POE’s Ginger Tinney calls Superintendent Barresi’s hiring of OEA leader “astounding”

Ginger Tinney, executive director of Professional Oklahoma Educators (POE), on Monday (December 5) characterized as “astounding” the hiring of a top leader of the Oklahoma Education Association to take a key leadership post at the Oklahoma Education Department. 

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Tinney said that the decision by Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi to bring Joel Robison onto her staff “adds to the confusion about the State Department of Education’s direction.” 

Tinney, who has disagreed with some of Barresi’s decisions in recent months, said, “We know that birds of a feather flock together and, as we’ve seen, Supt. Barresi is not the conservative Republican she was elected to be. Her recent decision to hire a new chief of state from the top ranks of the state affiliate of the most liberal teachers’ union in the nation further confirms this fact.”

Tinney asserted, “This move makes about as much sense as Ronald Reagan asking Jimmy Carter to be his vice president.” 

Tinney continued, “Barresi’s actions show that authenticity is rare these days, but there continues to be one true, conservative voice for educators: Professional Oklahoma Educators (POE). With over 7,000 members across the state, we will continue to move forward, undeterred by Barresi’s actions, to achieve what is best for Oklahoma students and teachers.”

Friday (December 2), after several sources told CapitolBeatOK Barresi was notifying state leaders she had offered the job to Robison, who is head lobbyist executive for the National Education Association (NEA) affiliate — and that he has accepted the position — we posted the story.

That evening, Damon Gardenhire, Barresi’s communications director, confirmed the news in an interview.

Gardenhire told CapitolBeatOK, “Superintendent Barresi has worked with Joel and has been impressed with his educational insights and expertise. He is committed to support reform and wants to be part of her reform efforts.”

The opening emerged when Jennifer Carter, Barresi’s first chief of staff, decided not to return from her recent maternity leave.

Gardenhire also disclosed in Friday’s interview that he will take on additional duties as a policy advisor to the superintendent.

CapitolBeatOK first reported Superintendent Barresi’s possible hiring of Robison in August.