Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Education Commissioner Eric Smith resigns

Florida Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith, who has continued pushing far-reaching school changes while the state is earning national kudos for progress, announced Monday he intends to resign June 10.

Hired by the state Board of Education in October 2007, Smith, 60, said in a statement that it's time for "our newly elected Governor to have input through the State Board of Education on the type of leader to pursue his goals for education."

He declined to comment further beyond his statement, which recounted Florida's accomplishments during his tenure.

The written response from Gov. Rick Scott was terse: "On behalf of the state of Florida, I thank him for his years of dedicated service."

State Board of Education member Kathleen Shanahan of Tampa called Smith's departure "a loss for Florida's kids," noting the No. 5 ranking state schools earned this year in Education Week's annual report.

She said Scott had not forced Smith out, but had not embraced him, either. She said Smith indicated his plans when she talked with him late Friday.

"He was very matter of fact," Shanahan said. "It was, 'I was thinking about this. I can't figure out a way to establish a good relationship with the new executive branch. So I'm making this decision on my own so they can make it on their own.' "

"He's been the best education commissioner in the country the last three years," said board member Roberto Martinez of Miami. "The man did not let his ego get in the way. That's hard to find."

Smith's tenure has had its rough spots, though.

Both last year and this year, he supported divisive bills that would radically change how teachers are hired, fired and evaluated. He was also a driving force behind Florida's first Race to the Top application, which failed to win support from the U.S. Department of Education after the vast majority of Florida teachers unions rejected it.

Union leaders accused Smith of trying to use the application to unilaterally impose changes to teacher pay and evaluations. Florida's second, more flexible application won $700 million last summer after unions signed on.

"It's really important that as we're going through all these changes in the public education system that you have somebody in place that can work together with public school teachers," said Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the state teachers union. "We did not have that with Commissioner Smith."

The buzz began immediately about Smith's successor.

Scott sparked rumors late last year that former Washington, D.C., school chief Michelle Rhee might be Florida's next commissioner when he named her co-chair of his education transition team. But Rhee, who had just started a national education advocacy group, said then she was not interested — and stuck to that line Monday.

"Michelle is committed to continuing her work with StudentsFirst to ensure that Florida's public schools and public schools across the country provide the best education and best teachers to their students," StudentsFirst press secretary Mafara Hobson said in an e-mail.

On paper, the seven-member Board of Education selects the commissioner. Shanahan and Martinez said the board will do a national search, as it did when it selected Smith.

In reality, the governor has a huge say.

The commissioner's departure "probably has a lot to do with the fact that the governor is interested in building a team around him that he feels meets his needs," said House Speaker-designate Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

Ron Matus can be reached at matus@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8873. Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614.

Florida Education Commissioner Eric Smith resigns 03/21/11 [Last modified: Monday, March 21, 2011 4:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Jason Aldean fires up a country-dude party at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre

    Blogs

    Country music has a dude problem.

    I’m not talking about the proliferation of mindless bro country over the past half-decade, nor am I referring to the fact that most of Nashville’s best music these days comes not from said bros, from female singers and songwriters.

    Jason Aldean performed at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on Aug. 18, 2018.
  2. President Trump offers prayers for Kissimmee police

    Blogs

    President Donald Trump reacted to the police shooting in Kissimmee:

  3. Kissimmee police officer dies, one gravely wounded; Jacksonville officers shot

    News

    KISSIMMEE — A Kissimmee police officer died and a second was gravely wounded Friday night, police Chief Jeff O'Dell said.

    Two police officers have been shot and killed in Kissimmee, authorities say. The shooting happened in the area of Palmway and Cypress around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of WESH.com
  4. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  5. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming

    Roads

    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]