An Open Letter to Oklahoma Dentists

A couple of days ago I started work on my second annual “Oklahoma Education Year in Review” post. As with last year’s submission, I look forward to the process of trying to assimilate the year’s crazy events in a fun, absurd, “Dave Barry-esque” style.

As I have been researching and gathering my thoughts for this post, I came to the stark realization that I might owe a small apology to a profession that has taken quite a beating in my blog this year—the dentists of Oklahoma.

Let’s face it, my blog has been rough on our hard-working and highly skilled dentistry profession.

Out of the 276 posts I have published in the previous eighteen months, 35 have included the words “dentist” or “superindentist” somewhere in the title or text. Our outgoing state superintendent, Janet Barresi, has been mentioned in an incredible 136 of my posts! It is likely these totals will grow by the end of the year.

As you know, many of my caricatures of Dr. Barresi have been less than positive! I have criticized and lampooned her through the extensive use of parodies, satire, political cartoons, movie references, songs, rants and even an irreverent video or two. Remember this fun dentist clip from April?

I also mocked the dental community by insinuating that I would be qualified to serve on the State Dentistry Board in my blog post from last year: “Vote For Rob.”

However, I am not typically critical of dentists. Most are fine people. My own dentist, Dr. Forrest Arnould, is a skilled practitioner who, along with his wife (also a dentist) and terrific staff operate an excellent practice in South Tulsa. I am also hopeful that Dr. Arnould remembers this positive endorsement when he is working on a particularly sensitive molar in my mouth in a few weeks:-)

I LOVE dentists…okay, that’s a little strong…I have great respect for the skill and training of our dental profession. They play an important role in the health of our citizens and help people maintain bright and beautiful smiles. For this, we are very thankful!

So, In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, I am NOT an anti-dentite!

For the dentists reading this, you have to be honest though–For as good as Dr. Barresi may have been as a member of your dental community, she was an absolute train wreck as a State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The people of Oklahoma have learned our lesson. I think it is safe to say that Janet will leave office next month as the first AND last dentist to ever serve in the capacity of state superintendent of our state.

While we appreciate the many contributions of dentists in our state, in all candor we really don’t want any more dentists leading the state department of education. Having gone to school oneself does not necessarily translate into valuable or particularly relevant experience to lead a large state agency focused on improving education for over 680,000 young people.

Just like the Oklahoma Dental Board prefers to have actual dentists representing their membership, we in education also believe that folks with actual experience as educators will likely do a better job supporting the work of teachers and administrators in providing quality instruction and services to the children of Oklahoma.

Anyhow, to the many exceptional dental professionals working across our state–I am sorry! You were caught in the crossfire. My intent was not to disparage the wonderful work that you do…as dentists!

I am hopeful your community will accept Dr. Barresi back with open arms. If she resumes her dental practice, maybe she can bring back a few smiles and make a positive difference in the lives of children, something I do not believe she has done effectively in the past four years.

One thing is for certain. Many of us who work in education in our state will be smiling broadly when Dr. Barresi ends her term next month. We are ready for a change.

At that point, I am hope that I will never have to speak unkindly of any dentist in the future, because you guys are #1!

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