In support of Eric J. Smith
By now it's evident that the Florida Legislature wants to put a new look on Florida's public school system.
The House and Senate have adopted (or are about to adopt) bills to expand charter schools, virtual education and voucher-type systems such as McKay scholarships, radically alter teacher contracts and evaluations, and move to a more digital learning environment — among other things.
Like them or not, you can't help but give credit to one person who has shepherded many of the new ideas to fruition from behind the scenes. That's education commissioner Eric J. Smith, who nonetheless was (apparently) shown the door by Gov. Rick Scott, a supporter of the direction but not the man in the education department's top spot.
Many lawmakers pushing the agenda have signaled their upset with Smith's pending departure under pressure, noting that he's a national leader in the movement that Florida is trying to lead. Now Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, has put that sentiment into words as the Legislature prepares to close.
Gaetz filed a resolution Tuesday praising Smith as a visionary leader, stating in part, "Eric Smith's success in consistently meeting these goals in individual districts bears testimony to his own passion to change students' lives, to the urgency he brings to the challenges involved, and to his leadership in ensuring the involvement of all stakeholders."
Smith departs June 10. The State Board of Education is seeking his replacement.