April 28, 2015

Under New Superintendent, Two Dozen Resign or Are Fired

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Joy Hofmeister

Joy Hofmeister

Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister fired 10 people and saw another 14 resign during her first three and a half months at the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

No historical data is available to determine whether the number is high, low or typical. Phil Bacharach, a spokesman for Hofmeister’s office, said she had no comment on the turnover.

The list of departures includes a controversial hire made by her predecessor, Superintendent Janet Barresi. Larry Birney, hired by  Barresi as an assistant state superintendent nearly three months before her term ended, resigned at midnight on Jan. 12, Hofmeister’s first day in office. Birney filled a new position charged with conducting investigations related to accreditation.

Barresi, a Republican, lost in the primary election in June. Birney is the husband of Kim Richey.

Richey will resign as the department’s attorney on May 1, according to the department.

Birney’s hiring was criticized as “a good ol’ boy hire” by now Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud. The hiring also raised concerns of cronyism given the amount of time Barresi had left in office, and because Birney was married to another department employee.

Smalley was a representative in 2014 and is in his first term as a state senator.

Here is the list of resignations and firings:

• Jan. 1: Joel Smith, coordinator I STEM for Office of Instruction, resigned.
• Jan. 7: Tricia Pemberton, assistant director of communications, resigned.
• Jan. 9: Rene Axtell, assistant state superintendent for special education, resigned but rehired on Jan. 26.
• Jan 12: Larry Birney, assistant state superintendent for Office of Accreditation, resigned.
• Jan 16: Jeff Downs, executive director STEM for Office of Instruction, fired.
• Jan. 16: Marsha Thompson, assistant state superintendent for Office of Instruction, fired.
• Jan. 16: Joel Robison, chief of staff, fired.
• Jan. 16: Elizabeth Young, executive secretary for superintendent/administrative services, fired.
• Jan. 16: Richard Caram, assistant state superintendent for Office of School Turnaround and Support, resigned.
• Jan. 20: Lisa Chandler, assistant state superintendent for Office of Assessments, fired.
• Jan. 20: Connie Holt, division support coordinator I for Office of Assessments, fired.
• Jan. 30: Jenyfer Glisson, executive director for teacher leadership effectiveness, resigned.
• Jan. 31: Vickie Felder, resource coordinator SoonerStart, special ed, resigned.
• Feb. 5: Alice Bryd, program specialist for federal programs, resigned.
• Feb. 6: Jenese Tucker, resource coordinator SoonerStart, special ed, resigned.
• Feb. 27: Ed Winn, RAO- Office of Accreditation, resigned.
• March 3: Cathy Cooper, resource coordinator SoonerStart, special ed, resigned.
• March 16: Reagan Allen, assistant events coordinator, administrative services, resigned.
• March 17: Iva Owens, executive director, Office of School Turnaround and Support, fired.
• March 17: Amanda Drew, consultant, Office of School Turnaround and Support, fired.• March 31: Rachel Ellison-Nalliah, director, Office of School Turnaround and Support, resigned.
• April 1: Nikola Gjorcevski, information representative III-customer service, fired.
• April 15: Ian Cox, financial specialist-state aid, fired.
• May 1: Kim Richey, general counsel for legal services, resigned.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Hofmeister has been in office for five months. She has been there for three and a half months.