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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

New (Hoosier) faces at the Florida Department of Education



When Tony Bennett won the job as Florida's education commissioner, he didn't hide that his desire to bring some of his Indiana advisers with him to help him make the transition. That team came and went, but Bennett didn't stop there.

Bennett has brought "five people so far" to his staff from his old job, and their influence was evident at Tuesday's State Board of Education meeting, where most of the major policy initiatives were presented by Indiana transplants who have landed in Bennett's inner circle.

Dale Chu, Bennett's new chief of staff, introduced the board to the department's new "north star," the 90-60-90-90 plan that Chu said would guide the the department's decision making processes. Chu was assistant state superintendent in Indiana, joining Bennett's team in 2009. He was a leader in that state's reform initiatives.

Chu also told the Florida Board on Tuesday that there's loads of duplication within the state DOE, and that he will be working to streamline the department.

His deputy chief of staff is Will Krebs, who presented (among other things) the department's new scoreboard concept, by which the department and the public will be able to track the progress made toward 90-60-90-90. The goal is to be outcomes driven, Krebs explained, and this score board will keep everyone on track. He's the former director of policy and research from the Indiana Department of Education, who spent much time working on teacher evaluations and merit pay.

With Juan Copa gone, Krebs is "filling that policy void" and could have his duties redefined during reorganization, Bennett said.

Anna Shults, a one-time Indiana teacher of the year who was a literacy specialist in Bennett's Indiana administration, is now Bennett's go-to person on Florida's Common Core implementation. She presented the board a report Tuesday on where the state is headed and what work remains. She and Bennett remained optimistic that Florida is on track to meet the 2014-15 deadlines it set forth.

Bennett said he felt lucky to have Shults, who led Indiana's third grade reading initiative, on his transition team and his permanent staff. "She's an incredible talent," he said.

They're not the only Hoosiers in the building. Bennett also brought Katie Stephens, his Indiana department press secretary, to Tallahassee, initially as his executive assistant. She's now assigned to deal with Common Core public communications, which the board identified as a need.

In addition, Bennett's 2012 campaign spokesman Ross McMullin is now a social media expert in the FLDOE's communications office.

No one in the old administration has been replaced and, Bennett said, he has reduced the number of employees in the department. But as you can see in this organizational chart, the road to Bennett goes through his Indiana team.

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 2:19pm]


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