Commissioner Robinson's departure prompts two distinct views in Florida House leadership
The sudden resignation of Florida education commissioner Gerard Robinson has legislative leaders talking about next steps for the state's testing and accountability system.
Not surprisingly, the positions break along party lines.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, a big backer of online education, vouchers and choice, praised Robinson for performing a "thankless job" with integrity. He said he'd like to see someone who will reach out to stakeholders to ensure Florida's reform efforts are implemented well.
"We're in a place where we know we have to continue to get better," Weatherford told the Gradebook. "My hope is we continue to find a reform-minded leader who believes in the empowerment of parents and the empowerment of students. We've made tremendous gains. ... We want someone who can continue the momentum."
House Democratic leader Perry Thurston saw a distinctly different type of opening in Robinson's leaving.
"An opportunity now exists to restore trust in Florida’s education accountability system," Thurston said in a prepared statement. "I am hopeful that Governor Rick Scott, legislative leaders and the State Board of Education will use the appointment of a new state education commissioner to begin work -- in bipartisan fashion and with key stakeholders in public education -- to end the misuse of the FCAT.
"The FCAT has failed students, teachers, and our state. A new state education commissioner can help Florida install a better and broader education accountability system for every school receiving taxpayer dollars that takes into account all the things students and teachers accomplish throughout the year."
State Board chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan told the Gradebook she hopes to have a conference call with board members within a week to discuss how to move ahead in searching for a new commissioner. She expected the process would be similar to past ones, using a search firm and lasting about 45-60 days with an interim leader to help during the transition -- although she stressed nothing has been decided.
"I have high regard for the service and leadership that Gerard Robinson provided," Shanahan said. "I hope to attract similar talent to come in and guide Florida's pre-k to college system through the next chapter."