Through early afternoon today (Friday, January 28), denunciations continued to pour into newsrooms around the state of Oklahoma concerning the behavior of members of the state Board of Education during Thursday’s meeting of the panel.
Roughly 24 hours after the now-infamous meeting of the board, a steady drumbeat of press releases by elected officials has continued unabated. Focus of the unabated fury was the conduct of board members Tim Gilpin and Herb Rozell.
Rozell questioned the usefulness of a woman who is pregnant, a person new Superintendent of Public Instruction Barresi has to put to work at the agency. In the course of some five hours, Gilpin led a steady attack on Barresi’s policy views and sneering slaps at the qualifications of her personal staff.
This afternoon, state Rep. Jason Nelson weighed in. A leader of House reformers on education policy issues, Nelson has strong ties to a number of Democrats in the Legislature, and was the leading advocate of one of the major education reform bills enacted in 2010.
In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Nelson said:
“I’ve listened to nearly two hours of a recording of yesterday’s state board of education meeting. I can only describe it as disturbing.
“I’m stunned by the board members’ appalling behavior at Dr. Janet Barresi’s first board meeting as our newly elected State Superintendent. I’m not surprised by Dr. Barresi’s professionalism under fire. It only serves to confirm she is the right person for this job.
“Listening to the recording you hear a few members of the board attempt to provoke Dr. Barresi with constant harassment and interruptions over the course of five hours. Clearly they had organized this effort before yesterday’s meeting in a pathetic attempt to embarrass Superintendent Barresi. That plan backfired. Two of the board members in particular played the classic school yard bully.
“I can’t help but wonder if other board members were embarrassed or even intimidated by the disgraceful actions of board members Tim Gilpin and Herb Rozell. At one point a member of the board indicates that she supports approving the hiring of an individual recommended to the board by Dr. Barresi only to hear Mr. Gilpin overpower the conversation and blurt out a motion to the opposite effect. It’s now public record that they underestimated Dr. Barresi and that they are not fit to continue serving on the board.
“I hope the other board members will quickly clarify that they do not share or endorse Gilpin’s and Rozell’s complete lack of respect and civility. It is important to know if the other board members believe the behavior exhibited by Mr. Gilpin and Mr. Rozell was appropriate and if they believe that these two men should continue serving on the board. I hope their silence since yesterday’s meeting is not their assent to the unacceptable behavior.”
In a separate statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, state Rep. Dustin Roberts, a Republican from Durant, expressed his concern on the same matter:
“It is unacceptable that those members of State Board of Education are refusing to work with State Superintendent Barresi. The people of Oklahoma spoke in November and endorsed a change in our state’s public education system, and it is the board’s responsibility to work with her to fulfill her duties.”
Roberts’ district includes most of Bryan County in southeast Oklahoma.