Florida Board of Education approves Pam Stewart as interim commissioner
The Florida Board of Education has unanimously approved Pam Stewart to retake the reins of the state's education system.
The board met in a brief conference call to deal with putting Stewart in charge after Tony Bennett's abrupt and immediate departure Thursday. Board chairman Gary Chartrand tried to keep the conversation focused on the appointment only, but board member Kathleen Shanahan had other ideas.
"We have a mess on our hands and we have an opportunity on our hands," Kathleen Shanahan said, explaining that the integrity of Florida's often-touted accountability system hangs in the balance.
She said the board needs to get "action oriented" and not wait until its September board meeting to take next steps, as Chartrand had suggested. She called for a select committee of state, education, business and other leaders to assess Florida's education landscape, further recommending an immediate review of where the state stands on Common Core and associated testing.
Bennett was soon to make a recommendation on how to proceed with the tests, having been urged by lawmakers to abandon the PARCC consortium and create a "Florida plan."
"We have been a leading indicator in this country about accountability returns and performance," Shanahan said. "We are at a tipping point of watching that all dissipate. ... We need to get engaged in a little more action-oriented way."
Chartrand said he would begin the conversations with Stewart as soon as possible, if the board were to approve her. The unanimous vote came soon after, once board members had reiterated their support for Bennett, whom they did not want to resign.
Stewart, who served as interim commissioner between Gerard Robinson's resignation and Bennett's appointment, did not participate in the call.