OKLAHOMA CITY—A state legislator expressed his frustration over what he deemed a “clear pattern of disrespect for the law” and says he has submitted a letter to the Attorney General’s office to issue an official opinion on the matter.
State Representative Ed Cannaday D-Porum, has serious concerns over the recent actions of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Janet Barresi, and the State Board of Education, which adopted three teacher evaluation systems for school districts to use during a one-year pilot period.
According to Cannaday, who cited Title 70 O.S. § 6-101.16, the Board was required to adopt a single, permanent teacher evaluation system.
“Yes, I have concerns with the fact that in this instance the Board, led by Supt. Barresi, is circumventing both the spirit and the letter of the law,” said Cannaday. “However, this most recent issue is only one of several in which Supt. Barresi’s actions have demonstrated that she thinks that as an elected official she does not also have to be a law-abider. We can’t just pick and choose which laws we want to follow on any given day, or bypass laws or rules in place by deciding to ‘interpret’ them however we want.”
Cannaday noted another recent request for an Attorney General opinion over the impropriety of the State Department of Education being directed by senior staff who were being paid by a private foundation, rather that state appropriated dollars.
Barresi had been advised that she could not allow her privately funded personnel to supervise and manage state employees, but she disregarded this advice. The Attorney General ruled that these two top administrators were ‘usurpers’ who had no authority to carry out official duties at the Department of Education.
Following this decision another request was made of the Attorney General as to the effect of any decisions these two might have made under color of Barresi’s authority after her swearing-in and before May 9, 2011, when the Board formally granted her powers to make hiring decisions about staff.
The Attorney General has not yet rendered an official opinion regarding this question of fact.
“I served on the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Commission, and after months of study and careful deliberation, and in complete compliance with the law, we presented Supt. Barresi and the Board with our recommendation to adopt Tulsa’s teacher evaluation system,” Cannaday said. “However, not only did she ignore this recommendation, but she led the charge to ignore the law on the books and create, on the spot, a whole new approach to the issue. It is this disregard to procedure, precedent and opinions from experienced educators in the field that is troubling to me.
“I can’t, and none of us should turn a blind eye to anyone who so blatantly and publicly ignores the rule of law. I also find it ironic, given Supt. Barresi’s frequent use of the ‘C3’ catchphrase, in which she says that a good education provides ‘college preparedness’, ‘career orientation’, and lastly, ‘citizenship’. In my opinion, good citizenship is tantamount to following the law, and in regards to the actions on teacher evaluation systems, the Board and Supt. Barresi flouted the spirit and the letter of the law. They would do well to remember the third ‘C’ and re-evaluate their implementation of this law to reflect legislative intent, and not their own.”