Pam Stewart accepts interim education commission slot

400-PAMELA-L-STEWARTA day after Tony Bennett resigned as Commissioner of Education; Historic City News was notified that members of the Florida Board of Education had selected 60-year-old Pamela L. Stewart of St Augustine, by unanimous vote, to serve as interim education commissioner while it recruits Bennett’s replacement.

Stewart is Florida’s K-12 chancellor and was interim commissioner for four months before Bennett assumed the position in January.

“We have been a leading indicator in this country about accountability, metrics and performance as a statewide system,” board member Kathleen Shanahan said Friday. “And we are at a tipping point of watching that all dissipate.”

Bennett persuaded the Board of Education to extend a rule preventing Florida school grades from dropping more than one letter grade in a school year. Bennett resigned amidst allegations that, in his previous job in Indiana, he intervened in the calculations of school grades to benefit a contributor to Republican campaign accounts. He contended he corrected a statistical anomaly.

Stewart will have to navigate Florida’s public education system through turbulent water as the state transitions to a tougher curriculum and implements Common Core Standards. Grass roots opposition to Common Core is growing; complaints include that it represents a federal takeover of education.

Bennett argued successfully that a “safety net” is appropriate during the transition. The board adopted the rule; but, some members, district superintendents, and teachers, said it calls into question the credibility of the grades. Florida is scheduled to implement Common Core in 2014.

Board Chairman, Gary Chartrand, said he agreed with Shanahan’s “sense of urgency” and pledged to work with Stewart to “put the necessary moves in place to be proactive.”

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