Who you know
It's commonly said that when it comes to getting a job, who you know matters as much as what you know. If that's the case, the State Board of Education has to weigh some powerful friends as it considers who to select as the next Florida education commissioner.
The candidates' references started popping up on the web overnight (to see them, along with any additional material the candidates have provided, click here and follow the simple instructions to the "Candidates and Interviews" section). And they are telling.
If the board is easily swayed by Republican politics, it might lean heavily toward Cheri Yecke. She counts among her strong supporters Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Virginia governor and U.S. senator George Allen, Chester Finn of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, and former U.S. education secretary and conservative commentator William Bennett, who writes: "I have met and observed hundreds of educators in and out of the classroom. Few come with the sort of unique perspective as that of Dr. Cheri Pierson Yecke."
If Florida politics matter, the board might look to Earl Lennard or Jim Warford. Each has nods from influential state Rep. Joe Pickens, chairman of the House Schools and Learning Council, and Senate Education Appropriations chairman Stephen Wise. Lennard adds Florida CFO Alex Sink, who affectionately addresses her reference to chairman T. Willard Fair with "Dear T." Lennard also includes a bunch of letters from charter school leaders around the state, as well as the presidents of USF and Hillsborough Community College. Warford also has the backing of several educators from around the state, including Broward and his home base Marion counties.
The out-of-staters are no slouches in the reference department, either.
Eric J. Smith has letters from North Carolina lawmakers and former NC governor James B. Hunt Jr., College Board president and former W. Virginia governor Gaston Caperton, and Great City Schools exec director Michael Casserly (who also wrote in support of Lennard). Notably, there's nothing from anyone in Anne Arundel County, Md., where he served his last superintendent's gig.
Joseph Marinelli has backing from NY ed commissioner Richard Mills, some New York lawmakers and a variety of national education organization leaders. William Harner submitted letters from education visionary and New Orleans superintendent Paul Vallas (his former boss) and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. And William Moloney has the support of former Colorado governor Bill Owens and several Colorado lawmakers and some of his former employers on the state's Board of Education.
The State Board meets at 8 a.m. today in Tampa, where it's expected to narrow the candidate field.