A View From The Edge

Barresi a Friend of Special Needs Kids – REALLY!?!

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Superintendent Barresi and her campaign are now going after her Republican opponent Joy Hofmeister for being “hostile to families of children with special needs.” Really!?!

Not to get too scriptural, but I’m reminded of this verse: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Except, replace “plank” with “Giant Sequoia!” Really!?!

C’mon Janet, you REALLY thought people would fall for your ridiculous hatchet job against Mrs. Hofmeister? Your smear campaign accuses Hofmeister of “conspiring with education bureaucrats to deprive children with special needs of learning opportunities.”

What do you base this wild accusation on? A few scattered, unrelated email responses that were taken completely out of context. Really!?!

Let me remind you first of the definition of the word bureaucrat. According to dictionary.com, a bureaucrat is (1) an official of a bureaucracy and (2) an official who works by fixed routine without exercising intelligent judgment (see: Janet Costello Barresi). I added that last part but it sure seems to fit. Really!?!

You REALLY want to label Drs. Kirby Lehman and Cathy Burden as education bureaucrats? These leaders were education practitioners. Before their respective retirements, they were professional educators who were highly competent specialists and regularly performed duties requiring skill or practice. Much like a dentist might be called a “dental practitioner” rather than a “tooth bureaucrat.” Really!?!

On your website your campaign manager states, “The emails leave no doubt that Joy Hofmeister supported lawsuit harassment of families whose children have special needs.” This despite the fact that Hofmeister voted to expand the schools approved to qualify more school choices for Oklahoma students while she was a member of the state Board of Education. You know this and you still approved the ad. Really!?!

Were you aware that Joy is also a parent of a child who was on an IEP (Individualized Education Program) throughout their public school career? Did you also know Joy has actually come out in support of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship opportunity and has actively referred parents to the program in her professional work with Kumon? I realize you don’t like it when facts get in the way, but really!!

Of course, you also know that the opposition to House Bill 3393 has nothing to do with special needs students. It is the belief of many in Oklahoma that the law violates the Oklahoma constitution’s prohibition of using public funds to aid, directly or indirectly, any sectarian institution, and of making a gift of public funds. The constitution also mandates that the state Legislature establish and maintain a system of free public schools. You ought to read it sometime. The constitution, I mean. Really!

We recognize the camel’s nose under the tent and see this law as the first step down the slippery slope of vouchers for all. If this law is allowed to stand, then why not vouchers for gifted and talented students, students with medical issues, students who have been bullied, students with freckles, etc.? You REALLY think public educators are against students with special needs? That is insulting and outrageous. Really!?!

Your campaign really went off the rails when you claimed that “dozens of Hofmeister’s campaign contributors work for the districts that sued parents or the law firm that represented the schools, while Lehman has personally hosted fundraisers for Hofmeister.” Really!?!

Let me get this right. Because I made a campaign donation to Joy, and I work with Jenks Public Schools, than Joy must hate special needs kids and their parents. You must have learned logic from watching Monty Python movies:

– There are ways of telling whether she is a witch.
– Are there? What are they? Tell us. – Do they hurt?
– Tell me, what do you do with witches?
– Burn them!
– And what do you burn, apart from witches?
– More witches! – Wood!
– So why do witches burn?
– ‘Cause they’re made of wood? – Good!
– How do we tell if she is made of wood? – Build a bridge out of her.
– But can you not also make bridges out of stone?
– Oh, yeah.
– Does wood sink in water?
– No, it floats. – Throw her into the pond!
– What also floats in water?
– Bread. – Apples.
– Very small rocks. – Cider! Great gravy.
– Cherries. Mud. – Churches.
– Lead. – A duck!
– Exactly.
– So, logically–
– If she weighs the same as a duck…
– she’s made of wood.
– And therefore?
– A witch!

The kicker is when you start touting your affection for parental rights and the needs of special needs students: “Janet Barresi is a forceful advocate for parental rights.” Really!?!

Let’s talk FERPA. In case you didn’t know, FERPA stands for the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Among other provisions, the law states that schools (or state departments of education) must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record. I would have thought you would have figured this one out by now.

It was a FERPA violation when your department published the educational records of 25 high school students who had filed an ACE Appeal to the State Board of Education in 2012. So was the release of student names to an outside organization to invite recipients of the LNH scholarship to a OKC Thunder game.

I enjoyed how your spokesman, Phil Bacharach, tried to deflect the criticism to former general counsel Lisa Endres and events coordinator Ashley Hahn by claiming they sent the invitations after hours, mistakenly in campaign envelopes rather than Education Department envelopes. First, you really assigned your general counsel to stuff envelopes? Second, do you typically keep campaign envelopes at work? Finally, we totally believe that you would not try to exploit this opportunity for political gain. Really!?!

We all know how much you care about special needs students and parent rights. First, you take away all test modifications so that students with physical and mental disabilities are forced to take the same state testing as their regular education peers. Kids love to be reminded that they are below grade level and academic failures. Really!!

This resulted in thousands of eight and nine-year old children with special needs failing the third grade reading test and facing possible retention. You thought this was a great idea and fought tooth and nail against passage of House Bill 2625. When the legislature overrode the Governor’s veto, you called the action “pathetic and outrageous.” Really!

Why? Because the law allows a district committee consisting of the principal, teacher, reading specialist, and parent(s) to make retention decisions based on the individual needs of children. How could we trust these people? How about parental rights in this case? Do parents only have rights to make educational decisions about their child if it’s okay with you? REALLY!?!

Remember TJ Eldridge? I posted his story last month.

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He is the precious boy adopted from China when he was three years old, born with a partial arm, and abused for much of his early life. His adoptive mom, Amy, plead for him to be able to move on to fourth grade. YOU would have retained him. The district committee, authorized by passage of HB2625, rightfully allowed him to move on.

You claim that Joy Hofmeister is hostile to special needs students and their families. This is absurd. Silly. Ridiculous. Shameful.

You should be careful about throwing stones, “Ms. Queen of Glass Palaces.” REALLY!?!

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10 thoughts on “Barresi a Friend of Special Needs Kids – REALLY!?!

  1. okteacher

    Yes!(fist pumping) After seeing her commercials, I couldn’t wait to hear what you were going to say. Mainly, this commercial in particular. Thank you as always for doing such a diligent job covering the facts.

  2. Heather Reilly

    JB was the “secret special guest” at my friend’s Science Convention today near OKC where she told the room to now abandon all things relating to Common Core – even though we have spent $$ and years implementing. Oh and that she was praying for them. According to my friend the silence was deafening. JB never ceases to astound.

  3. Stephanie C

    Every time it see that ad I feel like throwing up. I just don’t know how she shows her face anywhere. Let alone to educators. It just be difficult to be so disposed.I will pray for her; to be voted out of office.;)

  4. Gail

    I looked at the supposed “damning” emails and not one of them appears to come from a singular email string. Because of that it is easy to portray them the way Baressi is doing. Which then boggles the mind as Joy voted for what Baressi is saying she is against. I have emailed Mrs. Baressi on several accounts before her election and NEVER received a coherent or straight answer to my concerns. The replies seemed more like a brush off than a response one would expect from the office of the State Superintendent.

  5. Special Needs Parent

    You should get your facts straight before spitting out hateful words in print just to get attention.

    I’m one of the parents being sued by Lehman et al. Janet Baressi should sue YOU- for slander. She has been a staunch advocate for my child. Just because you are very in favor of one candidate does not mean you need to degrade the other candidate with political “spin”. I’d rather hear you discuss positive things that Joy “plans” to do or has done, than a smear campaign against Janet Barresi.

    Also, being flippant about who should receive a scholarship “kids with freckles” Really?!! How insulting.

    FYI kids with “medical issues” are entitled to the scholarship. Shows just how out of touch you are on this topic.

    1. Rob Miller Post author

      Special needs parent, I have no quarrel with you or any other family. In fact, I have a high level of empathy for parents of special needs students and do all I can do as a principal to meet their needs.

      Joy Hofmeister is also a parent of a special needs child and supports the LNH scholarship program. This is why it is so outrageous that Barresi is trying to smear her based on false statements. Joy would do nothing to repeal the program.

      You are entitled to your opinion and I appreciate your advocacy of your child. However, what about the thousands of special needs third graders who Barresi felt should be retained because they were not able to read on grade level? Was she a staunch advocate for their needs?

      I don’t know you so I have no idea of how much research you have done on the constitutional issues surrounding HB 3393. Similar bills in other states (Louisiana most recently) have been ruled unconstitutional. As is happening in other states, this bill will likely lead to vouchers for other categories of students and eventually vouchers for all. Rep. Nelson has already tried to pass several of these types of bills that are copied from the ALEC playbook.

      You have every right to educate your child in whatever school you deem most appropriate. However, the Oklahoma Constitution is very clear that public dollars should not go to sectarian schools. It is what it is. If the public believes it should be changed, there is a process for making these constitutional changes.

      As for Superintendent Barresi, she is a fraud. I’m sorry if you do not see that.

  6. jenks mom of 3

    The more I read your blog, the more I wish you would write letters to the editor for the papers in the state. I am really concerned that people are not understanding the levels of problems with Barresi and she is going to be reelected. I yelled at the TV with the first time election results. We as parents, will have to revolt if she gets reelected again!

  7. Jenks Grandma

    Rob, thank you for being such a great advocate for children and future of public schools. I post each and every one of your blogs on my FB page in hopes of opening the eyes of all the voters I am friends with. The children of Oklahoma cannot and should not have to endure another 4 years of our current SuperinDentist, especially special needs children. I currently have no children attending Jenks Public Schools but I am a voter who is concerned for the future of education in our state. Having a dentist as our state education superintendent makes as much sense as me, a pharmacist, designing a hundred story sky scraper. I would be completely out of my element and I lack the education required to complete that endeavor. It’s time for Barresi’s current position be filled by a person that actually got their college degree in education and has actually taught in a classroom. It’s people like Special Needs Parent that need to be an informed voter and how bad a job Barresi has done. I have no problem with the LNH scholarships but I DO have a problem with federal monies being used in a sectarian school. It’s illegal, plain & simple. Just as the SuperinDentist violating FERPA laws, not once but twice! It’s illegal, plain & simple. Barresi is only in favor of her own agenda and future plans for the advancement of her career. And, that career doesn’t involve dentistry. If someone doesn’t like Joy, fine, vote for someone else other than Barresi. But, please, PLEASE make it an informed vote!
    Again, Rob, thank you for your dedication to the education of children and being an advocate for them and their parents. You’re awesome!

  8. Marshall D

    At one point about five years ago I was working at a charter school in Oklahoma City. The school was over crowded and thus I had to travel to my classes. When possible I would use the library to give lectures just so that I didn’t have to move around all day, plus it gave other teacher the opportunity to have their planning period in their own room.

    On one such pre-planned library day, I was removed in the middle of a lecture. My students had to sit in the hall.

    Now why you ask would we be removed from the library?

    Because she who must not be named needed the library that day.

    Yup she’s in it for the kids!!

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