About that New Chairman of the Florida Board of Education

I missed a subtlety in Leslie Postal’s Orlando Sentinel story last month that StateImpact’s John O’Connor  didn’t. This from Postal’s story about the search for a new commissioner:

Applicants to replace Gerard Robinson, who stepped down after a little more than a year on the job, have until Sept. 27 to get their resumes to the search firm, Ray and Associates, Inc. But board members said they would consider extending the deadline, if needed.

Board member Roberto Martinez said Florida’s top school job requires someone who can navigate the “political process” but what is most needed is a “person with management and executive skills, a professional educator.”

Martinez said Florida has a “very ambitious agenda” for education, shifting to Common Core standards and new tests to replace FCAT, among other challenges.

So it needs a commissioner who can handle that and needs to find that person with “minimal interference from political folks,” Martinez said, adding he made that comment “with respect” for the state’s politicians.

Chairman Kathleen Shanahan and others agreed.

“I would agree wholeheartedly,” Shanahan said. Florida needs “an administrator with experience…Someone who has executed and implemented a plan.”

Board members, who are appointees of the Governor, did not say whether they felt last year’s search was too influenced by those “political folks.”

While Robinson’s appointment was done during Rick Scott’s watch, Robinson is a Jeb Bush disciple. Already one of Bush’s much ballyhooed Chiefs for Change and a member of his foundation’s Digital Learning Council, Robinson was more of Bush’s man than he was Scott’s. The only “political folks” who matter when it comes to state education policy are Bush and his political muscle at the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Martinez obviously seeks daylight to develop between the new commissioner and the Bush-Chamber power base.

Conditions for Martinez to get his wish improved yesterday. Gone is former Bush chief of staff Kathleen Shanahan as state board chair and her placement is a Scott appointee, Gary Chartrand. Teresa Stepzinski quotes a few key players in state education circles in a Florida Times-Union story:

“Mr. Chartrand’s passion for a quality education is obvious, but he’s walking in to a tough situation where the status quo has become intense pressure from a small group of powerful people to support reform efforts for reform’s sake,” said Colleen Wood, organization executive director. “We are hopeful that he will remain open to the families and educators of the 2.7 million students who choose public schools [and] that he will consider their concerns and recognized their expertise as he leads the State Board of Education.”

Save Duval Schools recently joined other advocacy groups statewide asking Scott and the state board to modify their criteria for Florida’s next education commissioner. Wood said the groups will be “closely watching how Mr. Chartrand leads the board through this process.”

Included in Stepzinski’s story were two positive statement from county superintendents, including St Johns’ Joseph Joiner who said “Mr. Chartrand is an excellent choice as the chairman of the State Board of Education. He understands the needs of school districts and has shown a great willingness to listen. We look forward to his leadership.”

Joyner opinion is noteworthy as he’s experienced first hand the thuggery that has been coming from the Bush-Chamber cabal.

Chartrand’s current choice to drink the KIPP Schools and Teach for American kool-aid is troubling. Many don’t know that the CEO’s of KIPP and TFA are married. If KIPP and TFA grow in Florida, Chartrand will obviously have a hand in it and he will need to answer questions. Still, his loyalty is not to Bush. After serving as a member of Scott’s education transition team, he was appointed to the board by him. It will benefit Florida to have a state board chair who operates independent of Bush.

Bush loyalist Shanahan had become part of the problem. Her full-throated support for Bush’s test-obsessed accountability system, blanket favorability for charter schools in board oversight and hosting of a Bush fundraiser at the RNC last month revealed her more  hack than honest broker. She retains her seat, but her departure from the chairmanship is good news as Chartrand is far less likely to bring in a Bush lackey to be commissioner than would have Shanahan.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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2 Responses to About that New Chairman of the Florida Board of Education

  1. flbusbaby says:

    The KIPP and TFA connection are very troubling to me. Educators do need to be watching. Superintendent Joyner’s statement does give me hope, however.

  2. Pingback: Unlike Kathleen Shanahan, Gary Chartrand does not answer to Jeb Bush | Saint Petersblog

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