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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Commish list shrinks



Ericjsmith_5 Yeckecolor2005Josephmarinelli_3 And then there were three. The Florida Board of Education this morning narrowed its list of education commissioner candidates, choosing Eric J. Smith, Cheri Yecke and Joseph Marinelli (shown in order) out of a field of seven candidates.

The decision followed a marathon, 7-hour interview session yesterday in a conference room at the Marriott airport hotel in Tampa. A final decision is slated for next month.

The education commissioner will oversee 2,700 employees, help shape a $24 billion budget and drive policy for 2.7-million pre-K-12 students and 170,000 classroom teachers. He or she will likely get paid at least $255,000 a year, which is what the BOE paid the last permanent commissioner, John Winn. And he or she will face a prickly public relations battle, given stagnant graduation rates and a barrage of criticism from teachers about the test-based accountability system installed by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Smith is a former superintendent of school districts in Charlotte, N.C. and Anne Arundel County, Md., and now a senior vice president with the College Board. Yecke is a former state commissioner of education in Virginia and Minnesota and now Florida's K-12 chancellor. Marinelli is a regional state superintendent in upstate New York.

The naming of three finalists came after three board members pushed to make a choice today. A tally by the search firm this morning showed all seven board members had Smith on their short list. Four listed Yecke and three included Marinelli. William Harner and Earl Lennard had support from two, as well. But a board majority decided instead to whittle the list, with another round of interviews scheduled for Oct. 8 in Tampa.

"This is a humongous job," said board Chairman T. Willard Fair, a close ally of Jeb Bush who was re-appointed to the board by Gov. Charlie Crist. "You can’t do this job … if you don’t have the ability to do 10,000 things at one time" and still establish prorities.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:23am]


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