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Florida Picks Interim Schools Chief After Resignation

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By Andy Alcock
August 2, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - There's a new leader tonight at Florida's Department of Education.

During a brief emergency meeting, the state board of education unanimously selected Pam Stewart as the new interim commissioner.

It comes after an abrupt and largely unexpected resignation.

After just seven months on the job, Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett announced Thursday he was stepping down.

It came in the wake of a grade changing scandal while he was in a similar role in Indiana.

Bennett's resignation left many board members who still support him disappointed.

"I can assure you I did everything possible to convince Tony Bennett to stay with us," said Florida Board of Education Chair Gary Chartrand.

"We have a mess on our hands and we have an opportunity on our hands," said Board Member Kathleen Shanahan.

A day after Bennett's resignation, the board turned to Pam Stewart to serve as interim commissioner.

She's been serving as the department's chancellor of public schools overseeing K through 12 student achievement, curriculum and instruction.

"I think Pam will do a great job in the interim leading us forward," said Board Member John Colon.

Stewart is now the interim commissioner for the second time.

She served in that role right before Bennett arrived.

It also marks the fourth leadership change in the commissioner's office in roughly a year.

It's unclear when the state board of education will begin a seach for a full time commissioner.

"What we need is a non-political experienced, Florida experienced leader in that position," said State Senator Bill Montford.

Montford, a long time educator and director of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, supports Stewart's selection.

He says whoever gets the commissioner's job full time will need to hit the ground running.

"We can't afford the time to bring somebody in for a year of on the job training," said Montford.

The change in leadership comes as Florida public school students are about to begin a new school year.

It also comes as the state is transitioning to a new, yet to be completed, school, teacher and student evaluation system based on the federal common core standard.


Associated Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's State Board of Education has picked a top state education official to fill in as education commissioner.

The board selected Pam Stewart as interim commissioner during an emergency hearing on Friday, a day after the abrupt resignation of Education Commissioner Tony Bennett.

Stewart currently serves as the chancellor of public schools. But she was interim commissioner last year before the board appointed Bennett as education commissioner. Bennett had been the top schools official in Indiana but he was defeated when he ran for re-election.

Bennett resigned Thursday amid allegations that he changed the grade of a charter school run by a major Republican donor during his previous job.

Bennett maintained he had done nothing wrong.

Board members said they were dismayed by his resignation.


Associated Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida is going to pick an interim education commissioner now that Tony Bennett has resigned.

The State Board of Education has scheduled an emergency meeting for Friday. The panel is expected to name Pam Stewart as interim commissioner.

Stewart currently serves as the state's chancellor of public schools.

She was interim commissioner last year before the board appointed Bennett as education commissioner. Bennett had been the top schools official in Indiana but he was defeated when he ran for re-election.

Bennett abruptly resigned Thursday from his job amid allegations that he changed the grade of a charter school run by a major Republican donor during his previous job.

Bennett maintained he had done nothing wrong but said he did not want to be a distraction for Gov. Rick Scott.


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