Kinder, gentler Board of Education?
Over and over during their marathon interview session in Tampa on Monday, board members asked the candidates for ed commish: How will you bring stakeholders together? How will you galvanize the education community? The questions made some observers wonder: Is the Jeb-stacked Board of Education headed in a – dare we say it? – more inclusive direction? And, if so, is it Gov. Charlie Crist with his hands on the wheel?
The question of stakeholder relations was one of five key areas of interest outlined by board members before they began their marathon interview session in Tampa. It was also an obvious acknowledgment that the previous gov's policies remain not only unpopular, but hampered by the persistent notion that they were hammered into place without input from teachers, principals and others on the front lines. Are those days over?
Said board member Akshay Desai (left), a Crist appointee: "We need, instead of confrontation, cooperation." And said board Chair T. Willard Fair, a longtime Bush loyalist: "The new commissioner must be aware that, real or imaginary, stakeholders did not have access."
As to the Crist factor, it doesn't seem to be mere coincidence that the three board members closest to Crist – Desai, Roberto Martinez and Kathleen Shanahan – were the ones pushing to name a new commish immediately, or that their favorite appeared to be Eric J. Smith, the candidate who talked about teachers the most. What do you think? Is the board changing? Is Crist re-shaping its tone? Will the board walk the walk, too?
- Ron Matus, state education reporter