Ashli Sims, News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Even before the controversial pregnancy comment, Superintendent Barresi and members of the board were butting heads.

Despite the board rejecting three members of Barresi's senior staff, all were on the job Friday. All three are still serving as consultants to the superintendent, paid with private funds. 

Barresi said the board's rejection was all a political move designed to keep her from doing her job. Board members say some of the candidates simply weren't qualified. 

"I think it's an effort to overthrow the will of the people of the state of Oklahoma," Barresi said.

Strong words from Oklahoma's new superintendent, after a grueling, often testy, first board meeting. And it was Superintendent Janet Barresi's picks for her senior staff that sparked the fireworks.

Tim Gilpin, Board Member: "Ms. Barresi, was Ms. Carter your campaign manager?
Janet Barresi, State Superintendent: "Yes."
Tim Gilpin, Board Member: "And I see..."
Janet Barresi, State Superintendent: "And she was excellent too."
Tim Gilpin, Board Member: "I'm sure she was. But that does not qualify her for a professional education position just because she's your political cronie."

Board member Tim Gilpin was talking about Jennifer Carter, a candidate to be Barresi's Chief of Staff.

Carter has a law degree and was an assistant insurance commissioner, before running Barresi's campaign.

She also worked for two years as director of legal services for the Association of Professional Oklahoma Educators.

"And we did our job and said 'No. Education is in enough trouble as it is.' We need qualified people in these authoritative positions," Gilpin said.

Board member Tim Gilpin and others say she wasn't qualified, because she doesn't have education credentials.

He said that's important because the chief of staff would run the Department of Education in Barresi's absence.

"She wanted to pay her $96,000, which is $10,000 more than we paid the last chief of staff who had all the qualifications, masters degree, certificate to superintendent and the board said 'No,'" Gilpin said.

"Ms. Carter is imminently qualified. She currently holds a juris doctorate degree," Barresi said.

As for the higher salary, Barresi's spokesperson said that's substantially less than the chiefs of staff at the state house, senate and attorney general's offices.

  • Senate Tom Walls $124,347.96
  • House Chad Warmington $104,250
  • AG Tom Gruber $120,000

Barresi sayidshe's in the middle of reorganizing the department, consolidating positions, and her efforts will save nearly $20,000 at the senior staff level alone.

"I will have high expectations, additional work loads, and expect a net savings for paying more for fewer people," she said.

Barresi's choices for Communications Director and Director of Finance were also rejected. Tim Gilpin said her Communications Director would mean four people with similar titles in that department.

Another board member said her finance pick was not a certified public accountant.

Barresi said the board has never been this picky, claiming they rubber stamped or didn't bother to approve 90 percent of previous new hires.