The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 14, 2013

Barresi visits with Enid fifth-graders

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — About 50 McKinley Elementary School fifth-graders got to visit with the Oklahoma superintendent of public instruction when she came to sit in their classroom for a meet-and-greet Monday afternoon.

She visited with students who take part in a mentoring program coordinated by retired accountant Stan Brownlee.

“There are really only two differences between these kids and you,” Brownlee told Janet Barresi. “The obvious one is age, and the other one is some of the choices you’ve made.”

Brownlee asked Barresi where she spent her own fifth-grade year.

“I was in Oklahoma City,” Barresi said. “I was going to a tiny little school that was all in portables.”

Barresi said her favorite class was science, “because we were always solving mysteries.” Her least-favorite class was geography.

Barresi’s path to the state superintendent’s office wasn’t typical. She was a school speech therapist who became a dentist.

“I was a dentist for 24 years,” Barresi said. “But while I was doing that, I started thinking about education all the time.”

She and some other parents helped start a charter school, Barresi recalled.

Barresi talked to the students about her desire to see schools teach in new ways, such as learning and testing by using video game formats.

“Who likes to take tests?” Barresi asked.

Few hands went up.

“Who likes playing video games?” she asked.

Nearly every hand went up.

“I’m going to make you a promise,” Barresi told them. “I promise you that before you graduate high school, you will take tests that way.”

“What’s your C3 plan?” one boy asked Barresi.

“That’s a great question,” Barresi said.

She answered that every student who graduates from an Oklahoma high school should be ready for college or career and also understand their job as a citizen.

Barresi encouraged the students to give school all they’ve got.

“Even when it gets hard in school, keep pushing ahead,” Barresi said. “School is your chance to make your dreams come true. Don’t let anybody tell you you cannot achieve your dreams.”

While in Enid Monday Barresi also visited a panel of students at Enid High School and then spent time with Enid Public Schools district officials.

Amber Fitzgerald, human resources and communications director for Enid Public Schools, said discussions between Barresi and school administrators focused on school funding and coming changes in student testing.

“We talked about testing and how, with Common Core, many of the tests will change,” Fitzgerald said.

The recently released A-F Report Cards and future elements of teacher evaluations also were discussed, Fitzgerald said.