FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 24, 2014
Contact: Rep. Jason Smalley
Rep. Smalley Calls for Resignation of Top Education Officials
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Jason Smalley said today he is calling for the resignation of state Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi, Dr. Larry Birney and Kim Richey.
“I am calling for an immediate hiring and firing freeze at the Oklahoma State Department of Education and calling on Superintendent Janet Barresi, Dr. Larry Birney and Kim Richey to immediately step down,” said Smalley, R-Stroud. “This past week a new position was created within the agency for what I view as a good ol’ boy hire.”
Lynn Jones, a knowledgeable and experienced regional accreditation officer who was serving as executive director, stepped down last week as she was informed she had a new boss, Smalley said. Jones was previously one of the most experienced in her field and was promoted last year to executive director from the field office, he said.
“I have personally worked with Lynn; she is extremely knowledgeable and gifted in what she does,” Smalley said. “She has an abundance of knowledge and was an amazing resource to myself and all of the schools she served.
“It seems to me that we would want to keep our best and brightest close to us to allow a less of a learning curve come January when a new leader takes office. To replace someone and create a new position with only eight weeks left is inexcusable and shows that the SDE, a bureaucratic monster, is out of control.
“This is irresponsible and accomplishes nothing, it hurts public education and decisions like this should be left until the new superintendent is sworn in.”
The new hire is Dr. Larry Birney, a law enforcement specialist who served as the executive director for the Council of Law Enforcement Education and Training. He resigned in 2011 after a formal panel was formed to investigate an ongoing personal inquiry. Dr. Birney served with the San Antonio Police Department for 35 years and was with CLEET since 2008.
“I don’t question his law enforcement experience, I question his education expertise and qualifications for this newly created position,” Smalley said.
It just so happens that Larry’s wife is Kim Richey, who serves as general counsel for the state education department. Dr. Birney and Mrs. Richey worked together at CLEET as well.
“My question is why we are hiring individuals that have no K-12 education experience to come in and now be in charge of the accreditation standards of our schools,” Smalley said. “As of right now our standards are subject to change in Oklahoma. We need to keep the most experienced people we have to help with the transition. That is what’s best for our schools and our children in Oklahoma. Not hiring spouses and friends, to secure jobs.”
Smalley also noted the financial cost.
“As a legislator every year school funding is a top priority,” Smalley said. “It concerns me when the state education department adds a $90,000 salary and then continues to ask for more and more operational costs.”