Barresi faces calls for resignation at education board meeting

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OKLAHOMA - Embattled Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi faced two calls for her resignation during Thursday's Board of Education meeting at the state capitol.

"I want the venom stopped," board member Lee Baxter said. "I'm sick of the lack of collaboration."

Baxter ended Thursday's meeting by saying the current status quo needs to end.

"And the way I feel that happens is for the state superintendent to relinquish her role now."

State Rep. Jason Smalley (R-Stroud) asked for a resignation as well.

Barresi responded only after the meeting was over.

"I don't intend to do that," she said.

Barresi said she will continue doing her job of focusing on children.

But she has been criticized for wanting to rehire CTB/McGraw-Hill for winter testing - the same company the board recently fired for testing failures over two years.

"Are you drinking that kool-aid, assuring from them that this is going to work? I don't believe it," Baxter said. "I'm not going to vote to give another three million dollars to a failed vendor. When you take your car into the same guy twice and he screws it up both times, you go somewhere else."

But Barresi said three other testing companies who were contacted showed no interest in taking the job.

She said the law requires students to be offered testing three times a year.

Not having testing till the spring, she believes, would hurt students wanting to graduate high school.

"To tell them that they have to wait until the spring assessment means those students would move on to another class and then have to come back and review material, and perhaps wouldn't have the best opportunity to succeed."

Barresi's office said a special board meeting will be scheduled within the next two weeks to revisit the testing company issue.

Meanwhile, CTB/McGraw-Hill is being investigated by the Attorney General's office for those testing failures.

Smalley and Baxter also accused Barresi of "cronyism" for hiring the husband of a state education executive - Larry Birney - to fill a new assistant state superintendent position.

Barresi said the state legislature gave her authority to hire people without posting a position.

"I wanted someone who understood the educational process, so there would be as little disruption as possible to districts," she said. "There was no one else in my office that had that ability to have appropriate investigative procedure."

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