Happy to Start a New Conversation!

We now have a new submission for the GEIKO insurance company’s “Happier than a ______ campaign”: “Happier than Oklahoma public schools after the defeat of Janet Costello Baressi in the Republican Primary for State Superintendent of Public Instruction on June 24, 2014.”

Okay, that is probably a little too long. Suffice it to say many of us are happy–very, very happy. JOYous to be exact!

If you want, cue up Pharrell Williams’s “Happy Song” and do a little happy dance of your own.

I promised several of you that I would do a dance on the beach in Destin, Florida if Joy pulled out a victory tonight. With the help of my kids holding flashlights on the darkened shoreline, here is my submission. It’s not pretty! It’s more like shadow boxing. You will even hear one of my daughters laughing at my dancing prowess, as well as several observers on the beach. They’re just jealous! Yes, Seth, this is my tranquilized giraffe rendition. 🙂

(to maximize, click on bottom right of video)

It is a great night to be silly. I hope Joy is doing some dancing of her own. She deserves to celebrate after the very difficult primary race she was subjected to over the past few months. Congratulations also to John Cox and Freda Deskin who earned their way to a runoff to determine the Democratic challenger for this November’s general election.

Tonight brings hope for a new conversation about education in our state. In addition to serving as a clear and convincing repudiation of Superintendent Barresi’s leadership, it gives us the chance to reflect on how we can work together to improve education in Oklahoma over the next few years.

In a post last week, I discussed the two main predicates of the national reformer’s mindset. People like lame duck Janet Barresi, Jeb Bush, and others base their destructive reform initiatives on these two premises:

1. Public schools are failing.
2. Teachers and school leaders lack sufficient motivation to improve.

By viewing educational reform through this lens, the reformers have inflicted upon us a test-centric, high stakes model that has brought us TLE, A-F (and other systems to rank and label schools), ACE graduation requirements, third grade retention, charter schools, vouchers, and merit pay schemes. Each of these reforms have served to hinder innovation and stall implementation of truly meaningful changes needed in schools to prepare our students for productive 21st century citizenship.

As we move forward with the knowledge that we will definitely have a new state superintendent in January, I suggest that the new conversation be based on these two ideas:

1. Public schools can be better.
2. Teachers and school leaders want better schools.

By viewing school reform through this paradigm, we can move away from the reformers’ ineffective, outdated systems of rewards and punishments to new processes which foster collaboration, teamwork, innovation, and shared decision-making.

And that’s all for tonight. I look forward to joining you in these type of conversations as we move forward into a new era of public education in Oklahoma. Hopefully, tonight’s result will also cause ripples across our nation. Jeb Bush, are you paying attention?

For the time being, I think I may do a little more dancing tonight. Good night, Oklahoma. You did well today!

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19 thoughts on “Happy to Start a New Conversation!

  1. We killed the (poor) messenger in voting out Barresi. Now we’ll have a better messenger in Hofmeister, but I doubt much will change other than a softer tone: the Superintendent has to follow the laws the legislature has placed over and on the office. I’m not wanting to rain on the parade, but this Legislature is (in my view) properly focused on more teacher and school district accountability, more competition, and choice. The union is a roadblock…but so is the lack of better teacher pay. This needs to continue to be addressed and Hofmeister will be the messenger.

  2. Rob, I love reading your blog! It has been an inspiration and has opened dialog with less informed educators. As a side note, I personally enjoyed your dancing. You were right. It does rather resemble shadow boxing. LOL!!!

  3. Thank you, Rob for leading the charge in taking back our schools. My colleagues and I had a little dance party ourselves this morning! I’m looking forward to many changes in public education. Hopefully, we can start with decreasing state testing. Enjoy!

  4. What a Great victory for Okla.! Looking forward to our next step in making our schools as great as this victory. Loved the dance and all you did to help make this happen.

  5. Unfortunately I think Barresi campaigned for most of what she did. Maybe now people will vote for the best candidate not just the party they represent.

  6. Thank you Rob! Your blog has been an essential communication tool in this struggle to take back public education. I genuinely appreciate your insightful and powerful words. In continuing forward, I would love to hear your thoughts/a discussion of education in general; its purpose, the difference between acquired knowledge & learning, which subject areas public education should focus its attention, rolls each person plays in the education process (ie students, teachers, admin, parents, communities, government). It seems to me that part of the success in the deformer message is due to a twisted sense of the roll of education in our society. Just a thought — thank you for dancing!!

  7. “Happy” never looked or felt happier, Rob!! Thank you for all of your hard work and tireless efforts on your blog to get out the real facts and data behind Barresi’s OSDE “reign of terror”. You TRULY “rallied the troops” to rid OK of JCB. We all owe you a huge debt of gratitude for bringing us together to promote sound and innovative educational reform. Bless you! (And bless your camera-crew for their excellent work on the FL beach!)

  8. The new conversation and definitely a place to start. I feel hopeful, excited, invigorated, and now “happy”. Love the video. 😉

    Thanks for helping us navigate these issues and being a voice for those of us who need one.

  9. It has been a real kick and pleasure to observe and even contribute just a bit to you and all #oklaed as you came together and helped Oklahoma residents understand why JB was so poisonous for OK schools. Your and others’ leadership has been phenomenal. The best news is that the group has experienced what their potential truly is!!!

    Nice dance by the way …

  10. Thank you, Rob, for your work on this blog and the perspective you bring to your readers. After nearly four years of punitive policies, Machiavellian administration, and toxic rhetoric, voters have made it clear we want a collaborative State Superintendent who will advance public education instead of beating it down in the service of an outside agenda.

  11. You have been such a great lead in the fight for education – all states need such thoughtful, insightful leaders for the cause.
    Love the dancing…………………

  12. I am happy dance hobbling but with a huge grin on my face. You have been an inspiration.
    Please make sure you invite parents to these discussions. We have awakened them and they now want to be a part of this too.

  13. Rob, I’m just hoping and praying that JB doesn’t ruin Oklahoma education on her way out. I plan on emailing my represenatives and the SDE board members tomorrow, asking them to keep the students in mind and not play politics.

    • At least the legislature is out of session until the next Supt comes in. I think many of them are happy to see her go as well.

    • You bet! Now that the field has been narrowed to individuals who actually support public education, the conversation will change. This blog is meant to be a forum for open dialogue of public education policies. With Dr. Barresi at the helm of the OSDE, nothing positive was going to happen. Removing her from office was a necessary first step.

  14. Thanks for the part you played and all your hard work to help make this celebration night possible! Now on to the next step. I hope everyone in the state remains as passionate about potential education progress as they were working for Dr. Barressi’s defeat.

  15. This Grandma is happy, happy, happy tonight! While I will miss your blogs pertaining to the SuperinDentist, I’m sure you will continue to provide us with insightful and informative views of public education. God bless you for your past service to our country and your current service to our children and inspiring educators within our district and state!

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