Two academics seek to lead Florida's education system
Theirs might not be household names. But two academics with some standing in the world of education reform have put their names in to serve as Florida education commissioner. Each has some small ties to the state's past efforts to change the way it does business in the public schools.
Williamson Evers is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where he focuses education policy. Before that, he served in the George W. Bush administration as an assistant secretary for education, running the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. And prior to that gig, he was the senior administrator for education to Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. His name actually has come up in some circles as a high-profile possibility. Evers participated in a 2006 review of Florida education for the Koret Education Task Force, a part of the Hoover Institution, writing a chapter on Florida's math education reforms. He served twice on California's Academic Standards Commission, and he has been an outspoken critic on the movement toward a national curriculum, which Florida has adopted.
Evers writes in his application letter: "Florida has an outstanding record on school reform, and my goal as Florida commissioner of education would be to sustain and build upon those past admirable efforts. Generally speaking, my aim would be, in a time of tight budgets, to draw on my knowledge and expertise to see that Florida's students get every chance for success possible and to see that Florida's teachers, professors and school and college and administrators get the tools needed to efficiently and effectively make student success achievable. Specifically, Florida has been a pioneer on K-12 virtual schooling, school accountability and opportunity scholarships. Although there have been setbacks in Florida on opportunity scholarships, it is important for the state's children that this avenue for their success be reopened and expanded to the extent possible."
Thomas Jandris is vice president for educational innovation at Concordia College Chicago. He has served as an education policy advisor to the governors of Michigan, Oklahoma and New Mexico, as well as to the chairman of the Republican Governors Association. In 1999-2000, he helped craft a proposed amendment to restructure Florida's education governance structure. He also has written recently about the need to improve principal evaluations, an issue currently in play within all Florida school districts. In addition to such work, Jandris also served as director of state services to the Education Commission of the States and has established and run education-related firms Progress Education Corp. and EDmin Inc. See this recent Catalyst Chicago article on principal preparation in Illinois for some of Jandris' views, as well.
He writes in his application letter: "My career has spanned nearly every aspect of education and been distinguished by significant, demonstrable achievement. ... I am an intelligent, charismatic and inspiring leader. I have always been able to unify diverse constituents, mediate differences and encourage where needed. Whether as a dean, chairman, CEO, president, superintendent, principal or teacher, I have always found ways to help others achieve. I appreciate your consideration."