A weekend interview with ...
... Florida interim education commissioner Jeanine Blomberg, who announced her retirement from the Department of Education on Friday. She spoke via e-mail with reporter Jeff Solochek about her accomplishments and her plans for the future.
You've been with the department a long time. Tell us what you feel were your top accomplishments.
First and foremost, during the past 31 years, I have been a part of a local and state team effort to advance quality education for our most precious resource-our children. We have, through our state and local collaborations, improved Florida's education system and thereby greatly improved the futures of millions of children. There is still much work to be done.
Second, I have had the opportunity to serve as a mentor for a number of department and local school district personnel. These individuals will carry on a tradition of professional excellence that will continue to advance education in Florida.
Third, I am a data person and absolutely believe in open and transparent government. Specifically, I believe that education policy and practice without transparent data or empirical justification is totally unacceptable. Throughout my career, I have been able to influence and be a part of an increasing effort to reduce the “politics of education” and instead employ objective data to guide education policy and practice.
What will you do next?
First, I am not retiring, but rather turning my professional attention to helping improve the educational accomplishments of Native American children. As we all know, national data reveal that this population is not doing well and we must confront this unfortunate trend. I am Chickasaw and I hope to work with not only my tribe, but with other Native American tribes, as well in our continuing effort to maintain the wonderful culture of each tribe while simultaneously providing high quality and accountable education for all Native American children.
Second, I plan to write a book on my experiences in Florida education as a Native American woman. I hope that my experiences, challenges, pitfalls and successes will help other women more successfully navigate their professional careers.
Why did I not apply to be the next Commissioner of Education?
I did not apply for the position because I believe it requires at least a five-year commitment, and I was not prepared to make such a time commitment given my other plans and aspirations.
Where is the FCAT headed and will you be involved?
I firmly believe Florida has one of the best assessment and accountability systems in the nation. I remain committed to the tenets of accountability and ensuring that all of Florida's students are making progress. We should never step back from policies that hold schools to high standards. At the same time, we must be willing to address concerns and questions through a process that is transparent and collaborative and make improvements when they are needed. That is the reason I established the FCAT advisory group and I encourage Commissioner Smith to continue this open and collaborative process.
I will certainly be available to assist Florida with the FCAT or anything else related to helping our children in their educational pursuits.