Florida may get more time for education commissioner search

The Florida Board of Education is expected this week to extend its search for a new education commissioner, marking the second time in as many years it has done so amidst mutterings that the initial pool is mediocre.

Through Friday, the board had received 16 applications to replace former Commissioner Gerard Robinson, a former head of the Black Alliance for Educational Options who left at the end of August. The deadline for applications is Thursday, but the board has scheduled an emergency conference call Tuesday to consider a new deadline.

The applications to date do not include any big names in ed reform circles, echoing what happened last year during the initial search for the previous commissioner. At that time, the board was seeking to replace highly regarded former Commissioner Eric J. Smith, who was pushed out by newly elected Gov. Rick Scott.

Robinson, then the ed commissioner in Virginia, applied after the deadline was extended. His brief tenure in Florida was dogged by problems with the state’s testing and school grading system, and by the biggest blowback to the state accountability regimen since the tenure of Gov. Jeb Bush.

Robinson’s replacement will be Florida’s fifth commissioner in eight years. Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1998 to better insulate the position from shifting political winds, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Smith was hired in 2007 after newly elected Gov. Charlie Crist nudged out former Commissioner John Winn, a Bush ally. Scott is up for re-election in 2014.

Two of the 16 candidates have strong, obvious ties to school choice.

Michelle Crumpton-Harvey is chief operating officer of the Algiers Charter Schools Association in Louisiana, which was established after Hurricane Katrina and serves 5,500 students. Ebbie Parsons III is a partner with Blackboard Solutions and, according to the resume, chief operating officer of the “largest charter school management organization in New Orleans.”

All 16 applications are below.



















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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at rmatus@stepupforstudents.org or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at facebook.com/redefinedonline.