KIPP charter school supporter is new head of Florida Board of Education

Gary Chartrand, a Jacksonville, Fla., businessman who helped bring a KIPP charter school to Florida and sits on its board of directors, was selected this morning as the new chair of the Florida Board of Education.

Chartrand (pictured here) replaces Tampa businesswoman Kathleen Shanahan, who said she was stepping down as chair to spend more time with her business but will continue to serve on the board.

“I do have a year and a little bit left on my term, but I think it might be time to bring in somebody new from the perspective of going through the search and bringing in a new commissioner,” she said, referring to finding a replacement for outgoing Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson, who departed last week.

Shanahan, chairman and CEO of Uretek Florida, a soil stabilization company, added that being BOE chair “was a tremendous amount of time as a sidebar. And you know my little business, which when I first started a year ago was just Florida and now eight states and possibly growing to another six to eight states by the end of the year, it’s a time constraint.”

Chartrand has earned a reputation as an education reformer in northeast Florida. He led an effort to bring Teach for America to Jacksonville public schools. He and his wife also contributed $1 million to bring the highly regarded KIPP charter network to Jacksonville.

He and other board members praised Shanahan’s leadership at this morning’s meeting. But, he added, “If the board is looking for me to take the chairmanship job, I will do it, I accept. I take this seriously.”

Patricia Levesque, executive director of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future, released a statement immediately following the meeting.
“Kathleen has been a steady compass for the SBE during a pivotal point in Florida’s education reform story, ensuring student success was always at the forefront of board and department decisions,” the statement said. “She held the Department of Education accountable as it underwent some of the most rigorous changes in more than a decade. Kathleen has dedicated herself to ensuring each Florida student has the tools needed to succeed in the 21st century, and she will remain a valuable member of the board. Gary Chartrand will be a great state leader, particularly as the board identifies and recommends a new education commissioner. We look forward to working with him and the entire board as Florida continues to improve the quality of education for its students.”

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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 or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at