OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A former Oklahoma State Department of Education employee has blown the whistle once again by claiming State Superintendent Ryan Walters is not hiring “key personnel” in a timely manner.
Terri Grissom was the Oklahoma State Department of Education Director of Grant Development for several years.
She planned on staying with OSDE until her retirement which would have been in nearly three years.
She started in 2017, took a year’s absence from August 2021 to August 2022, and then came back to work before resigning on April 18.
“Let me just say that I absolutely love the job. It was my most favorite job I’ve ever had. But basically, I was you know, I was wasting taxpayers’ money being there. I wasn’t being utilized. I wasn’t applying for writing grants. And then when I finally got leadership to approve some grants for me to write, they neglected to complete some paperwork in a grant management system that allowed me to upload the grants, so that was shut down for three weeks. We missed two of the three deadlines that I was working on, so at that point, I just didn’t feel like there was any need for me staying any longer,” explained Grissom.
Grissom said her position with OSDE doesn’t need to be filled if current leadership decides not to, but there are other positions required to be filled within 90 days of their opening.
“If you’re paid 100% from a grant and you’re a key personnel on that grant, then that position can’t stay open longer than 90 days without getting permission to extend that,” stated Grissom.
Grissom said she has seen some “key personnel” grantor positions listed on OSDE’s website.
However, there’s one position in particular she knows has not been filled.
“That’s a new grant that just started at the end of December. We hired a Project Director. They worked on it for a couple of months. And then because of the lack of judgment on the part of the legal team, obviously they scared her and made her think that her job was in jeopardy,” added Grissom.
Grissom said the Project Director for that new grant called ‘Project Respect’ had resigned in March.
She has yet to see that job listed on OSDE’s website since then.
“You can’t just hire whoever you want. The federal government has to approve who you want to hire. I don’t know that anybody understands that, that’s out there right now, so you can certainly interview and you can certainly, you know, have a preference on who you want to hire, but then you have to send that individual’s resumé to the federal government and say, ‘This is who we want to have for the position, please approve.’ They have to approve that person before you can even offer them the job.” said Grissom.
Because Grissom believes there is a lack of transparency and direction under the current OSDE administration, she said competitive grants are in jeopardy.
“For example, a grant was just released on May 28th called a ‘Teacher Leadership’ grant, and it will pay for the the hiring bonuses that [Supt. Ryan Walters] is saying that he’s going to provide to people who will come back and enter the teaching profession. That grant would actually pay those, but those are at stake. Unless they have somebody working on it right now, they’re not going to be, you know, they’re not going to be able to get that done. So they’re going to count on the state to bail them out and come up with the money instead,” said Grissom.
Per the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s website, there are nine positions available as of Monday afternoon.
Grant writing is not included within the nine job descriptions.
News 4 reached out to OSDE Monday morning with a list of questions, including:
- “How many grant positions are open within the OSDE right now?”
- “How many have you all filled in the last month?”
- “How many grant positions are there in total?”
- “Have you all asked for an extension on the 90-day deadline to fill key grant positions so far?”
- “How many grantors does OSDE currently have?”
- “Have you all filled the Director of Grant Development position? If so, when was it filled and when does the person begin their duties?”
- “How many grantors have resigned or been fired since Supt. Ryan Walters took office?”
None of News 4’s questions were answered, but OSDE did send back a statement.
“You’re (sic) reporting is inaccurate, as it has consistently been since the beginning of this administration,” stated OSDE spokesperson, Justin Holcomb.
A follow-up email was sent, asking if OSDE intended on answering the above listed questions. We also asked for clarification on what News 4 has “inaccurately” reported on regarding OSDE thus far.
Holcomb has yet to respond to News 4’s latest inquiry.
News 4 also reached out to the United States Department of Education. We asked if there was any federal violation or law being broken by OSDE in regards to unfilled “key personnel” positions.
“All of your questions should be directed to the Oklahoma State Board of Education. These are state-level decisions,” said a USDE representative.
No further information was provided after News 4 followed up for clarification on any federal regulations pertaining filling key personnel positions within a State Department of Education.
Without answers, Grissom fears for the future of Oklahoma education.
“I can’t say enough that people just need to understand that work is not getting done there. And I don’t know how many times I can say it to how many reporters. Things are just not getting done. Work is not getting done. You can’t sit on contracts for eight, nine, ten months. You know, work is not getting done and somebody needs to make sure that it has because the leadership team there currently is not making sure that work is getting done in a timely manner,” stated Grissom.
She hopes to see some sort of oversight of the OSDE by state lawmakers and Governor Kevin Stitt in the future.