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Oklahoma schools Superintendent Barresi faces opposition from within own political party

Recently, 20 Republican lawmakers announced their endorsements of Joy Hofmeister, a Republican, over state schools Superintendent Barresi, who is also a Republican.
by Randy Ellis Published: January 11, 2014
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To describe state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi as a lightning rod might be an understatement.

Democrats aren't the only ones taking verbal shots at the Republican superintendent.

This past week 20 Republican lawmakers announced their endorsements of Joy Hofmeister, a Republican, who has been exploring the idea of running for superintendent, but has not yet officially announced her candidacy.

“I think this is maybe unprecedented, but I think the nature of how she (Barresi) has ruled has brought this about,” said House Republican Whip Todd Thomsen, of Ada. “It's ‘do this or we'll just run right over you.'”

Sam Stone, Barresi's campaign manager, attributed the Republican lawmakers' endorsement of Barresi's opponent to Barresi's push for “meaningful reforms.”

Stone described the changes as “painful” but “also necessary.”

“I think if you look at all the reforms that are out there, they're difficult,” he said. “We know … that there are a lot of folks who would prefer to return to the status quo.”

One hot-button issue has been the Barresi administration's implementation of a system that grades schools on an A to F performance scale designed to give parents a better idea of the quality of schools their children attend.

Many schools fared poorly and there has been outcry from teachers and school administrators, as well as the state lawmakers who represent them.

However, Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, said her problems with Barresi have nothing to do with opposing reforms, since Denney authored the A-F grading scale bill and is a strong supporter of many of the other reform efforts.

“I work in education quite a bit and I just see a disconnect between the state Department of Education and our schools and our school leaders,” Denney said.

Thomsen said no single incident has triggered legislators' opposition to Barresi and that lawmakers who endorsed her opponent have differing opinions on changes Barresi has implemented.

“I think, more than anything, most everybody is opposed to the manner in which those reforms have been implemented by the state superintendent,” he said.

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by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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