BY MATT MONTGOMERY
State Superintendent took a tour of the Chickasha School District on Friday afternoon.
One of her stops included a trip to Bill Wallace Early Childhood Center for story time.
Barresi read "Charlie the Ranch Dog" to Logan Phillip's kindergarten class. The book is by local Oklahoma author, Ree Drummond. The school staff presented Barresi with a gift basket as well as a collection of books by the school's namesake, Bill Wallace.
Interim Superintendent, Pete Bush and Assistant Superintendent, Robyn Morse, took Barresi on a tour of the school including the school's safe rooms, which double as classrooms. Barresi commended the district's foresight installing the safe rooms.
Barresi also noted the school's decorative theme, which runs throughout the building, as well as the general design.
"It really underscores expectations," she said.
Later, Barresi met with school officials, Chamber of Commerce members and other community members at the Chickasha Chamber of Commerce.
Barresi said that about once a week, she visits the school districts of Oklahoma.
Barresi addressed questions of those in attendance including increased pay for teachers in spite of difficulty with funding.
Barresi said that teacher salaries had become a crucial issue because superintendents around the state were having difficulty finding teachers who would work for the current pay. This lead to a shortage of teachers across all grade levels and specialities, she said. Many former teachers had switched to the oil and gas industry, she said, for the higher salary and reduced stress.
However, Barresi said that teachers had "a servant's heart" and often had expressed regret after switching careers.
"The majority who leave because [because of salary] don't want to leave their classrooms."
"I will continue to be a loud voice for education," Barresi said.
Another attendee told Barresi that many teachers were moving to Texas for the higher salaries. Barresi said that the "2k for teachers" program should cut this gap in half, and put Oklahoma ahead other states, such as Missouri, in terms of teacher salary.
"The single most important factor–parents being the first–in education is an effective teacher in the classroom," Barresi said.
The poverty level of communities like Chickasha, were addressed. Stewart Fairburn, Chickasha City Manager, noted that most student qualify for free lunches in Chickasha.
Barresi said that more and more, agencies are combining services.
"It's gotten us into rooms with each other and opened communication," she said.