Florida education commissioner application deadline nears

Published Nov. 28, 2012

Just three days remain in the extended application period for Florida's education commissioner job, and the top candidates that State Board of Education members said they've been looking for have yet to join the search.

The most notable wish list candidate would be Tony Bennett, who recently lost his reelection bid as Indiana superintendent of public instruction. Bennett, who's a reformer tied to Jeb Bush's education foundation, told the Redefined blog that he's "thinking about it and praying about it."

Interim commissioner Pam Stewart, who's found support among state leaders including university system chancellor Frank Brogan and Florida Education Association president Andy Ford, hasn't committed her interest to the full-time post, either.

Meanwhile, three more candidates have added their names to the list of about 50 hopefuls, most of whom don't fit the criteria that the SBOE has set forth. The latest group includes the director of programs for disruptive youth in a Pennsylvania district, an anti-bullying motivational speaker and the supervisor of testing and child nutrition in an Alabama district.

The State Board picks the commissioner, with finalist interviews scheduled for Dec. 11 in Tampa. But Gov. Rick Scott is expected to have a large say in the choice. And the perception out there is that Scott unceremoniously shoved out Eric J. Smith, and that replacement Gerard Robinson left rather abruptly amid controversies over testing and school grades. Is that keeping the top choices away? We keep hearing that the best candidates apply late in Florida to avoid the glare of the Sunshine Law. Stay tuned.