozell behaved, I can understand why they didn’t want the public to see them in action.

Over the past five years, 88 percent of Department of Education employees were put on the state payroll without prior review by the board. In fact, 37 percent of employees were never submitted for board approval at all. It is clear the board has suddenly decided to actively obstruct my ability to perform my duties as State Superintendent, which I assume has to do with my party affiliation.

Gilpin/Rozell and Co. have disgraced themselves and embarrassed the state. But there’s an even more important issue here. Oklahoma’s education system continues to lag behind most states in the nation and even many countries around the world.

To succeed in the 21st century workplace, every Oklahoma child must have access to a quality education – rich or poor, rural or urban. To continue doing business as usual is to condemn too many children to failure as adults. When the people of Oklahoma elected me State Superintendent, they signaled that they are ready for reform, and I will not allow their voices or the plight of Oklahoma students to be ignored.

Gilpin and Rozell may think they “put that woman in her place,” but they’re about to learn that piggish behavior does not overturn the results of an election. This fight has only begun, and when it is finished, Gilpin/Rozell and their outdated views of women will be consigned to the ash heap of history, and the children of Oklahoma will be better off for it.

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02.03.2011 at 11:51 Reply

Plenty of reasons on both sides to be embarrassed, including this childish rant. Supt. Barresi, you are doing yourself no favors here, exacerbating the teapot tempest.


02.11.2011 at 03:55 Reply

Wow, Janet is turning into quite the drama queen. And, does she know that Photoshop is for --- wait for it --- photos.


02.11.2011 at 03:57 Reply

I think the reason why Oklahoma lags behind in education is a simple one: Stupid kids come from stupid parents.


02.16.2011 at 03:50 Reply

I have a feeling the meeting would have probably gone more smoothly had there been a little more collaboration.  After 20 years as our State Superintendent, I feel pretty confident that Sandy Garrett was extremely knowledgeable about the law and how to utilize the school board in an efficient way.  I am certain her experience strengthened the working relationship she had with the board, where she knew what was allowable and what she was not going to be able to get away with.  Barresi, on the other hand, does not have this experience.  I hope for the sake of the education in our state, she decides to put some effort into communicating her agenda more clearly to the board, who does currently have more experience.  Being that it is still required by law for the state board to oversee the education department, I think she needs to accept that serving as State Superintendent means she will have to collaborate with the board if she expects to put her agenda into place.  As an educator, I am dumbfounded that someone in the education field would react with the 'blame game' and expect to get the results they want.  I don't think she'd make it one day as a teacher.