Update June 25: Joy Hofmeister won the Republican primary election! The Tulsa World published the video of the June 10th statements by Janet Barresi referenced below, and also posted a transcript.

If you are an Oklahoma voter, and especially a registered Republican (since our state doesn’t have open primaries) it is EXTREMELY important that you vote tomorrow for Joy Hofmeister for state superintendent. For the past four years, Oklahoma students, teachers, and parents have suffered in numerous ways as a direct result of the poor decisions and ineffectual leadership of Janet Barresi. Here are four simple and compelling reasons why Oklahomans need to elect Joy Hofmeister instead of Janet Barresi as our next state superintendent.

1- We Need a Professional

If you have not already, I strongly encourage you to read Rob Miller‘s June 20th post, “Janet Barresi Shows Her True Colors!” The post describes an extremely awkward and troubling incident which took place on June 10th at the State Department of Education’s “Summer Convening” conference. I will not recap the entire exchange (Rob did a good job of that) but instead want to reflect on the key scene from this situation.

At the June 10th meeting, Janet not only asked attendees to “go home and read your Bibles and specifically look at the chapter of Nehemiah,” but she also said “if anyone tries to tear us down to tell them to GO TO HELL.“

This is a non-sequitur. If this had been an appropriate time to encourage listeners to read the Christian Bible (which it wasn’t, it was an SDE curriculum meeting) it would never have been appropriate to follow such statements with a vehement curse and directive to condemn others.

Based on other eyewitness accounts of these pronouncements by Janet Barresi, I strongly suspect she was (and possibly still is) experiencing a manic episode, symptomatic of bipolar disorder. The inappropriate religiosity of her statements, the extreme awkwardness of the entire situation as described by eyewitnesses, and the completely uncalled for condemnation with profanity which followed all point to mania.

Janet Barresi may need to seek the assistance of mental health professionals, for her own safety and those of her family and co-workers. She most certainly does NOT need or deserve to be re-elected for another four year term as our Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Janet’s well documented statements and behavior on June 10, 2014, are not the only reason she is clearly “unprofessional” and the wrong choice to serve as our top elected state education official. As most educators in Oklahoma are now aware as well as many voters, Janet Barresi is a professional dentist, not an educator. The train wreck which has been the past four years of leadership at the Oklahoma SDE is due, in large part, to Janet’s lack of knowledge and understanding of public education in our state and in our nation. Yes, it’s true she started two charter schools in Oklahoma City. Starting charter schools, however, clearly does not (as her case exemplifies dramatically) provide someone or prepare someone for statewide leadership in public education.

We need a professional to serve as our state superintendent of public instruction. Joy Hofmeister is not only a former public school teacher, but is also a professional in her interactions with constituents. She is well qualified and can serve as the professional our state needs in the role of state superintendent. Janet Barresi has not served professionally, and I do not believe she is capable of serving professionally, in that role. Under no circumstances should she be re-elected to office.

2- We Need a Collaborative Leader

One of the unfortunate hallmarks of Janet Barresi‘s tenure as Oklahoma state superintendent has been her outright refusal to listen to, collaborate with, and work with our Oklahoma public school superintendents. I have had conversations with several superintendents who have conveyed their frustration and dismay at her lack of willingness to work with them. It’s essential we have good leaders at all levels, and good leadership begins with listening. Janet has not worked well with our state superintendents the past four years, and there is no reason to expect or believe she will change this course if she is re-elected.

Joy Hofmeister, on the other hand, has demonstrated a refreshing willingness to listen to and collaborate with Oklahoma educators. This past February, at EdCampOKC, Joy not only stayed all day and participated in sessions but also joined educators in attendance for the post-event tweetup/meetup. This kind of willingness to meet with, listen to, and collaborate with Oklahoma educators is exactly the type of leadership we need in our next state superintendent.

If you read Janet Barresi’s campaign blog, she strongly criticizes Joy Hofmeister for talking with and working with politicians from another political party. Janet’s campaign stance is that education should be and must be sharply politicized along party lines. This opinion and position is TOTALLY WRONG. We continue to suffer in Oklahoma schools and education circles to a large degree because of the unnecessary and destrictive politicization of educational policy in our state. High quality teachers, schools, and learning environments for our students in public education are not and should not be made to be a “red and blue issue.” Joy Hofmeister deserves our praise for her willingness to engage politicians on both sides of the aisle on education issues. We need a state superintendent who can build bridges and help us forge a vision for high quality Oklahoma K12 schools which is politically neutral. As Pasi Sahlberg describes in his excellent book, “Finnish Lessons,” we need to craft and support a long term vision for educational quality in our Oklahoma public schools which isn’t based on political parties or personalities of individual leaders.

Joy Hofmeister is the Republican candidate for Oklahoma State Superintendent who has already proven her willingness and ability to work with politicians on both sides of the aisle on educational issues. Joy is the right choice for Oklahoma.

3- We Need More Education Funding

We don’t just need changes in leadership for Oklahoma education and changes in educational vision. We also desperately need increased funding. For far too long, oil and gas companies in our state have been allowed to “call the shots” when it comes to taxation and fiscal policy. I commend to you the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s May 2014 post, “It’s time to end the horizontal drilling tax break,” for some background.

Janet Barresi has not broken ranks with the Oklahoma political establishment’s status quo when it comes to finance and funding of our state and specifically our schools. While I have not read or heard Joy Hofmeister speak specifically about the tax break cited above, I definitely believe we have a greater chance to advocate for increased funding for our schools under Joy’s leadership than Janet’s. Educational funding in Oklahoma is abysmal. Politicians in our state pay lip service to education, but with their votes they have repeatedly shown THEY DO NOT CARE about public education or students in public schools NEARLY AS MUCH as they care about campaign donations from oil and gas companies as well as other wealthy corporations.

We need to advocate for and secure higher levels of education funding in Oklahoma. Joy Hofmeister offers us the best chance for this in our current field of state superintendent candidates. Without top quality educators in our Oklahoma classrooms, we can’t provide top quality learning experiences for our students. This takes money. It takes much MORE than JUST money, of course, but it does take more funding… and I think Joy will help lead our state in this direction.

4- We Need Vision for Educational Transformation

It is unfortunate that Janet Barresi, around the time she took office as Oklahoma state superintendent, fell under the educational reform spells of destructive change agents like Jeb Bush (and his “Digital Learning Now” campaign) as well as Tom VanderArk. Janet was not alone getting on this mis-directed bandwagon, however, several other elected and appointed Oklahoma state officials jumped on board as well. Rather than helping improve learning, instruction, and the climate of K-12 schools, this agenda has actively sought to discredit teachers, further privatize schools, and increase rather than reduce high-stakes pressure on students as young as third grade to “perform on the test.” This vision of “education reform” has been in lockstep with the political roadmap Diane Ravitch describes in detail in her books, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education” and “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.”

See these past posts for more background:

We need a vision for educational transformation in Oklahoma public schools, not a continuation of the failed policies of the past which have visited lasting harm upon students and teachers alike under the umbrella of “accountability” and “high stakes testing.” It is time to change course, and it will likely take a long time to do that for our entire nation. In our state, however, the change can begin and gather momentum much sooner. If the recent repeal of Common Core State Standards in Oklahoma taught us anything, it was that vocal parents matter and can FORCE elected officials to change their tunes. I opposed the push to reject Common Core not because I supported the way the standards were written, but because we’ve been working to implement them the last 3 years in our schools and the biggest problems we face today are with HIGH STAKES TESTING rather than standards. See my videos “Simply Opposing Common Core is a Strawman” and “Oklahoma Legislators: Don’t Repeal Common Core Standards, Instead Reject High Stakes Testing” for more on this.

I honestly can’t say what Joy Hofmeister’s full vision is for improving and transforming Oklahoma’s public schools. I do believe she’s a professional, she’s collaborative, and she will advocate for student, teacher, parent, and school needs, including our financial ones. That’s about as good an outlook and prospect as we could hope for at this point. We’re going to have to figure out how to transform our Oklahoma public schools into 21st century learning centers, and that’s going to require the work of many people under COLLABORATIVE leadership, not a singular vision from an individual or a small group.

Joy has demonstrated she is someone who listens and wants to work to build better Oklahoma schools. I think we’ve got the best chance of moving toward a vision of transformational learning in our state under Joy’s leadership. That vision needs to include digital literacy, 1 to 1 learning with digital devices, “stage versus age” organization of learners in schools, and much, much more. I think Joy Hofmeister is the right person to lead our Oklahoma State Department of Education and the people of our state forward in K-12 education.

If you’re an Oklahoma voter, please vote for Joy Hofmeister tomorrow. A lot is riding on your vote. Together, let’s end the nightmare we’ve endured under Janet Barresi.

If you’d like to read still more reasons why Janet Barresi is the WRONG choice for Oklahoma state superintendent, read the outstanding series on okeducationtruths from the past several weeks.

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