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Florida Board of Education asks Commissioner Pam Stewart to remain another year

Stewart had planned to leave her post at the end of Gov. Rick Scott's term.
Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart hugs Board of Education member Gary Chartrand shortly after she accepts a year extension on the job. [The Florida Channel]
Published Oct. 25, 2018

Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart had been counting the days to her departure from the post she has held since 2013.

On Thursday, she was down to 74.

Then, in a late addition to its agenda, the Florida Board of Education changed all that.

Citing a need for continuity as the state changes governors, the board asked Stewart to stick around for another year.

And seeming to surprise even herself, a somewhat teary Stewart responded, "The answer is yes. I don't know where that came from."

Stewart spoke of how coming to work each day on behalf of Florida's school children is something she loves, despite the hardships and difficulties she might face. She noted that the state has made significant positive strides in academic achievement, as measured by national observers and tests — even if few want to give the state any credit for the improvements.

The board recognized all the accomplishments in a resolution that asked Stewart to remain. Although some might believe the governor picks the education commissioner, in Florida that role belongs to the Board of Education, which is made up of governor appointees.

That means regardless of who wins the governor's seat, Stewart — whom chairwoman Marva Johnson said was key to implementing Gov. Rick Scott's education policies — will remain.

Johnson said it was important to ensure a smooth transition to the next administration, and critical to make sure Scott's education legacy — which she said included expanded choice and rising test scores and graduation rates — was not disrupted.

"The momentum Commissioner Stewart and her team has going right now cannot be interrupted," vice chairman Andy Tuck said.

"I'm glad we're not going to have to miss Commissioner Stewart," board member Ben Gibson added.