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Access Midstream Donates 1,800 Weather Radios To Public Schools


Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi and the State Board of Education will thank Oklahoma City-based Access Midstream today for donating weather radios to every K-12 public school in Oklahoma.

The company last week started mailing the NOAA weather radios, complete with batteries, to schools statewide. By the time they are all distributed, Access Midstream will have sent nearly 1,800 packages.

“We know that our educators do more than teach,” said Access CEO Mike Stice. “They shelter, protect and give selflessly. We are happy to give these schools an additional tool to keep their students safe.”

Superintendent Barresi thanked Access not only for using its resources to buy the radios, but for taking the time to send one to every school.

“It’s inspiring for all of us whenever we hear about Oklahoma businesses making an extra effort to show support for our schools. Thank you to the employees of Access Midstream for this generous donation and for showing you support every one of our schools,” she said.

School Enrollment Increases

schoolslateOklahoma Department of Education

The number of students in Oklahoma public schools increased for the 2014-15 school year, keeping in line with a steady, long-term trend.

Total enrollment for 2014 in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade is 688,300 students, an increase of 6,722 over last year’s total of 681,578. From 2010 through 2014, enrollment grew by 28,685.

“As Oklahoma grows, our schools must take on more students. A steady increase in enrollment creates real challenges for our educators, especially in the midst of a teacher shortage and budgetary constraints,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi.

“More funding needs to be allocated for classrooms and teacher salaries, but money alone will not help without strong leadership from school leaders. There are teachers all across Oklahoma who realize that and have shown great success in spite of the increasing load,” Barresi said.

The largest districts in Oklahoma are:

  • Oklahoma City Public Schools with 45,297 students,
  • Tulsa with 41,043,
  • Moore with 23,559,
  • Edmond with 23,522 and
  • Putnam City with 19,447,

followed by Broken Arrow, Union, Norman, Lawton and Midwest City-Del City. These are the same 10 largest districts as last year, although some have changed rankings.

According to this year’s report, Oklahoma’s student population is:

  • 51 percent white,
  • 15 percent American Indian,
  • 15 percent Hispanic,
  • 9 percent black,
  • 8 percent two or more races, and
  • 2 percent Asian, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

Enrollment figures are recorded Oct. 1 annually at every site in Oklahoma’s public and charter school districts. That data is then sent to the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) accreditation office.

Hofmeister Names Bipartisan Transition Team

hofmeisterJoy Hofmeister announced today that she has appointed a team of Oklahomans to advise her as she transitions into the state superintendent’s office.

“I am very honored that such a quality group of people would be willing to volunteer their time to help me as I transition to my new role as Superintendent of Public Instruction,” said Hofmeister.

“These individuals each have some area of expertise that will greatly benefit me as I prepare to lead our state Department of Education. Whether it comes from a lifetime spent in public education, or a career as a business owner, or twenty years of experience as a past Superintendent of Public Instruction—the perspective of these team members will be invaluable to me over the next few months.”

In addition, Hofmeister said she has spoken with Superintendent Barresi, who offered to assist in making the transition as smooth as possible.

“I greatly appreciate Superintendent Barresi’s gracious offer, and I certainly intend to work with her and her staff to ensure the smoothest possible transition.”

The members of the transition team, along with a brief bio, are:

Dr. Phyllis Hudecki. A native of Morris, Oklahoma, Dr. Hudecki has more than 30 years of experience in many facets of education. She currently directs the work of OBEC, a large business-led coalition established in 2000, and served as Secretary of Education to Governor Mary Fallin from 2011-2013. Hudecki received her doctorate of education and baccalaureate in education from Oklahoma State University, an educational specialist degree in education administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and a master’s degree in education from the University of Connecticut.

Dr. Keith Ballard. As the superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, Dr. Ballard oversees the largest school district in Oklahoma with 88 campuses, 41,000 students, 7,000 employees and a $500 million budget. Dr. Ballard began his career in education as a teacher in Coweta, Oklahoma in 1972. Since then, he has served as an assistant high school principal, an assistant superintendent, an adjunct professor at Oral Roberts University, and he was the executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association for eight years.

Sandy Garrett. Sandy Garrett spent 15 years as a classroom teacher before joining the state Department of Education, where she served as the Gifted and Talented Programs coordinator, and then became the executive director of Education Programs. In 1988, she was named Secretary of Education by Governor Henry Bellmon. She was elected to her first term as Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1990, serving five full terms before her retirement in 2010. Superintendent Garrett was inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame in March 2001, into the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame in August 2000, and is a member of the Northeastern State University Alumni Association Hall of Fame.

Peter Markes. A graduate of Oklahoma City University, Peter Markes is currently in his twelfth year as director of orchestras at Edmond North High School. In 2007, he was selected as the Cheyenne Middle School Teacher of the Year, and was also a finalist for district Teacher of the Year. In the same year, he was awarded a Governor’s Commendation from Governor Brad Henry. In 2009, he was selected by School Band and Orchestra Magazine as one of the nation’s “50 Directors Who Make a Difference.” Mr. Markes was recently selected as the 2014 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

General (Ret.) Leo J. (Lee) Baxter. General Baxter is a native Minnesotan who departed active military service in 1999 as an Army Major General after 31 years. An adopted Oklahoman, he has subsequently served as Vice President of Cameron University, as a market President for BancFirst, one of Oklahoma’s largest banking institutions, as Vice President of Communication Technologies, Inc. in Chantilly, Virginia, and as President and Chief Operating Officer for JB Management, Inc., a Service Disabled Veteran Owned defense business in Alexandria, Virginia. He now devotes his energy to civic and community matters, and to Signal Mountain Associates, Inc., which he founded in 1999. General Baxter currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) and as a member of the state Board of Education.

Dr. Kent Shellenberger. During his nearly 40 years in Oklahoma education, Dr. Kent Shellenberger has been a teacher, a coach and a principal. He has served as superintendent of Bethany Public Schools since 1997, and an adjunct professor at Southern Nazarene University since 1990. This summer, he was honored for his service as an inductee to the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame. Currently a governor’s appointee to the Commission for Educational Quality and Accountability and the Special Education Task Force, Dr. Shellenberger is also the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators’ state representative to its national leadership conventions. In addition, he authors a quarterly column for Better Schools, a publication of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration. 

Chuck Mills. The president of Mills Machine Company for the past 35 years, Chuck Mills grew the family business based in Shawnee into a multi-million dollar concern. He is a former Mayor of Shawnee, and he is a board member of the Governor’s Council for Workforce and Economic Development. He currently serves as the chairman of the State Chamber of Commerce, where he is deeply committed to creating an environment for business to thrive in the State of Oklahoma in order to provide wealth creation and a better quality of life for all citizens.

Jeremy Needham. Mr. Needham started his education career in 1978, serving as a classroom teacher at Eufaula and Checotah Public Schools through 1984. He has been employed for the past 31 years at Oktaha Public Schools, serving one year as high school principal and 30 years as superintendent. Mr. Needham is currently president-elect for the Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administrators (CCOSA). He has spent 23 years on the Board of Directors and as president of the Oklahoma Schools Advisory Council (OSAC), and 20 years on the Board of Directors and as president of the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS). He has been selected four times as the district administrator of the year by the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators (OASA) and twice as the Oklahoma Schools Advisory Council ( OSAC) Administrator of the year.

 Carolyn McLarty. Currently serving her second four-year term as national committeewoman representing Oklahoma to the Republican National Committee (RNC), McLarty has been a recent, but strong voice in education. She is responsible for writing the resolution opposing the  Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for the RNC and played a pivotal role in repealing Common Core in Oklahoma. McLarty also served as a member and as president of the Board of Directors for OETA for seven years, from 1997-2004. McLarty and her husband, Tom, reside in Mutual, Oklahoma, and she owned her own veterinary practice in Woodward before retiring in 2007. 

Cox, Hofmeister Battling To Close Finish?

cox2hofmeisterMike McCarville

The most-contested statewide race appears to be that for superintendent of public instruction, pitting runaway Republican primary winner Joy Hofmeister vesus Democrat school administrator Dr. John Cox.

The latest poll makes this a 2-point race, advantage Hofmeister, meaning anything can happen.

Hofmeister, former State School Board member who resigned in disfavor with incumbent Janet Barresi, blew the incumbent away in the primary, relegating her to a weak third-place finish.

Cox, with the backing of much of the educational establishment, is said to be strong in some rural areas while Hofmeister appears stronger in the urban areas.

The campaign has focused on attacks. Hofmeister and her supporters have gone after Cox for his high salary ($141,678) in a small school district (Peggs).

Cox and his backers have gone after Hofmeister for her lack of public school experience and they have pushed allegations that Hofmeister and a campaign consultant were involved in expenditures by an independent group, an allegation both deny.

Poll: Fallin Maintains Lead, But…

Loren Cosby
News On 6

With only days to go, Governor Mary Fallin’s lead to keep her job is slipping, according to new numbers from our exclusive poll.

(The poll puts Fallin at 48 percent, challenger Joe Dorman at 40 percent.)

It’s our final poll before Oklahomans vote on Tuesday, and while the gap between Fallin and Democrat Joe Dorman is narrowing, there may not be enough time before Election Day for Dorman to catch up.

Our survey of 949 registered voters likely to cast ballots shows Fallin is still leading, but now by single digits.

The incumbent Republican has dropped below 50 percent, with 48 percent of the vote.

Dorman, her democrat challenger, is making a surge in the final days with 40 percent of those surveyed saying they plan to vote for the state representative.

From late August through September, Fallin held on to 50 percent, while Dorman has gained eight points since late August.

News On 6 Pollster Bill Shapard predicts there may be fewer straight party votes this year as Fallin continues to underperform other Republicans also running statewide races.

“In fact, one-in-five Republicans are voting for Joe Dorman. Now, ten years ago this would have spelled doom for any Republican on the statewide ballot,” Shapard said.

It’s a different story this year.

Shapard said it does not appear Dorman has enough GOP and conservative support to win Tuesday.

Part of his problem is 39 percent of all voters have a favorable opinion of him, but one-out-of-three still don’t have any opinion.

It also appears Dorman’s efforts to tie Fallin to the unpopular and outgoing, schools superintendent, Janet Barresi, has not been successful.

That’s reflected in Fallin’s favorable ratings which are up over our earlier polls.

Now, 30 percent have a very favorable opinion, while 24 percent view her somewhat favorably.

Another interesting fact is that, of the small number of undecided, 73 percent are women and 53 percent of the undecided are Democrats.

Only 35 percent of the undecided are Republicans which, Shapard said, could be another advantage for Fallin.Complete Poll Results

The survey of 949 likely voters was conducted Oct. 25-29 by SoonerPoll.com, using a dual frame of both cell phones and land lines. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.18 percentage points. Results are weighted by age and party, stratified to Oklahoma likely voter demographics.

Political Irony: Figure This One Out

Here’s political irony: the same people who were supporting Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi and Common Core are now attacking Senator Josh Brecheen, claiming he supported her.

Brecheen opposed Barresi’s support of Common Core.

In politics, lobbyists may stand for children, but not always for the elected officials who stood with them. A new commercial by the non-profit organization Stand For Children attacks Brecheen by linking him to Barresi.

The group is reportedly targeting Brecheen for defeat because he authored the repeal of Common Core. Barresi was an ardent supporter of the controversial legislation.
See the commercial here: KXII_10-23-2014_05.27.30 (1)

Barresi Seeks Waiver Reinstatement

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi and senior staff from the State Department of Education (SDE) asked for immediate reinstatement of Oklahoma’s flexibility waiver from No Child Left Behind in a conference call late Monday with high-level officials from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE).

“With word from the state Regents for Higher Education last week that our current state standards in English and math are indeed considered college- and career-ready, we have asked USDE for an immediate decision to return flexibility to Oklahoma schools,” Barresi said. “Such flexibility would come in the expenditure of federal funds and the removal of the burdensome federal requirements that exist under No Child Left Behind.”

The SDE will now begin the process of resubmitting the waiver request.

USDE rejected Oklahoma’s waiver extension request in August, saying the state was unable to demonstrate state standards were college- and career-ready. The decision came after a repeal of Common Core State Standards in English and math with the passage of House Bill 3399. The legislation directed the state to revert to Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) standards in the two subject areas, which had been in place prior to Common Core’s adoption in 2010.

When HB 3399 was signed into law in June, the SDE immediately asked the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education to help determine if PASS standards could be considered college- and career-ready. One of the definitions of such status is based on state college remediation rates, which in Oklahoma have hovered at about the 40th percentile for years.

On Oct. 16, the Regents announced that a study of PASS standards revealed that if students achieve mastery of the standards they could be considered college and career-ready.

The State Board of Education, in the meantime, is overseeing the process of writing new state standards in English and math. The standards are to be in place by the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.

Coody Endorses Hofmeister

House Education Committee chairwoman Ann Coody, former principal of Lawton MacArthur High School, today endorsed Joy Hofmeister for State Superintendent of Education.
“She’s the right person at the right time to address our teacher shortage and increase compensation for our educators,” Coody said.
“This is a pivotal time and support for education is essential. We need a leader who can get it done. I know Joy is not only a strong supporter of public education, but she will lead and can accomplish what she sets out to accomplish,” Coody said.
Hofmeister said she’s honored to be supported by Coody, a 39-year public school educator, a classroom teacher, counselor, assistant principal, and nine years as the principal of MacArthur.
“Chairwoman Coody needs help in her drive to support public education. She’s been a champion, but needs help at the state Capitol. Together, I know we can build the coalitions needed to accomplish common sense reforms and adequate compensation for our teachers,” Hofmeister said.
“Ann will be in her last two years in the state Legislature, and we share a commitment to increase teacher compensation before she leaves the Legislature. It would be an honor to wage this battle with her.”
Hofmeister is a former member of the state Board of Education, who often disagreed with current Superintendent Janet Barresi. After sparks flew, Hofmeister spent a year campaigning to defeat Barresi, and she now faces the General Election on November 4.

Cox, Hofmeister Face Off In Claremore

Andrea Eger
Tulsa World

CLAREMORE — The candidates for state superintendent squared off on the issues of Common Core standards, standardized testing and teacher pay at a taped debate Tuesday in Claremore.

The event at Rogers State University featuring Republican Joy Hofmeister and Democrat John Cox will be televised by RSU-TV, broadcast channel 35 and Cox cable channel 109 at 8 p.m. Oct. 14. RSU-TV is also carried by area cable and satellite television providers. 

The two will face each other in the Nov. 4 general election.

Both candidates said one of the greatest challenges in state government today is the rewriting of math and reading standards for Oklahoma’s public schools to replace the Common Core standards that were thrown out earlier this year.

Hofmeister said federal intrusion into the Common Core standards adopted by more than 40 other states plus the failure of current State Superintendent Janet Barresi to listen to the early concerns of Oklahoma parents and teachers made moving forward with Common Core impossible.

“I am opposed to Common Core, but Common Core is not the only way,” she said. “We need standards with higher critical thinking and depth of knowledge. We have to make certain we are acting on evidence, that we bring in experts to look at models that are working in other parts of the country. Most importantly, we have to include Oklahomans in this process … It is not going to be an easy mess to climb out of, but we are going to solve this. Oklahomans have the heart and drive and we have the talent right here in Oklahoma. We can get it done but it is going to take a collaborative spirit.”

Hofmeister, of Tulsa, is a Kumon math and reading tutoring center owner and former public school teacher who served on the state Board of Education during State Superintendent Janet Barresi’s term and resigned to challenge Barresi for the position. She won all 77 counties in the Republican primary.

Cox, the longtime superintendent in Peggs, a K-8 district in Cherokee County, said he was excited about the repeal of Common Core standards because he opposed them from the start. He called for bringing together Oklahoma teachers from all grade levels to develop new academic standards for the state

“What this will do is the millions we spend on the implementation for Common Core, we can spend to implement our own new standards,” Cox said. “Teachers know from Point A to Point B what needs to be taught in their classroom. But they want something solid in their hands that they can then go out there and teach.”

Moderator Sam Jones, who hosts a show called “Green Country Perspectives,” challenged the candidates about the role of politics in the rewriting of the academic standards.

“Politics really should not interfere with having really strong high standards to prepare our students. We should act on evidence. We should go back and look at standards that have already produced the outcomes we want for our students,” Hofmeister said.

“We need high standards, assessments that are reliable, comparable and have diagnostic capabilities, and an accountability system that tells us how schools are doing and how they can be improved,” Hofmeister said.

Cox said the crux of the issue is leadership and he made his case for why he is more qualified.

“It is about an educator becoming state superintendent. Use the experts — our teachers throughout the state. It is time we start trusting them again and using them as professionals,” Cox said.

“If you want someone who is an educator and has been one for 29 years and lives it every day and understands what you go through, I am your person. I could step in there today, right now and take over and make a difference for public education.” Cox said.

Both candidates spoke of a common desire to reduce standardized testing and restore public respect and regard for classroom teachers.

When it came to questions about funding, Cox said repeatedly that he would advocate for another $200 million to increase teacher pay up to the regional average of about $35,000.

Hofmeister said, “There is job compensation and there is job satisfaction. We need to have both of those … More than just a paycheck, our teachers want respect and an environment where they can teach.”

She added that the limited dollars the state has to give means there needs to be a tougher look at “overegulation and overtesting” which she said has resulted in greater administrative needs and costs.

She also questioned how schools could be funded at 2008 levels when student enrollment in public schools has grown significantly since then.

Fallin: Barresi ‘needs to accept the fact that she lost the election’

Nathan Thompson
Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin told the Examiner-Enterprise on Tuesday that the recent actions of State Superintendent Janet Barresi were not wise, but she will not ask her to resign.

Barresi has come under fire for the recent appointment of Larry Birney as an assistant superintendent overseeing accreditation and compliance for the Oklahoma Department of Education. Baressi created the position and hired Birney just weeks before voters go to the polls to select her replacement.

Birney, who has an extensive background in law enforcement, was the executive director for the Council of Law Enforcement Education and Training from 2008 until 2011, when he resigned following the creation of a panel to investigate his conduct. Birney is the husband of Barresi’s general council, Kim Richey.

“I think that Supt. Barresi needs to accept the fact that she lost the election,” Fallin said. “She needs to exit her job gracefully when the job ends. There are only a couple of months left. I don’t think it would be helpful at this point in time to have a vacancy (of State Superintendent). I think she can help with a smooth transition to whoever the next superintendent is, and to keep things peaceful and calm. I don’t think she should be hiring new positions.”

Barresi made the decision to hire Birney by using the powers that were given to the Superintendent of Public Education following the passage of House Bill 2139 in 2011.

The language of the bill allows the governor to make appointments to the state Board of Education, and modifies the terms of office for board members from a staggered six-year term to a four-year term that mirrored the election cycle.

The bill also created a new law, which empowered the state superintendent to organize and control the administration of the Department of Education — including the hiring of personnel, their appointment and their salaries.

Fallin said in light of Barresi’s actions, she would be in favor of allowing legislators to revisit the authority of the State Superintendent.

“I think it would be helpful if the Board (of Education) had more authority to be able to make decisions independently and also work with me as governor,” she said. “I think it is something we should look into this legislative session. I look forward to working with our legislators that helped draft that original legislation and see if we can make a way to improve upon the language.”


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