By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Students at McKinley Elementary School and Enid High School will interact with the Oklahoma superintendent of schools next week.
Janet Barresi, state superintendent of public instruction, will be in Enid Monday afternoon.
She’ll first go to McKinley to visit with fifth-graders, as part of a mentoring program coordinated by Stan Brownlee.
“We will talk to her about where she was in fifth grade,” Brownlee said.
Brownlee said they also will discuss where Barresi went to junior high and high school, and how she went from being a student to being the state superintendent.
Brownlee said his fifth-grade mentoring program brings good role models to the school in order to teach students about making good choices in life. The guests talk to the children, and the children get to ask questions as well.
Barresi also will visit with a panel of students at EHS.
After that, she will meet with district administrators.
“It is always exciting to share the success of our school district,” said Shawn Hime, Enid Public Schools superintendent. “Dr. Barresi and her staff will have the opportunity to meet our incredible students and learn about the many programs that have been implemented to help them achieve. We also look forward to discussing important issues that affect Oklahoma’s school children.”
On Wednesday, Barresi spent the day in Woodward.
Her day began with a conference with district superintendents from schools across western Oklahoma, from Clinton to the Panhandle.
Woodward Superintendent Tim Merchant described the session as “an open and honest question-and-answer discussion.”
He said topics discussed during the morning session included testing, teacher shortages, teacher evaluations, professional development for teachers and the state’s education budget.
“We’re really needing the State Department of Education to step in on a statewide level and help with recruitment and retention,” he said. “We need something, whether that’s through additional money to increase salaries or more training to provide our teachers with more confidence, which again comes back to financing because professional development is not cheap.”
Barresi ended her visit to Woodward with a lengthy meeting with leadership teams from each of the six schools in the district. These teams were comprised of teachers, school administrators, support staff, parents and a few students.
Barresi provided a timeline for the transition to the new standardized testing, known as PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). She said the PARCC exams, which are being developed as part of a 32-state consortium, will be field tested next year prior to going live in the spring of 2015.
The state superintendent then opened the floor to questions, saying “everything is on the table.”
Many of the questions focused on PARCC testing as well as the transition to common core curriculum, with a lot of teachers frustrated with not knowing what to prepare for and not having the right materials to prepare.
Several teachers wanted to know what content would be covered in the new tests, so they would be able to plan their curriculum accordingly to prepare their students for the tests, especially since their students’ success as well as their own assessment as teachers depends heavily on the outcomes of those tests.
Barresi wasn’t able to answer their questions, but implied the new tests will be more about covering certain concepts rather than specific subject matter.
Woodward Middle School literature teacher Sonya Covalt said there needs to be “some relief from all the demands placed on us.”
Covalt said all the mandates placed on teachers, such as for data collection and test preparation, means “teaching is now such a small piece of our jobs.”
“If you don’t start making this a job that we can accomplish, you’re not going to be able to bring more people in to a career of teaching,” Covalt said.
Rowynn Ricks of the Woodward News contributed to this story.