Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hilliard Shoots Himself In The Foot

Rep. Wes Hilliard
Rep. Wes Hilliard, Sulphur Democrat, fired a shot at Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi's chief of staff, but it appears the round hit him in his own foot.

 Jennifer Carter
 Hilliard issued a news release in which he claimed that Jennifer Carter is "demonstrably unqualified" to hold the position of chief of staff. He cited Oklahoma Code 8129 which sets minimum qualifications for the chief of staff. Hilliard claimed those qualifications include a master's degree in education, a valid Oklahoma school administrator's certificate and eight years of successful fulltime employment in public schools. He called on her to be removed to "rectify" what he claimed was the error in hiring her.

But Damon Gardenhire, Barresi's communications director, said Hilliard's claims are "factually incorrect."

"It's unfortunate and frankly sad that Rep. Hilliard would attempt to insert partisan politics into the process of enhancing the professional staff at the State Department of Education, now under new leadership for the first time in 20 years," Gardenhire said. "The voters have expressed their will, they have given Superintendent Barresi a mandate for change, and it's time to get to work. I would urge Rep. Hilliard to set aside his partisan agenda and work with us to improve Oklahoma's education system. Oklahoma's children simply don't have time for gamesmanship.

"The previous job description for the chief of staff position was tailored specifically to match one individual, former chief of staff Lealon Taylor. If Rep. Hilliard had bothered to carefully examine the facts, rather than issuing a half-baked attack press release, he would have realized that the 'code' he is referring to is the job code for budget identification purposes and nothing more.

"The chief of staff job description is not a matter of code or rules, but rather of personal preference of the previous Superintendent.

"In fact, Mrs. Carter's credentials are impeccable. She has a doctorate degree, which ranks above a master's. The chief of staff role is one that the Superintendent relies on heavily, and one that is involved in legislative and policy decision-making and development. A Juris Doctorate degree is invaluable in that role.

"Mrs. Carter's years of experience in this area are second to none. As a lawyer, she has represented teachers in disputes. And in her work as an advocate, she has lobbied the Legislature on a wide range of education issues. Her qualifications and extensive knowledge are readily apparent, so much so that even Representative Hilliard was forced to acknowledge that Mrs. Carter 'has accomplished much in the academic and professional realm.'"

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