Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tulsa World Editorial Excoriates Board Of Education, Calls Its Behavior 'Foolish harassment'

Editorial/Tulsa World ~ Love her or hate her, state Superintendent Janet Barresi should get to choose her own staff, and the sooner members of the state Board of Education accept that, the better.

Rozell Should Resign, Board 'Should Grow Up'

Members of the state Board of Education - appointees of former Gov. Brad Henry - immediately started lobbing political spitballs at the new teacher on Thursday by hectoring her proposed top appointees. The board rejected the hiring of Barresi's proposed chief of staff, former Barresi campaign manager Jennifer Carter; her proposed communications manager Damon Gardenhire and Jill Geiger, Barresi's choice to (be) the state Department of Education's new director of finance.

The board questioned the education credentials of Carter, who has a doctorate degree in law but not a master's degree in education, and feigned shock at discovering that Gardenhire had been paid for the past two weeks by the Communities Foundation of Oklahoma.

Carter may not have the degrees required for the job title, but Barresi deserves the advisers she wants under whatever title.

The sideshow went from silly to offensive when one state board member, former Democratic state Sen. Herb Rozell, insulted the pregnancy of Barresi's new legislative liaison, Jessica Russell. Rozell asked if Russell planned to take maternity leave in May while the Legislature is in session and said, "If she takes six weeks off in May, she's worthless to us." Russell then left the room reportedly in tears and Barresi said (correctly) that Rozell's comment was inappropriate and unworthy of the board.

Board member Tim Gilpin, the former Tulsa County Democratic Party chairman who got into a series of loud disagreements with Barresi over the course of the meeting, said he thought Rozell was just joking.

We're missing the humor of Rozell's witless remark.

Republican legislative leaders responded by calling for Rozell's resignation from the board, and we have to concur.

The comment was unacceptable.

As unamusing as Rozell's joke was, everyone should be laughing at how the school board is behaving when confronted with change and possibly political disappointment. Barresi was elected state superintendent. She wasn't the best qualified candidate or the one with the best ideas, but she won fair and square and for the next four years she gets to be the state's chief education officer.

Foolish harassment of her choices for leadership positions is ugly and doomed to failure.

Rozell should resign because of his inappropriate comment. The rest of the board members need to grow up and allow the elected state superintendent to govern in accordance with the people's wishes.

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