The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 26, 2011

Singing praises of unsung heroes

State school board member, local teacher wants to see support of education increase

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — The first Oklahoma State Board of Education meeting with a new state superintendent was “horrible” said local teacher Betsy Mabry, a member of the state board.

Mabry hopes upcoming meetings will result in more progress.

“I was uncomfortable on a number of levels,” Mabry said of that first meeting.

During the meeting an argument broke out over State Superintendent Janet Baressi’s personnel requests.

By statute the board must approve all personnel changes, and Mabry said there questions about the qualification of  some of those Baressi requested.

“The main questions came from two areas, qualifications for the job and the salary of the individuals,” Mabry said. She said the salary recommended by Baressi was considerably higher than previous occupants of those positions.

Two of the five requests were approved, while three were not.

Despite its rocky start, Mabry said she does not see the direction of education in the state as a problem.

The board has the education of Oklahoma schoolchildren at heart. Mabry is in her third year as a member of the state board. She currently teaches science part time at Oklahoma Bible Academy — teaching students in grades six and eight — but previously taught 20 years at Enid Public Schools.

Even though Mabry has met with Baressi professionally only once, she has some good ideas and is focused on her “enormous” job, Mabry said.

“I think she wants to do well, and I certainly hope we can all work together with her,” she said.

If Mabry has her way she would like to see education as the big issue in everyone’s mind. Too often, she said, she believes the state looks at developing new business and bringing in new markets and education becomes a stepchild. She said she doesn’t think legislative or Department of Education officials alone can accomplish what she would like to see in state education. She said it will take everyone — individuals, families, churches — working to make their schools in Oklahoma the best possible.

“I would love to see the day when every adult has a passion on the benefits education brings to state,” she said. “I would like to see our education IQ raised, our interest in education.”

Mabry said she believes education should be a non-partisan issue and that it is a civil rights issue — the right of every child in the state to receive the best education possible.

“The first need is to support the people who are doing the yeoman’s work, and that is the classroom teacher. Give them the support they need to get the job done,” Mabry said.

Many times teachers are given mandates without the funding, which places them in difficult situations. She said it is very hard being a classroom teacher today.

“Classroom teachers,” she said, “are the unsung heroes of our education system.”