Janet Barresi: First new Oklahoma state superintendent in 20 Years

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published 12-Jan-2011

Armed with a pledge to usher in a new era of bold reforms that will transform Oklahoma’s education system, State Superintendent Janet Barresi took office on Monday as the state’s first new chief of public instruction in two decades and as the first Republican elected to the office.

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Superintendent Barresi said, “It’s time to prepare Oklahoma’s children for the demands of the 21st Century. Oklahoma can be a leader in education, but only if we are committed to rethinking our approach to education, to restructuring outdated and inefficient systems, and to enacting real reforms.”

Barresi was sworn in Monday at the State Capitol along with other statewide elected officials. Taking charge of the state’s education system at a difficult crossroads, Barresi said she is committed to changing a broken status quo.

Recent studies indicate that Oklahoma’s students have fallen significantly behind in the global competition for educational excellence. (One study ranked Oklahoma among the worst 10 states in producing top-achieving math students, according to today’s release.)

“The challenges we face as a state should be turned into opportunities,” said Barresi. “The time for excuses is over. Every child can learn, regardless of socioeconomic conditions. And every child in Oklahoma deserves a chance to learn. When a young person graduates with a high school diploma in Oklahoma, they should be ready to enter college successfully. ‘Work ready’ should mean ‘college ready.’”

Barresi said that one of her first orders of business will be to ensure that critical dollars are getting into the state’s classrooms. She said she will immediately direct a comprehensive division-by-division analysis of the Department of Education. And she’ll be working to contract with an independent auditor to conduct a financial and performance audit of the department.

Barresi said she will also focus on overhauling Oklahoma’s student data system so that it provides more accurate, more detailed and timelier information to schools and teachers. She also pledged to institute an A through F letter-grade rating system for schools.

“If children can be sent home with a report card that parents can understand, then we should be able to do the same for schools,” said Barresi. “A new letter-grade system for schools will increase accountability and improve results.”

On her first day in office, Barresi asked parents, teachers, administrators and citizens statewide, seeking their input and ideas.

“It’s been 20 years since the State Department of Education has seen new leadership,” she said. “Now we will seek innovation and new ways of doing business. I’m eager to hear from all Oklahomans. I can’t get there without every parent in the state, every teacher and administrator, and every citizen committed to working together for positive reforms.”