Names get bandied about as Florida education commissioner search ensues
Last May, before the Florida Board of Education had received any applications to be the state's new commissioner, we turned to former Reagan education official Chester Finn Jr., who now heads an education reform think tank, and asked him who might be a good pick.
"If I were Florida, I believe I'd try to recruit Gerard Robinson," Finn responded, adding that it would be best for Florida to actively recruit rather than waiting for people to apply. We called Robinson a day or so later, and he said he wasn't interested at the time. (That only changed after Gov. Rick Scott pressed for his application, after a first round of submissions didn't impress the board.)
With another search looming, we again asked Finn for his insights. His first reaction was to look to the past: "Florida could do a lot worse than to bring back John Winn or Eric Smith!" (Neither Winn nor Smith, whom Scott forced out, responded to calls seeking comment.)
Barring that unlikelihood, Finn put forth a handful of names, along with the caveat that he has no idea if they'd be interested or available. They included:
Patricia Levesque, executive director of Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education
David Driscoll, former Massachussetts commissioner
David Steiner, former New York commissioner
Andy Smarick, exiting New Jersey deputy commissioner
Gene Wilhoit, exiting head of the Council of Chief State School Officers (and former Kentucky commissioner)
Richard Laine, National Governors Association Education Division director
Joel Klein, former New York City chancellor
Paul Vallas, former Chicago superintendent , now interim superintendent in Bridgeport, Conn.
John Deasy, Los Angeles superintendent
"Any of those people would be superb," Finn said via e-mail.