By December 28, 2014 Uncategorized 8 Comments

With the release of humorist Dave Barry’s annual year in review column yesterday, it is time to publish my own version targeted more closely on the crazy events surrounding Oklahoma education in 2014.

If you happen to be a new reader, it is important for you to know that satire, sarcasm, and hyperbole are essential cornerstones of this blog. And butter. With this is mind, please join me for an irreverent trip down memory lane.

The year unfolded with the story of a fearless princess about to set off on an epic journey alongside a rugged iceman to save the kingdom from an estranged, reclusive woman whose icy powers had trapped her people in eternal winter. We’ll come back to Joy Hofmeister, John Cox, and Janet Barresi a little later.

To be clear, 2014 WAS A MOMENTOUS YEAR for Oklahoma Public Education, a year of events that will splatter itself onto the canvas of history much like Crest toothpaste in a dentist’s spit sink.

It was a year we followed the advice of Queen Elsa and just “Let it Go,” much like I would like my brain cells to let those lyrics go from my consciousness forever!

We started by LETTING GO an entire generation of children, followed closely by our New Years’ resolutions, then the common core standards, then Janet Barresi (whoop), then our federal ESEA waiver, then CTB/McGraw-Hill, then the gargantuan plan to rewrite our state standards, and finally, because of persistently low teacher pay and lack of respect from state officials, hundreds of highly skilled educators to surrounding states.

Decades from now, our grandchildren will come to us and say, “Tell us, Grandpa or Grandma, did we ever find the generation of children that Dr. Barresi claimed the teachers lost?” And, what was life like as a kid BEFORE we had these magical new Oklahoma standards and assessments that are able to predict with absolute precision whether I am on track for college and a career, not to mention a happy marriage and nice hair? And, why does the third grader who sits behind me in class have a beard?” We will simply smile wisely and emit a streamer of drool, because we will be very old and unable to hear them.

Future generations are going to look back at this era and ask us how we could have allowed things like the superintendency of  Janet Barresi and “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” to happen, and we are not going to have a good answer.

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” which for the past three years has been a compelling argument in favor of a major earth-asteroid collision, finally got canceled, and we dared to wonder if maybe, just maybe, we, as a society, were becoming slightly less stupid. Then came the release of the movie, “Dumb and Dumber To,” which opened to a $38 million weekend. Question answered.

This was also the year in which — as clearly foretold in the Book of Nehemiah — our state superintendent, while introducing the process for developing new academic standards, threw on a bronze breast-plate and told many in Oklahoma to: “Go to Hell.”

When Tulsa World reporter Andrea Eger asked Dr. Barresi for clarification, Janet responded: “No, no, no…you heard me wrong. I said they should go to HELENA. It’s a beautiful little town in Alfalfa County northwest of Enid. If you go, make sure you stop by the Drugstore Cafe and say ‘Hi’ to Marge and Phil.”  Seconds later, Janet broke out in uproarious laughter and added, “Gotcha! I’m pulling your leg. I was simply trying to communicate to these teachers that anybody with the gonads to oppose me on these standards should be vanquished to Lucifer’s abyss of eternal hell fire and everlasting torment. That’s all.”

Following up on 2013’s “Year of the SNAFU” was not an easy task for Superintendent Barresi. However, with episodes like the one above, coupled with an encore performance from CTB/McGraw-Hill in April, Janet was able to stitch together enough SNAFUs to create another truly embarrassing emBARRESIng year for the ages.

Before we move on to a new year, let’s take one last look back at this remarkable year, which started, as is so often the case, with:


.  .  . After months of behind the scenes negotiations, the United Nations proclaim 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming and Crystallography. In response, my wife and I plant a small garden of zucchini and quartz in our backyard. An angry Janet Barresi calls this decision pathetic and outrageous.

On the national scene, Colorado and Washington become the first states to decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana. Not to be outdone, California approves the use of crystal meth as a condiment. At the same time, citing concerns about the potential for federal overreach, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt bans the over-the-counter sale of mustard.

As a sign of the times, third grade teachers across Oklahoma administer the first of approximately 450 diagnostic reading pretests to their students.

These preliminary assessments are given five times a day to track students’ hourly growth towards individual reading goals. Further, these tests are conducted to ensure kids are adequately prepared for the weekly grade-level and biweekly site-level formative tests which are designed to equip students for success on the monthly district benchmark assessments prior to the annual state OCCTs in April. When asked to comment about this exceptional preparation for state testing, eight-year-old Joey Nelson from Tulsa said, “I HATE BOOKS!”

In a campaign press release, Superintendent Barresi announced she was declining an invitation to meet with representatives of the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) because she was afraid “the liberals” would distort her words. Dr. Barresi said she was “refusing to accept more back-room deals and politics as usual” and did not want her views “filtered through the lens of liberal union bosses” at the OEA. Upon hearing this news, North Korean Dictator, Kim Jong-Un, hacked into the OSDE servers and sent Barresi an email saying, “You Go, Girlfriend! :-)”

Later in the month, the OSDE announced all school districts would be required to participate in additional systems tests of their computers for both spring testing vendors. To ensure compliance, Superintendent Barresi issued a strongly worded bulletin to school administrators threatening the loss of funding, accreditation, certification, and the “seizure of their family pets” for failing to participate. Days later, Superintendent Barresi’s Character Education Task Force issues strict new guidelines to address bullying in schools. Irony.

Republican State Representative Sally Kern also made national press in January when she introduced legislation to prevent Oklahoma schools from punishing children who chew their breakfast pastries into the shape of a gun. Representative Kern’s measure, dubbed the “Common Sense Zero Tolerance Act,” was in response to school districts having discipline policies that are too strict or inflexible. Regrettably, Kern’s legislation was defeated prior to little Joey Nelson being expelled from school after threatening to hurl himself on his banana nut muffin, which he had fashioned into a grenade, to avoid taking even one more reading test.

In entertainment news, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), in its annual state-by-state “report cards,” awarded Oklahoma the authors’ highest grade, a B+, despite our ranking of 43rd in the nation on student NAEP scores. Massachusetts, the state with the top NAEP scores in both math and reading, finished in the middle of the pack in 23rd with a C. As a result, Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick called an emergency cabinet meeting to advise his staff to “immediately scrap everything we are doing for twenty years and adopt the ‘Oklahoma model’ as quickly as possible.”

Speaking of things that are absurd .  .  .


.  .  . In international news, the Sochi Olympics began on an uncertain note when it is discovered that Sochi — apparently nobody realized this ahead of time — is a seaside city with a subtropical climate, so there is no snow. This put a damper on some of the competition, such as when Slovenian cross-country skier, Vesna Fabjan, got bogged down in mud and was mauled and eaten by a pack of wild dogs. Despite these setbacks, the games are deemed a big success, at least by the Canadians, because they won in hockey, even though they had to play on a rink composed entirely of Sonic crushed ice.

After the United States poor performance against Finland, President Obama issues a press release to lament that these results reflect this generation’s “Sochi Moment” and that we are falling behind the world when it comes to prowess in winter sports. The president subsequently orders Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, to immediately provide incentives to states via the Race to the Bottom (RTTB) grant program, including the implementation of national Common Core Ski Standards (CCSS), mandatory skiing assessments for all students, and teacher evaluations tied to annual snowfall totals. Hey, why not?

In another troubling sign, fresh off their performance in the Winter Games, Russian President Putin orders his Olympic biathlon team to seize the Republic of Crimea. Upon hearing the news of the invasion, the French parliament, in an abundance of caution, immediately surrenders. An angry Janet Barresi calls this decision pathetic and outrageous.

Governor Mary Fallin, in her annual State of the State speech announces a plan to boost state revenues via a two-pronged strategy consisting of (1) income tax cuts; and (2) prayer.

The governor also made it clear to lawmakers that if they would get serious, “stop playing with poptarts,” and send a bill to her desk increasing funding for common education while simultaneously eliminating the state’s personal income tax, increasing tax breaks for billion dollar corporations, and rebuilding the state capitol from scratch, she would absolutely consider signing it.

Also in February, Jeb Bush, via his Foundation for Excellence in Education, via ALEC, via Kim Jong-Un, via the Chiefs for Change, via Representative Jason Nelson, introduces House Bill 3398, the  Education Savings Account Program–otherwise known as the “Bankrupt Oklahoma Public Schools Act–” despite the fact that no parent groups were actually asking for this legislation. The bill failed in committee last year, yet, like a zombie, will come lumbering back this spring.

Late in the month, after a series of Tulsa World articles examining Tulsa Public School’s academic challenges, Superintendent Barresi immediately came to the school system’s defense by stating: Tulsa Public Schools have been failing for decades. When you keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, that is a sign of insanity. For years and years, kids in poverty and kids in chronically low performing schools were hidden. Now we’ve shown the light on it. These teachers should not feel stressed. They should feel supported.”  Tulsa educators responded by reaching for a box of poptarts and saying “#*@! &#!, Janet”, or words to that effect.

In election news, Superintendent Barresi’s campaign director, Sam Stone, releases the following tweet about opponent Joy Hofmeister: “In super secret emails no one else has seen, @joy4ok supports earthquakes and drought. That’s not a real conservative!” It turns out to be the most accurate allegation made by the Barresi campaign in the sixth months preceding the primary election.

In a harbinger of things to come for Superintendent Barresi, Oklahoma blogger and Jenks Middle School principal, Rob Miller is selected as the Middle Level Principal of the Year by the Cooperative Council for Secondary School Administrators (CCOSA). Dr. Barresi would later reference this event at a state board meeting when she said: “CCOSA  generally picks superintendents and principals of the year who follow the party line and march to mediocrity.”

While on the topic of mediocrity, here comes:


.  .  . The Barresi campaign continues their witch hunt against Joy Hofmeister by initiating an open records request for any documentation between Joy and several Tulsa-area districts containing “any words found in Webster’s unabridged dictionary.” Sam Stone said the campaign was “definitely NOT looking for dirt,” but rather was simply conducting research to find out Joy’s favorite color, some birthday gift ideas, and any potential links to communist China or “those people from Jenks.” Barresi’s campaign also reveals secret documents revealing that the letters in Joy’s full name can be rearranged to spell “mojo heister” or “jif my hooters.”

During a scheduled press conference to discuss the third grade retention component of the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA) law, Barresi shouts out “RIF!” and breaks out into a creative rap incorporating elements from the books “Horton Hears a Who” and “Little House on the Prairie.” An exuberant Barresi chants: “See kids, it’s easy. Just learn to read, then read to LEARN. Don’t learn now, you get to reTURN (to 3rd grade). So, read dammit. Peace out!”  Joey Nelson, still serving his suspension from the “muffin incident” two months ago, aims his poptart at his TV screen and pulls the trigger.

With less than a month before the start of spring testing, Dr Maridith McBee resigns her position as Executive Director of Assessment at the SDE, citing that she “wanted to spend more time with her grandkids” and because “this place is driving me absolutely batshit crazy!”

SDE Director of Communications Phil Bacharach said Wes Bruce, a “nationally recognized consultant” in the field who has been working with the department since “around 1957,” agreed to expand his role in assessments in the interim. Mr. Bruce conferred with state department employees via Skype, using disposable cellphones and an avatar image, and insisting that staffers refer to him as “Super Testing Dude.” It was later discovered that “Wes Bruce” is actually an alias for escaped NSA fugitive Edward Snowden.

On the topic of state testing, North Korean hackers uncovered a conspiracy on the part of SDE employees to intentionally exclude the Jenks and Owasso school districts from spring field testing item tryouts to avoid the potential of negative publicity associated with parent opt outs. In other words, the state department decided to opt these districts out of field testing to prevent these districts from opting out of field testing. REALLY?!? An angry Janet Barresi calls this decision pathetic and outrageous and said she would make it again in a heartbeat.

Finally, on March 31st, nearly 30,000 educators loaded on school buses to come to the Capitol from all corners of the state to rally in support of Oklahoma public schools. Some teachers traveled up to six hours to attend the rally. It was a historic day for Oklahoma teachers, yet State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Janet Barresi was not in attendance, ostensibly unable to make the arduous 400 step journey all the way from her office in the adjacent Oliver Hodge Building. When asked about her conspicuous absence, Barresi responded that she had a dental cleaning that had been previously scheduled months before.

On the topic of flimsy excuses comes .   .   .


.   .   . Governor Fallin vetoes 15 House bills in a single day, setting a state record for a Oklahoma governor while the Legislature was still in session. She reminds the lawmakers that they have not cut income taxes “for well over a week now,” while wading through approximately 18 inches of sewage in her Capitol office.

At the official end of the primary filing period, seven candidates emerged as potential state superintendents: Janet “Abbott & Costello” Barresi, Joy Hofmeister, and Brian Kelly on the Republican side; and John Cox, Jack Herron, Ivan Holmes, and Freda Deskin on the Democrat side. To demonstrate that he was a candidate “to be reckoned with,” Brian Kelly launched his campaign by purchasing a quarter page ad in Ms. Howard’s seventh grade, third period, language arts newsletter at Edmond’s Cheyenne Middle School. He then goes into hiding for two months.

On April 29, in a deja vu moment from 2013, district test coordinators receive the following alert from CTB/McGraw-Hill:

ALERT: System Interruption

“Holy cow, we had no idea how many students would be testing at the same time—LOL! Who could have possibly guessed that this would happen two years in a row in multiple states? What an absolute SNAFU. We are working to find another server we can use in the meantime. If you would be so kind, please ask your students to sit quietly for an hour or two while we look into this. Our IT person is at lunch yet should be back any minute.”

Dr. Barresi conducted an immediate press conference with her assessment team of Spock, Captain Kirk, and Bones (with Wes Bruce on Skype from a parallel universe). She began her comments by sharing how frustrated she was, but reiterated how she had “absolutely no involvement in the process from start to finish personally.” Blaming the failure on the fact that the dilithium crystals in the servers had fused, messing up CTB’s system microfibers, and prompting the DNS resolvers, “to NOT resolve”, Dr. Barresi apologized to the 8,000+ students whose testing was interrupted and promised they would be first in line to take the new and exciting item tryouts. At the close of her remarks, Barresi tapped the communicator tab on her blouse and said, “Beam me up Scottie!”

In the upper chamber, Senator John Ford, in response to thousands of teachers and parents calling for a reduction in testing, worked to pass his bill (SB1654) which would have eliminated all state tests not mandated by federal law. In one of the great mysteries of the year, social studies teachers effectively lobbied to kill the legislation and keep their meaningless tests. Teachers of the other 279 high school subjects not currently tested immediately called for the creation of state tests for their subjects, saying: “Hey, we want to be important too!”

In a candidate’s debate on April 18, Superintendent Barresi went on record in support of CCSS, stating, “You know, sometimes I’ll tell you things you don’t want to hear, but I will always tell you the truth. I support the Common Core.” This isn’t funny yet, but will be in two months.

From the world of educational research, groundbreaking data was released clearly showing a strong correlation between student achievement on state tests and their capacity to give a crap. The research was ignored because, well…no one gives a crap.

To close the month of April, Barresi’s campaign manager, Robyn Matthews, files a missing person report on her predecessor, Sam Stone. When questioned by OKC police about his disappearance, Barresi responded: “Hey, people disappear, it happens.”

Speaking of things we would like to see disappear.  .  .


.  .  . The big news for early May was the release of the third grade reading results. Superintendent Barresi touts the fact that, despite “doomsday predictions from critics that 25 to 40 percent of our third-graders would score unsatisfactory,” the real total was ONLY 15.7 percent, or 7,970 children, many of which are students with special needs or English language learners. An additional 7,070, or 13.9 percent scored limited knowledge. On the other end, just 2.2 percent of Oklahoma third graders scored advanced on the test.

Thankfully, State Representative Katie Henke and Senator Gary Stanislawski, despite being nine months pregnant and on bedrest (well, Katie at least), were successful in getting their legislation (House Bill 2625) passed by overwhelming majorities. HB 2625 allowed for the creation of student reading proficiency teams composed of parents, teachers, principals and reading specialists to determine whether a student should be promoted. Governor Fallin, always an advocate for parents’ rights and local control of  educational decisions, promptly vetoes the bill and plays games to try to keep her veto in place. She loses.

After learning of the Legislature’s override of the Governor’s veto, here is what Janet Costello Barresi had to say:

…today’s action is a pathetic and outrageous step back and returns us to a failed system of social promotion that has served the education establishment and little else. I applaud Gov. Fallin for her steadfast support of our children. Her veto was absolutely the right thing to do, and the Legislature’s override of it was absolutely the wrong thing to do.

All I have to say about that is, “Meh!”

To end the school year on a positive note, the SDE requires teachers to spend thousands of hours at the busiest time of the year to complete something called Roster Verification, as part of the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness (TLE) system. All teachers were required to do this, despite the fact that the majority DO NOT teach math or reading. As was explained last year, the state department has contracted with retired Microsoft executive Frank Disteldorpher of Hoboken, New Jersey to provide this essential service. From the computer in the basement of his home, Frank analyzes each teacher’s impact on the math and reading scores of students in their schools and issues his annual assessment (nicknamed “The FRANK”).  By law, the FRANK will make up 35 percent of the teacher’s evaluation. It doesn’t make sense to me either.

From the “it’s better than a hot stick in the eye” category, Governor Fallin signs a budget deal for FY 2015 which calls for an additional $80 million for common education.

For historical perspective, it is important to remember that appropriations for common education in the FY2010 budget totaled $2.572 billion, or 36.4% of the $7.063 billion state budget. With the FY2015 budget deal, common education got approximately $2.48 billion from a budget pie of $7.121 billion, or about 34.8%. Thus, even with the increased appropriations, state funding for common education in FY2015 continued to lag about $100 million behind FY2010 figures, with at least 35,000 additional students.

Finally, CTB struck again with the release of 2014 writing scores for 5th and 8th grade Oklahoma students. Despite numerous discrepancies in the use of the scoring rubrics and lack of consistency between student scores statewide, the state department strongly defended CTB’s scoring process, stating in a press release that: “CTB hires and trains some of the most qualified lemurs in Madagascar. These monkeys know their shit. However, if districts would like the lemurs to take another look at their students’ essays, they can feel free to take money from their bloated superintendent salaries and pay to have them rescored.”

Which brings us to a month of biblical importance .  .  .


.  .  . proving herself to be as unpredictable as a grapefruit’s squirt, Governor Fallin signs House Bill 3399, effectively repealing the Oklahoma Academic Standards (OAS) for reading and math, because they were identical to the national Common Core State Standards. Janet Barresi, just two months earlier a solid supporter of the CCSS, said she no longer could support the standards because she had since learned they were part of President Obama’s maniacal plan to overthrow the federal government, install a monarchy, and change his official title to: Queen Barack.

At the Oklahoma State Department of Education “Summer Convening” event in Midwest City, Dr. Barresi addressed a gathering of about 60 teachers from across the state and invited them to be a part of the new standards-writing process.

She advised them to prepare for the difficult process by reading the Book of Nehemiah in the Bible and telling would-be critics to “Go to Hell.”

“Anybody that has any question what we’re doing, read Nehemiah. Open up your Bibles and read Nehemiah,” she said. “I want you to put on your breast-plate, and I want you to fight off the enemy at the same time you’re rebuilding the wall.

“Because there’s a lot of people, a lot of enemies are going to try to creep up the back of your neck and say, ‘You can’t do it, it can’t be done.’ Do me a favor and tell ‘em to go to hell.”

Shortly thereafter, in a letter addressed to the SDE REACH literacy coaches after the budget for their positions had been eliminated, Barresi wrote this:

“It is with a heavy heart. I do not know what God has in store for Oklahoma education, but I remain committed to follow His path and to only work for the good of His will. I will continue to pray for you and to offer thanksgiving for the opportunity to work with you.

God Bless, Janet”

Janet would soon have God’s answer for the first part of her question.

At a Tulsa-area church, Janet and Joy meet for one of their few public debates. During the debate, Janet states that she would love to see a resurgence of Saxon math in schools, was opposed to “the evil CCSS,” blamed microfiber problems for the CTB testing debacle, and told a fifth grade boy that he was wrong about taking too many tests, saying he only should have taken two. Apparently, Dr. Barresi had not been briefed prior about state testing requirements which require fifth graders to take five state tests, NOT two.

As a result, Janet Barresi announces she will not participate in any more debates with Joy “WhatsHerName,” explaining, in a prepared statement, that she has a hair appointment. When pressed by reporters to explain her lack of transparency, Barresi replied, “Uh…Nehemiah, remember—now go to hell!”

Republican candidate Brian Kelly shores up potential voters by posting all seven election signs he found in the garage from the last campaign around town and then splurging for “free blooming onions for the house” at a Edmond-area Outback Restaurant.

All of which leads to the BIG event of 2014, told exquisitely by the following picture, now framed in my living room (kidding):

Within hours, employees at the State Department of Education, reacting to the devastating news, ran out of champagne.

A thousand miles away, Jenks Middle School principal, Rob Miller, does an impersonation of a wounded giraffe to Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” on the beach in Destin, Florida. Yes, it was a good night.

Always a good sport, Barresi took the loss in stride by blaming unionized teachers and long-entrenched school administrators for her embarrassingly poor re-election bid and complained that: “No school district in the state has pushed children to reach their academic potential. They don’t like people knowing how they are performing. They don’t like accountability.”

Ouch, that’s just hurtful Janet. You’re welcome by the way. 

To bring the month to an epic close, Superintendent Barresi reveals her department’s plan for creating Oklahoma’s new incredible, super-duper rigorous, world-class, grade A, best standards EVER!”  Apparently, Barresi and her staff patterned their simple idea after the college football bowl selection process.

Again, a picture is worth a lot of words.

Speaking of things way over the top.  .  .


.  .  .  In an obvious case of cronyism, Barresi names Governor Fallin’s Labrador Retriever, OKIE, to a position as administrative assistant to Wes Bruce at a starting salary of $92,000, plus Milkbones.

To reciprocate, Governor Fallin throws her former educational ally under the bus by stating “that testing accommodations should be restored for children in special education or English language learners” and blamed Superintendent Barresi for the change in policy. It was an election year after all.

Oklahoma’s Secretary of Education, Bob Sommers, resigned his position and returned to his home state of Ohio. Rumors quickly arose that the governor would appoint Superintendent Barresi to the vacant post. This speculation was quickly dismissed after it was discovered that Governor Fallin “wanted to win” and was overheard in a cabinet meeting addressing the issue by saying, “Janet who?” Dr. Barresi called the decision pathetic and outrageous.

During a roundtable session at Vision 2020 conference, Dr. Barresi was asked the following question: What are things you did well and you didn’t do well?” Her answer was spot on: “I won’t apologize, and I know I’ve pissed a lot of you off.”

All in all, a quiet month for a change, but things would pick back up in .  .  .


.  .  . In the runoff election to determine who would challenge Republican Joy Hofmeister for the job of state superintendent in the November election, John Cox won over a competent challenger, Freda Deskin.  At the same time, Republican Brian Kelly announces he will try to capitalize on the momentum from his failed primary race for state superintendent to campaign for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, stating, “I already have some signs.”

According to estimates from the Oklahoma School Boards Association, state schools started the year with nearly 800 teaching vacancies. This shortage is particularly pronounced in math, science, and special education. This information will obviously be important for lawmakers as they deliberate on the need for increased education funding for FY2016. Oh, wait, it’s not going to be an election year. Never mind.

On the national front, Education Secretary Arne Duncan made headlines with his honest comments about over testing saying that testing is, “sucking the oxygen out of the room” and that the quantity of required testing is “troubling,” “not sufficiently helpful for instruction,”  and “robbing school buildings of joy.”  Arne went on to say the department will work through the fall to reduce over-testing. Looking at his watch, he then commented, “Crap, I gotta go. I’m scheduled to shoot hoops with the Prez this afternoon.” (We are still waiting for the big news about reduced testing, Arne)

Later in the month, Duncan’s Department of Education denies Oklahoma’s ESEA Waiver due to the fact that we did not provide clear evidence that our (2010 PASS) academic standards were “college- and career-ready.” This despite the fact that tens of thousands of young adults in Oklahoma have been highly successful in college and future careers in recent years.

In response to this news, an angry Janet Barresi shared,”When I took office in 2011, Oklahoma had only just left the starting line in the race to more effective schools. Now in 2014, we are well around the track and rapidly advancing toward the finish line.”  No one in the state had any idea what she was talking about.

Things continue to just get better all the time for Janet Barresi. The Oklahoma State Board of Education votes to toss Barresi’s plan for rewriting the state academic standards, calling the process “overkill,” “self-defeating” and “from the mind of a lunatic.” Instead, the board votes to create a steering committee that will begin work, “as soon as the door hits Janet in the …” Dr. Barresi calls the decision . . . oh, you know what she said!

“In an abundance of caution,” Superintendent Barresi announced the SDE will withhold fifth- and eighth-grade writing scores from the calculation for the overall grade of this year’s A-F school report cards, even though she “would stake her job” in support of their accuracy.

Joey Nelson from TPS returns to third grade with a renewed sense of optimism for a successful year. However, this attitude is short-lived when he is suspended again after being found in possession of a fruit roll up which he had chewed into the shape of a howitzer.

Which brings us the fun-filled month of .  .  .


.  .  .  The SDE comes under criticism following reports that they has been collecting demographic data on thousands of Oklahoma’s students. Responding to the outcry, Superintendent Barresi assures the state that “the state is not collecting personal information on any individual student,” adding, “Sally Mae Meadows of Inola, call your mom immediately, because your ortho appointment has been moved to Tuesday.”

After months of anxious anticipation, the SDE publishes this year’s edition of the failed A-F Report cards for schools. The state utters a loud, collective YAWN.

To demonstrate she is still firmly in command of the SDE, Superintendent Barresi asks the Board to approve another contract with CTB/McGraw-Hill for winter testing. Almost in unison, the five members of the board respond, “Are you freaking kidding me!”

During the same meeting, Superintendent Barresi is forced to address allegations of cronyism and nepotism resulting from her hiring of Larry Birney to a new assistant state superintendent position at $90K per year, plus Milkbones. Dr. Birney will oversee the department’s accreditation division despite having absolutely no qualifications or experience, but he is married to SDE General Counsel, Kim Richey. This smells perfectly fine to me.

In her own defense, during an interview with a Tulsa radio station, Barresi called her own accreditation officers a bunch of retired “good old boys” who were helping districts break the law, while adding that her successor would also be dishonest and sweep the whole thing under the rug. Yeah, she really said this.

Anyhow, in her first assignment for Dr. Birney, Barresi orders him to determine, once and for all, if Wes Bruce is a real person.

Also during the same meeting, Board member Lee Baxter calls for Superintendent Barresi’s immediate resignation saying that “he wanted the venom stopped” and that Janet is a “friggin nutcase!” As the meeting concludes, Janet is overheard telling Baxter that he, “can go to some beach,” or words to that effect.

Finally, in an ultimate act of absurdity, CTB/McGraw-Hill withdraws its contract offer, stating in their letter, “… and we thought our organization was screwed up!”

Proving that the craziness was not over yet, here comes:


.  .  . The Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education emerged from their burrow to reveal that “we will have six more weeks of summer” and that the current PASS standards “do suck, but are college- and career ready, because we’re not sure what the hell that means.” An angry Barresi calls this decision pathetic and outrageous and says this will likely prevent our state from “winning the competition for excellence.

After a few too many glasses of chardonnay, Barresi spends a long weekend at the Oliver Hodge Building moving the pictures of the Oklahoma Educators’ Hall of Fame from their honored location adjacent to the Board meeting room to the trunk of her car. An obviously frazzled Barresi stated she made this decision, “Because their eyes were watching me.”

In a medical breakthrough, a Oklahoma City team of surgeons, working for 12 hours in a risky, first-of-its-kind operation, are able to separate a 14-year-old teenage girl from her new iPhone 6. Sadly, she passes hours after the operation, but doctors confirm the phone is stable, and they expect its condition to improve dramatically, “once it finds a new host.”

An October 2014 update from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that Oklahoma continues to lead the nation in cuts to public education. In fact, our lead has widened. Adjusted for inflation, Oklahoma’s per student school formula funding has dropped 23.6 percent over the past six years, significantly more than in any other state.

But things are starting to look up .  .  .


.  .  .  After what seemed to be an extraordinarily long election season, Republican Joy Hofmeister defeats Democrat John Cox for the privilege of cleaning up the epic mess left by Superintendent Barresi. Oklahoma educators thank each of the candidates for their positive campaigns and genuine interest in working with schools to improve education for our 680,000+ students.

Likewise, Democrat Joe Dorman loses a closer than expected election to Governor Mary Fallin, yet earns tremendous respect for his passionate fight for public education against incredible odds.

Speaking of courageous actions, two first grade teachers at Skelly Elementary School in Tulsa, Nikki Jones and Karen Hendren, make headlines by refusing to administer the district Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) and students surveys to their students. Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard has pledge to work with teachers to review these assessments. Good luck, ladies.

Forever chasing their tail, The USDOE announces it is reinstating Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Flexibility Waiver for the 2014-15 school year, after determining the state’s existing academic standards were “written with words” and therefore, “sufficient.” Superintendent Barresi responds to the good news by saying that, “Oklahoma now has an opportunity to build upon the innovations and successful reforms of recent years.” Again, no one even cares what she says anymore.

Finally, 2014 (and this blog post) limp into the final month .  .  .


.  .  . In national news, Korean hackers shut down Sony Pictures, leaving a desperate and suddenly vulnerable America with no way to escape the stress of the holidays by watching a totally inane and ridiculous movie. Fortunately, Sony reverses its decision to not release the movie, “The Interview,” and America’s pursuit of stupidity continues unabated.

In a late afternoon press release, the SDE publishes the good news that “more than half of Oklahoma’s 175 Priority Schools have shown positive growth over the past two years.” When asked about the schools that did not make positive growth, Barresi said Accreditation Czar Larry Birney was on it “like a rat on a cheeto.”

The SDE also published proposed new rules for the administration of field testing in Oklahoma, making it explicit that schools MUST administer these tests, or face sanctions. Blah, blah, blah.

In one final SNAFU, it was revealed late in the month that the state department mid-year adjustments to districts may be delayed because of a 20-year-old error in applying a cap in the funding formula dealing with agricultural and commercial personal property. This will likely result in some districts getting increases in mid-year funding while others receive unanticipated and potentially devastating cuts. Merry Christmas to all!

On a positive note, people in Oklahoma can be very proud of the fact that thousands of administrators, educators, and school personnel continue to work long hours with relatively low wages to nurture the hearts and minds of our state’s children. Despite increasing hostility from politicians and policy makers, we know that our students are far more than just a test score. We love each child for the unique and special human being they are and know there is no greater calling than to teach the youth of America.

Have a great New Year’s Day and a positive and productive 2015!

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