Message to politicians: Don't mess with the Florida education commissioner
Florida Board of Education members had a clear message Friday for state lawmakers and politicians: Florida's next education commissioner has a complicated and demanding job ahead, so back off.
“The person has to be able to deal with the political process,” said board vice chairman Roberto Martinez. “But I think all of us ... need to understand we need to give that person a lot of autonomy so they can function professionally with minimal interference from the political folks.”
Both outgoing chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan and incoming chairman Gary Chartrand offered "wholehearted" agreement. Shanahan said she had already been talking with political leaders about the job demands, such as moving Florida from FCAT to Common Core testing, and had heard back that they were fine with giving the commissioner room -- so long as it's a person with a strong track record of leadership who supports Florida's history and trajectory on education reform.
Already, a handful of applicants have submitted resumes for the job, said Bill Allen of the search firm Ray and Associates. [We're still waiting on those.] But the bulk of top candidates likely will not put anything in writing until closer to the Sept. 27 deadline, he suggested, noting that the firm is actively recruiting highly successful, high profile people who aren't necessarily looking to move but who fit the state's bill.
Ray and Associates plans to brief the board on Sept. 24 as to whether it has received enough applications from qualified hopefuls, or if the search should continue. In 2011, the board extended its search after expressing dissatisfaction with the first round of resumes. "We're not going to let the time line drive us," said Gary Ray of Ray and Associates.
If things progress as scheduled, the board is set to interview candidates on Oct. 8 at its meeting at Valencia College.