Dr. Barresi to serve on Oklahoma Commission for Rehabilitation Services
OKLAHOMA CITY – Dr. Janet C. Barresi, DDS, from Oklahoma City was appointed to the Commission for Rehabilitation Services by Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat.
She will serve a three-year term beginning immediately and ending November 2, 2026.
The Commission is the governing board for the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services. DRS served 83,283 Oklahomans with disabilities through 25 employment, education and independent living programs in 2022. The agency also determines medical eligibility for Social Security disability recipients.
Dr. Barresi will join Acting Commission Chair Wes Hilliard and Vice Chair Theresa Flannery.
A retired dentist, Dr. Barresi was elected as Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2010. She previously founded Independence Charter Middle School and Harding Charter Preparatory High School in Oklahoma City.
“I am honored to be appointed to the Commission of Rehabilitation Services,” Dr. Barresi said. “As a Commission member, I am anxious to learn more about the extensive work and services provided by professionals around the state.”
“I will work with them and other partners to assure that each Oklahoman who applies for assistance or services is provided with supports that will enable them to reach their personal and professional goals,” she added.
“We are happy to have Commissioner Barresi join the Commission for Rehabilitation Services and sincerely appreciate her willingness to serve more than 83,000 Oklahomans with disabilities who are DRS clients,” Melinda Fruendt, DRS executive director, said.
Dr. Barresi earned her bachelor’s of arts degree in education and communication disorders in 1974 from the University of Oklahoma. She received her master’s of science degree in speech and language disorders in 1975 from the OU Health Sciences Center.
The new DRS commissioner was employed as a special Instructor in the Department of Otolaryngology at the College of Medicine at OUHSC and served patients in the Speech and Language Pathology Clinics for Oklahoma Children’s Memorial Hospital and University Hospital. She performed both clinical duties, including audio rehabilitation for children with hearing disabilities, and lectured to medical students on child speech and language development.
She previously worked as the speech pathologist in the Harrah and Norman public school systems and directed a summer clinic focusing on remediation of speech and language disorders for children with severe disabilities for the Harrah District.
Dr. Barresi graduated in 1984 with a doctor’s degree in dental surgery from the OU College of Dentistry. She practiced restorative dentistry in northwest Oklahoma City for 24 years, retiring from active practice in July 2008.
A keen interest in education reform prompted her to establish Independence Enterprise Middle School in 1999, the first enterprise school in Oklahoma. This school became Independence Charter Middle School after the passage of the Oklahoma Charter School Act, which Dr. Barresi helped to write and pass. This was the first charter school in the state.
She founded and served as board president of Harding Charter Preparatory High School. Under her leadership, the inner-city preparatory school offered a full advanced placement curriculum to assure that all students were prepared to be accepted into a college or university. The school was the number one ranked high school in the state for seven consecutive years and 112 out of the top high schools in the nation in 2021.
Dr. Barresi served as Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction from January 2011 to January 2015, implementing multiple education reforms, including the introduction of the state’s grade card, greater district financial and operational transparency, reformed and improved statewide assessments and a teacher-leader evaluation system.
Her proudest accomplishment is the implementation of a third grade reading requirement using a phonics-based reading system called The Science of Reading. The initiative improved the state’s 4th grade reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress ranking from 46th to 28th, which was the third highest performance increase in the nation.
Dr. Barresi is the widow of John Barresi, mother of twin sons Benjamin and Joseph and grandmother to six grandchildren. She serves on multiple boards in her church and currently heads a ministry with more than 365 members.
For more information about Oklahoma Rehabilitation Services, visit www.okdrs.gov or phone 800-845-8476.
For more information
Jody Harlan, DRS Communications Director