Conservative policy advisor leaves Superintendent Barresi’s staff
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Published: 24-Sep-2012

The second of the two original top advisors who came to office with Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi is leaving to work for a Sam Walton family education reform foundation, confirmed Tricia Pemberton, Superintendent Barresi’s spokeswoman.

Damon Gardenhire, policy director and director of communications, is leaving to work for a conservative charter school foundation, the Walton Family Foundation.

Several months ago, another original top advisor, Jennifer Carter, had a baby and left on indefinite leave. She was replaced by Joel Robison, who previously served as head lobbyist for the Oklahoma Education Association, the state affiliate of the National Education Association.

Janet Barresi, elected as an education reformer, has run afoul of teachers’ groups a few times.
Early on, some teachers protested at her office’s doorway after she announced increased funding for early childhood education. More recently, she drew similar reaction when she boosted funding for virtual education.

Baressi had to fight for the hiring of both advisors. The state Board of Education initially rejected her selections. 

Barresi found an ally in Gov. Mary Fallin. Some state board of education members ultimately were replaced, and the superintendent’s choices were ratified. When Baressi first took office, the State Board of Education rejected the hiring of both Gardenhire and chief of staff Jennifer Carter. While a battle waged over their hiring, their compensation was temporarily funded by private sources.

You may contact Patrick B. McGuigan at and follow us on Twitter: @capitolbeatok.

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