Pam Stewart, interim Florida education commissioner, starts the Education Accountability Summit on Monday at the St. Petersburg College Collaborative Labs, Clearwater. The three-day summit brought together state educators, government representatives and business leaders to discuss such education issues as school grades, teacher pay and the new Common Core education standards. AP
(Tallahassee.com) - The Florida Board of Education voted unanimously today to name Pam Stewart the state's education commissioner.
Stewart is the former chancellor of the state's public schools, and had been serving in her second stint as interim commissioner.
The board agreed this morning that with schools implementing new learning standards and major decisions pending for state education officials, it made sense to hire from within rather than embark on a national search.
"I don't see how anybody could really want to go looking outside of the organization at this point in time, when you've got somebody in there who knows what they're doing," board member John Colon said in an interview before the decision was made.
As the board grapples with issues from how to transition to new tests tied to the Common Core State Standards that will eventually replace the FCAT, to how it will reassure critics of the state's A-F school grading system, members said they could not afford an extended search.
Stewart will be Florida's fourth commissioner under Gov. Rick Scott. The last two times the position was vacant, the board embarked on nationwide searches that had to be extended to attract more promising applicants and ultimately yielded high-profile candidates from outside Florida.
"I don't think we have time for that now," Colon said.
Stewart, 60, started her career as a Hillsborough County teacher in 1975 and has served as an administrator in Marion and St. Johns Counties. She most recently served as chancellor of the state's public school system in between stints leading the Department of Education after the departure of previous commissioners Gerard Robinson, and Tony Bennett, who resigned in August.
State Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, who is also the CEO of the state school superintendents association, said the board made a "wise choice," noting that Stewart has built rapport among district officials around the state.
"There's no learning curve with Pam Stewart," he said. "She's done a great job of educating the last two education commissioners who came from out of state. She needs no instruction."
Montford and Colon both said Stewart could provide "steady" leadership in a time of transition.
"I think it's clear from today's meeting that we need somebody to lead," Board member Sally Bradshaw said, referencing the contentious debates that marked earlier portions of today's meeting, telling Stewart her job will not be easy.
"We are really counting on you to be the voice for students," she said. "We're putting this on your shoulders."