Letter to the Editor of CapitolBeatOK

To The Editor:


I found a very surprising article concerning the state Department of Education in the March 20 edition of The Oklahoman. This, after the breaking story earlier this month about state Superintendent Janet Barresi's predecessor, Sandy Garrett.
Let's do some brief analysis here by breaking down each event separately so we can compare:

SANDY GARRETT'S ADMINISTRATION:
•Two accounts found totaling $2.3 million over the course of 10 years
•Monies were collected from private sources to fund two events/year = Encyclomedia and The Superintendent's Annual Leadership Conference
•Non-profit Oklahoma Curriculum Improvement Commission held both accounts composed of private funds
•Monies transferred in 2010 to Oklahoma State School Boards Association (a non-profit association) who managed the accounts for 25,000/yr fee (Barresi closed and had remaining $783.51 deposited into Foundation for Innovation in Education account though Communications Director Damon Gardenhire said initially they did not - they were deposited in a revolving fund - oops?)
•Former Republican State Chairman, auditor Gary Jones, maintains both accounts were "off book" and unknown to the boards of either OCIC or OSSBA
•Donations to the accounts made by vendors that had, "multimillion contracts with the Education Department for various education services"
•Donations went to pay for "alcohol, food and lodging" including a chocolate fountain and kegs of beer
•Food and alcohol at at 2005 reception cost $12,694.

JANET BARRESI'S ADMINISTRATION:
•One account found with no dollar figure given according to the Oklahoman but possibly $213,747 over the course of one year (right about $2.3 million over 10 years at that rate)
•Monies were collected from private sources to fund Innovation 2011
•Non-profit Foundation for Innovation in Education held the account composed of private funds
•Foundation board (paper did not indicate how board members were chosen) managed the account
•Finances handled by CPA
•It is unclear how Foundation board members were chosen but board dissolved directly after meeting was held
•Origination of donations to account not disclosed by the Oklahoman
•Auditor Gary Jones said he knows about Barresi's account, but did not look into it
•Donations went to pay for vendor space, rooms, convention space and audio gear (as per The Oklahoman, totaling approximately $154,226)
•Food (without alcohol) for reception and superintendent's lunch cost $12,612.

I think we can stop there, as I hope most everyone is getting the picture.
Apparently, misdeeds are in the eye of whomever's party is represented by the person sitting in the chair. Yes, there has been impropriety alleged by the OSDE under the tutelage of Sandy Garrett. Here is an interesting blog alleging firsthand (hearsay) knowledge.
Certainly, one can peruse the entire state Auditor's report for themselves to determine exactly how far reaching was this alleged "corruption" at Garrett's OSDE. 

I think two things are important to note here:

1.This sounds just like the very partisan stink that was raised over Janet Barresi's initial meeting with her board that led to Republicans producing legislation (before the air had even cleared) to give her power over her board.
2.Janet Barresi - as her first order of business as State Superintendent - funded no less than three state employees with private funds. The board asked that the AG's opinion be sought on the legality of the matter of the hires, but Barresi simply blocked the motion (in imperious fashion) during the regular board meeting. Senator Andrew Rice then asked for a ruling instead. Attorney General Scott Pruitt ruled against Barresi, calling the hires (who had been working in the department prior to the board meeting at which they were to be approved for hire - against state law) usurper(s) who lacks the authority to carry out the official duties of the state”? 
Where is the persecution/prosecution of/for Dr. Barresi? Why does she get a 'pass'? Blind allegiance by members of her own party to the party?
Sorry, I'm a Republican, but I don't think this looks good at all for our team. Makes one wonder which old saying applies here? "Judge not lest ye be judged?", "Do unto others..."?, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander"?


Jenni White, President Restore Oklahoma Public Education (ROPE)

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