Tony Bennett plans his transition to Florida education commissioner job
Newly selected Florida education commissioner Tony Bennett revealed more of his thoughts and plans for his transition to his new job in an interview with Rick Hess, published Friday morning on Hess's Education Week blog Straight Up.
Here are a few excerpts:
Hess: When do you start the new job, and what are you doing to get up to speed?
Bennett: I'll start January 14th. I'll walk out of Indiana on Friday, January 11th, and I'll be in Florida and ready to go on Monday, the 14th. As for getting prepared, I'll be spending some time with [interim commissioner] Pam Stewart and her current staff, just trying to learn about various issues. I'm bringing in at least four people [from Indiana], who are going to help me get my arms wrapped around staffing, strategic initiatives, and how we transfer in. ...
Hess: What's your take on some of the murmurs that the political situation is tough, that Florida has burned through two commissioners in Eric Smith and Gerard Robinson, and that it seems like it's a tough state to lead nowadays?
Bennett: Well, and I don't intend for any of this to come off as a criticism, Eric got caught up in the change of administration. As for Gerard, one of the things I bring to the table is four years of a strong, well-established record managing a state agency. That's experience you can't put a price on. I also have the experience and skills to make a smooth transition. The reason Florida is such an intriguing and exciting opportunity is that you have a governor that is firmly invested in using education for economic development, and then you have Jeb Bush and the Foundation [for Excellence in Education]. A commissioner who is able to bring those forces together can do big things for Florida. And that's a challenge I look forward to. ...
Hess: What are some of the key challenges ahead for Florida?
Bennett: Common Core implementation is a huge piece. There is a much more universal acceptance of the Common Core in Florida than there was in Indiana. It's the implementation that is going to be very important. We really want to make sure that Florida is very intentional about continuing to lead the country - and we're going to work with the board, legislature, and governor to identify the next steps of reform. When I was in Florida [earlier this week], Governor Scott told me to address two things when we spoke to educators and administrators: Common Core implementation and SB 736. Those are going to be out front.
Bennett was house hunting in Tallahassee on Friday morning, with plans to fly back to Indiana in the afternoon. We'll be hearing a lot more from him soon.