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Big changes in Oregon's education leadership Print E-mail

chuck-bennett.jpgby Chuck Bennett, Director of Governmental Relations

It’s beginning to have the flavor of that old Abbot and Costello bit – the “who’s on first” one.

Faces in education leadership are changing rapidly enough that if you're getting the “I’m out of the office” reply to emails don’t be surprised and think about making some changes in that listserv. Okay, it’s not as bad as tracking who’ll answer the phone with what title in the Blazers' front office, but it does make for some much needed excitement in the now summer doldrums of education politics.

To keep that Blazer thing going, there’s also those front bench injuries that will rearrange the starting lineup. In education the headline grabbing change has been the sudden fall of Rep. Matt Wingard (R-Wilsonville). The Oregonian announced last week that Rep. Wingard, a two-termer who landed the co-chairmanship of the House Education Committee, won’t seek a third term after resigning last week as Deputy Leader of the Republican caucus in the wake of news reports that he had a relationship with one of his legislative staffers.  Wingard, who has been a spokesman from one of the big on-line charter school providers in Oregon, championed several legislative initiatives last Session potentially benefitting his employer, allowing unrestricted inter-district transfers and strengthening sanctions on coaches who have relationships with their students.  There’s been no announcement yet on whether he will continue to co-lead the Education Committee but don’t be surprised if that is yanked as well.

Also leaving the scene under entirely different circumstances is Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo. Castillo is resigning mid-term to take a job with a national education organization and leaves with the good wishes of all who have worked with her as a journalist, legislator and education advocate and leader over the years. Her decision, which takes effect at the end of the month, enacts provisions in legislation passed last Session making Gov. John Kitzhaber the new Superintendent of Public Instruction and highlights the part of the new law that requires K-12 education experience in Oregon for the person chosen as Deputy Superintendent. The beefed up deputy job will take over the day-to-day operation of the 300-plus employee Department of Education and take on a highly visible public role in the major education reforms successfully initiated by the Governor last Session. Speculation on who lands the deputy job centers on several Oregon school superintendents.

And then there’s the really big news in education policy and governance (as if the Governor’s new job isn’t enough), the selection of Dr. Rudy Crew as Oregon’s first Chief Education Officer. Dr. Crew, an education leader with a national reputation, has had a distinguished careeras an educator, principal and superintendent -- including stints as chancellor of New York City Public Schools and superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools and, since 2009, as a professor in the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. His primary mission in each job has been to improve student achievement by working closely with all stakeholders. He already has met with several Oregon superintendents at COSA for an in depth discussion of his agenda over the next several months. He received a warm welcome -- including a standing ovation at the conclusion of his remarks -- at the annual COSA Seaside Conference last week.

Dr. Crew has indicated he plans to go on the road in Oregon to meet with rural district leaders and during discussions showed a clear understanding of differences between urban and rural districts as well as among districts along and outside the I-5 corridor. Dr. Crew also is a published author. His book is Only Connect: The Way to Save Our Schools, published in 2007. He also has served several boards including the Lincoln Center and Public Education Network. He also has  received many awards including the NAACP Educational Leadership Award, the Arthur Ashe Leadership Award, and the National Superintendent of the Year from AASA.

COSA will be keeping you posted on Dr. Crew’s travel plans in Oregon and on opportunities to hear him speak and meet him.

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This page was last updated on Monday, June 25, 2012 .