Friday, January 28, 2011

Legislators: Ed Board's Actions 'Unacceptable'

Republican legislators teed off on the Board of Education today after Thursday's contentious meeting.
Rep. Dustin

Rep. Dustin Roberts (R-Durant) expressed concern with the conduct of Board of Education members at their first meeting with new Superintendent Janet Barresi: “It is unacceptable that those members of the State Board of Education are refusing to work with State Superintendent Barresi. The people of Oklahoma spoke in November and endorsed a change in our state’s public education system, and it is the board’s responsibility to work with her to fulfill her duties.”

Rep. Jason Nelson
Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City) issued the following statement: “I’ve listened to nearly two hours of a recording of yesterday’s state board of education meeting. I can only describe it as disturbing. I'm stunned by the board members' appalling behavior at Dr. Janet Barresi’s first board meeting as our newly elected State Superintendent. I’m not surprised by Dr. Barresi's professionalism under fire. It only serves to confirm she is the right person for this job. Listening to the recording you hear a few members of the board attempt to provoke Dr. Barresi with constant harassment and interruptions over the course of five hours. Clearly they had organized this effort before yesterday’s meeting in a pathetic attempt to embarrass Superintendent Barresi. That plan backfired. Two of the board members in particular played the classic school yard bully. I can’t help but wonder if other board members were embarrassed or even intimidated by the disgraceful actions of board members Tim Gilpin and Herb Rozell. At one point a member of the board indicates that she supports approving the hiring of an individual recommended to the board by Dr. Barresi only to hear Mr. Gilpin overpower the conversation and blurt out a motion to the opposite effect. It's now public record that they underestimated Dr. Barresi and that they are not fit to continue serving on the board. I hope the other board members will quickly clarify that they do not share or endorse Gilpin’s and Rozell’s complete lack of respect and civility. It is important to know if the other board members believe the behavior exhibited by Mr. Gilpin and Mr. Rozell was appropriate and if they believe that these two men should continue serving on the board. I hope their silence since yesterday’s meeting is not their assent to the unacceptable behavior.”

Rep. Mike Sanders
Rep. Mike Sanders (R-Kingfisher) said, “I am disgusted by how little respect members of the State Board of Education showed in addressing State Superintendent Barresi and her prospective hires. It was bad enough that the board sought to hinder the new state superintendent’s ability to carry out her plan, but their highly inappropriate conduct in yesterday’s meeting went far beyond what anyone would have expected from state officials. Board Member Rozell commented on one prospective member’s pregnancy as a reason to deny her hire, which is not only discriminatory but likely illegal. The board’s reasons for denying other hires were just as weak. I fully support Speaker Steele’s call to review the actions of the board to determine if legislative action is needed to address oversight of the Department of Education.”

Rep. Pat Ownbey
Rep. Pat Ownbey and Senator Frank Simpson of Ardmore expressed outrage: “This is the group that runs our education system in Oklahoma and I think it is reasonable to expect professional and courteous conduct from each member of the board when they are addressing an elected official," said Ownbey. "The behavior of board members Gilpen and Rozell serves as an example of how petty partisanship has made it nearly impossible to fix problems within our education system. This only underscores the need for a reform-minded leader like State Superintendent Janet Barresi.”

Senator Frank Simpson
“At State Superintendent Janet Barresi’s first Board of Education meeting, we saw partisan politics rear its ugly head,” Simpson said. “We knew that Superintendent Barresi would receive pushback from the unions and the education establishment. But the name-calling and unprofessional comments by two of the board’s political appointees shows us that they are more interested in feeding their own egos and maintaining the status quo than they are in educating our children. In November, Superintendent Barresi was given a mandate by the people of Oklahoma. She now offers new ideas and a fresh approach to education. As we saw Thursday, the State Board of Education is offering more of the same.”

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